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Synthesis/Regeneration 21   (Winter 2000)

Max Antoine's Defense Case

by Edith Gbur, Green Party of New Jersey

Police brutality victim Max Antoine is a 30-year-old Haitian-American who narrowly survived a beating by three Irvington, New Jersey police officers three years ago. As a result he is paralyzed from the waist down, blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. He was further victimized a year later-indicted by a Grand Jury on 13 trumped-up charges. On October 18 the criminal trial was postponed until December 6, 1999. His attorney Jean D. Larosiliere said this was the fifth time the case has been put on hold; but the state refuses to dismiss the charges.

On October 16, about 250 participated in a protest rally and march from the Irvington police station to the Essex County Courthouse. Max addressed the protesters. "I want the public to know that I am 100% innocent of the charges. These charges were maliciously fabricated by the Essex Prosecutors office and the Irvington police…while the three officers, Phillip Rucker, Alfredo Aleman, Keith Stouch, are still working and collecting our taxes." Max Antoine's supporters planned to enlarge the coalition and stage an action designed to attract national and international support.

A police officer told him to die like a man when he called for help.

For the past three years the truth about Max's case was kept from the public by scanty, biased news coverage and sensational story headlines. This all changed when Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair' s article,"Max Antoine, New Jersey's Louima" appeared in CounterPunch and the New York Press and was circulated to about 135,000. The article asked,

Is there a rationing policy by the press that we are allowed only one atrocity against a Haitian per decade? While the recent guilty plea of Justin Volpe in the Abner Louima torture trial generated some headlines, an equally brutal incident in Irvington, NJ, has passed by virtually without attention. This case involves a gang of cops who forced their way without probable cause into an apartment where a party was going on, hurled racist language, beat up several guests and nearly killed one of them, after he asked for their badge numbers. It also involves complicit emergency medical teams who refused treatment to the battered victims, a prosecutor's office that chose to go after the victims rather than the cops and an utterly indifferent press. In other words, a typical day on the streets in black America.

The Antoines also sought the help of the Clinton administration; however, the Justice Department has refused to act except to give lip service.

Antoine however, has been charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, along with falsifying and tampering with medical evidence.

The Incident

The charges come from a pre-dawn incident that occurred June 2, 1996 at Max Antoine's sister's birthday party in her Irvington township apartment.

About 2:00 am three Irvington New Jersey cops alleged they answered complaints from neighbors about a loud party and requested that the volume of music be lowered. Although the music was shut off completely, the police officers returned 15 minutes later. They forcibly entered the apartment without a search warrant or probable cause, yelling profanity such as "get the fuck out, the party's over" at the 23 people attending the party and started shoving them around while searching the apartment with a flashlight.

Upon overhearing Max tell his sister to take down their badge numbers and file a complaint, the police officers pushed Max' wife Marie Darlene and his sister Marie E. Antoine, then six months pregnant, and grabbed Max Antoine by the neck, stomped on his head and beat him repeatedly with a nightstick while he was handcuffed, then dragged him into the hallway. His sister Marie E. asked Officer Rucker "what are you doing with my brother?"

The officer responded, "I will teach him American law." The police officers dragged Max down a flight of stairs and shoved his head into the storm door, breaking the glass. They kicked him head first into the squad car, sprayed a chemical which destroyed his left eye and took him to the police precinct. They locked him into a holding cell where he was bleeding profusely, refusing him treatment and a phone call. A police officer told him to die like a man when he called for help.

Supporters also demand that the prosecution drop the charges against Max Antoine and that the criminal behavior of the police officers be prosecuted...

In the meanwhile the guests were blocked from leaving the apartment building. Max Antoine was imprisoned for two days until the police allowed his family to pick him up and bring him to St. Barnabas Hospital. The EMTAC Paramedic ambulance refused to provide him with medical treatment or transport.

Max has suffered because of the police beating. He has undergone 20 surgeries including lumbar, spinal and chest implants and is in constant pain. In addition he was forced to give up his thriving multi- service accounting business and to rely on social security disability insurance income.


In 1999 a second dramatic break in favor of Antoine's case came as a result of support by Congressman Donald Payne. On October 12, Congressman Payne hosted a media conference and read a letter addressed to Attorney General Janet Reno demanding that the Justice Department release the results of the two year investigation of Antoine's case. TV viewers were given an opportunity to observe that Max Antoine is severely disabled. The x-rays, medical tests and reports documented his injuries.

The Justice Department responded in typical bureaucratic fashion and told the local newspaper reporter that the case is still open. However, Antoine's supporters are urging the public to continue pressuring the Justice Department and Attorney General Reno to stop stalling.

Supporters also demand that the prosecution drop the charges against Max Antoine and that the criminal behavior of the police officers be prosecuted "to the full extent of the law." Antoine wishes to go forward with his civil suit against the Irvington police and the emergency medical service saying his civil rights were violated including denial of medical care. His wife Darlene and three others who were also assaulted have filed a complaint against the three police officers.

Max Antoine's case has the potential of enlisting broad support beyond progressive circles and extending to more white Americans who have a high regard for human and democratic rights.

For more information contact: Edith Gbur, 732-255-8044, Egbur@adelphia.com

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