Harvard scientist settles civil rights lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2011 1:33 PM
Harvard scientist settles civil rights lawsuit

A prominent Harvard University neuroscientist has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed against Cambridge police and the city manager after his arrest on allegations arising from a domestic dispute.

S. Allen Counter's lawsuit was settled in mediation and dismissed in July, according to records in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009 in response to his 2006 arrest on a domestic violence charge; he was later cleared.

Counter, who is black, claimed false arrest, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy and malicious prosecution in violation of his constitutional rights. He also claimed the arrest was the result of a personal vendetta against him by a Cambridge police officer who had a relationship with his ex-wife.

"We filed this suit because we believe that I, like many other persons of minority background, are victims of police abuse of power and discretion against minorities," he told The Harvard Crimson student newspaper in January, 2010.

Counter filed his lawsuit just months after the arrest by a white Cambridge police sergeant of black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. made national headlines. Counter defended Gates and recounted his own run-ins with law enforcement he said were prompted by his race. He has no criminal record.

Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, sought unspecified damages, but terms of the settlement were not made public.

Counter was arrested in December 2006 for allegedly trying to push his 17-year-old daughter out of a moving car.

He said in court documents that he and his daughter had been having an argument in the car about her performance in school and she had demanded that he stop and let her out so she could walk the last two blocks home. She relented, they both calmed down, and he drove her the rest of the way home.

He was arrested after his ex-wife reported the incident to police. He alleged police laughed at him when he asked why he was being arrested and did not immediately get medical help when he complained of shortness of breath and chest pains.

Counter was acquitted of domestic assault charges in July 2007.

A message from The Associated Press was left for Counter at his office on Thursday.

He told The Bay State Banner, which reported the settlement Thursday, that he's "satisfied" with the resolution but couldn't comment further because of a confidentiality agreement.

A Cambridge police spokesman deferred comment to the city law department, which did not return a message from the AP on Thursday morning.