Attorneys for Derrick Harris say their client lost everything while imprisoned for a crime he was later absolved of.
A former producer for the Wu-Tang Clan has filed a federal lawsuit against the New York City Police Department and Manhattan-based prosecutors, claiming he spent four years falsely imprisoned for crimes he did not commit.
According to NBC News, 52-year-old Derrick Harris was a successful music producer who lived in a $1 million Harlem brownstone.
In his decades-long career, Harris had worked with musicians including Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, and the Wu-Tang Clan. However, on September 12, 2011, an acquaintance accused Harris of assault.
The N.Y.P.D. took Harris into custody while prosecutors readied charges against him.
After spending four years imprisoned, Harris was found not guilty on the most severe charges of sexual assault.
Now, Harris’s lawsuit claims that the New York Police Department—in collusion with Manhattan prosecutors—subjected him to illegal abuse from the day of his arrest.
In his complaint, Harris “lays out a litany of allegations,” starting with an excessively forceful arrest—an arrest that Harris claims was predicated on false evidence.
Harris says that, even after he was found not guilty of sexual harassment, prosecutors refused to drop the case against him.
Meanwhile, Harris was imprisoned in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island, where he says he was routinely assaulted.
In some desperate attempt to keep Harris behind bars, the lawsuit suggests, the N.Y.P.D. further falsely accused Harris of assaulting another woman at a nearby park on the same day his acquaintance had accused Harris of attacking her.
“At every crossroad, when the prosecution, the city of New York, had an opportunity to right this wrong, they always continued down the wrong path,” said Ellie Silverman, one of Harris’s attorneys.
Another of Harris’s attorneys, Craig Phemister, noted that Harris did not even have legal counsel when he successfully defended himself against the sexual assault charges.
“He was a successful music producer, award-winning music producer—all gone,” Phemister said. “The N.Y.P.D. fabricated evidence against him to get a search warrant, in order to get an arrest […] Once he won at trial, he still had to wait another four years before they agreed to dismiss the charges. During that four years, he had lost everything.”
NBC News notes that, even after some of the charges against him were dismissed, Harris still faced a $500,000 bail.
Before Harris managed to get out of prison in November 2015, he was “repeatedly injured” at the hands of corrections officers and other inmates.
In one incident, Harris was left alone in a bathroom with another prisoner—a prisoner whose propensity for violence was so well-known that staff would only let him outside his cell with an escort.
“The dangerous inmate lunged at Mr. Harris,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Harris was beaten, the blows which knocked out two (2) teeth in his mouth resulted in a fractured skull and fractured orbital bone.”
Harris, notes NBC, was cleared of all charges in November 2020.
By that time, he had spent four years in prison and $150,000 on legal fees.
Harris is requesting damages for false imprisonment and a jury trial.