A Westbury taxi driver claims he was falsely arrested after allegedly failing to return the cell phone of a college student who skipped out on a fare and the cabbie claims a Nassau County police officer told him he was being charged because his accuser was related to a high ranking police official.
Mevyo Jean, 25, of Westbury, has now filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against Nassau County, the unnamed police chief, several officers, the county’s chief prosecutor and the eight college students who were allegedly in the cab at the time. All eight passengers either offered no comment or could not be reached Thursday night.
“Over $28 we’re now in federal court,” Jean’s attorney, Harry Kutner, Jr., said in an interview at his Mineola office. “It’s just an absurdity taken to a tenth power.”
During an interview, Jean said the incident started in the early morning hours of March 3, 2013, when the group hailed his taxi in front of a bar in Hempstead for a $35 ride back to the LIU Post campus in Old Brookville.
According to Jean, several of the college students allegedly hopped out of the car at the university’s security gate without paying. He said one man – identified in the lawsuit as Robert Cegielski – stayed in the car, saying he needed to be dropped off at another part of the campus and allegedly told the driver he was going to pay the full fare.
When they arrived to the second destination, Cegielski allegedly threw down $7 on the dashboard and tried to run away, Jean said. “He told me, ‘If you know better, you might as well take off with whatever you got because my friends are going to come back here, they’re going to jump you,’” the cabbie added.
Jean said one of the guys left a cell phone in the taxi, but said he told him he was holding the phone until the group paid the $28 they owed. Instead, Cegielski and his brother John – who was also a passenger in the cab – allegedly called the cops, claiming Jean stole the phone and dragged one of them with his taxi when they tried to get it back, according to police reports provided by Kutner’s office.
The taxi driver and his attorney allege he arrested three days after the incident on a felony robbery charge. After almost a year, the criminal charges were dismissed last month and the case was sealed.
Jean said that while Robert Cegielski was stumbling out of the taxi, he shouted out, “My uncle is a police officer; you don’t want to mess with me.”
Kutner said Jean was told by one of the arresting officers that a three-star Nassau County police chief – who was related to one of the passengers – ordered detectives to charge him. The suit alleges the officer “confessed to plaintiff that the police knew the charge was false.”
“To have somebody arrested for robbery to cover up a crummy misdemeanor for his nephew and his buddies, for sticking a cab driver for $28, it kind of shows how untouchable they think they are,” Kutner said. “It’s just unfathomable.”
The unnamed and unidentified high-ranking chief is also being sued. The police department’s chief spokesman, Insp. Kenneth Lack, said the agency couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice – who is named in the lawsuit – referred questions to the county’s attorney, Carnell Foskey, who also declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
A spokeswoman for Long Island University – where at least five of the defendants are on the lacrosse team – said the college has not been named in the suit and has no comment on cases involving other parties.
Jean said he’s just looking for an apology and wants authorities to publicly say he did nothing wrong.
“I never want anybody to see the bad side of me,” he said. “I’m a good person.”