Exclusive: New video in cable worker suit against MTA

Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer looks into whether the transit agency withheld key evidence in a lawsuit.
Monday, July 07, 2014

A woman has been fighting for years after she was badly injured in an accident that the MTA said it had nothing to do with.

But video obtained by Eyewitness News shows a much a different story. Did the MTA keep the evidence under wraps?

The M-T-A is saying they did not intentionally withhold information about this case and that their attorneys truly believed the agency had nothing to do with this accident.

The victim says that's hard to believe since one call to their own police department would have provided pages of details about the accident, including proof it was captured on video.

"They denied it," said injured cable worker Celeste Asim ('Denied it?') "Yes. They said it wasn't their car, wasn't them. Wasn't their officer," she said.

Four years of denial that the MTA almost got away with until Celeste Asim's attorney tracked down video taken by surveillance cameras.

It shows an MTA police car driving over a cable that Asim, a Cablevision employee at the time, had just strung across the street.

As she's holding onto the cable, the MTA police car drives over it and drags her violently to the ground. The impact sends her hardhat flying through the air.

"What if he kept going? What if he wouldn't have stopped. What if he didn't realize I was entangled, I'm sorry" she said, choking back tears.

Asim's attorney says the video shows the MTA misled the court by repeatedly denying any involvement and withholding key evidence that it was their police car.

"Not only did the MTA police know it was theirs, but there was a video involved. And the MTA police which we learned later on, actually went and watched the video," said attorney David Roth.

Backing up his claim, an MTA police report made the day of the accident but withheld by the agency from the court and from the accident victim for years.

This month, an appeals court, fed up with the MTA's denials and withholding of information, slapped the transit agency with a rare $10,000 sanction for behavior that the judge claimed was "a significant waste of limited and strained judicial resources."

"If there'd never been a video, where would this be?", we asked.

"I think they would have gotten away with it, which is unfair," said Asim.

The MTA insists they did not intentionally withhold information.

"There was no deliberate withholding of information in this case, We are diligently investigating why that information was not properly provided to Ms. Asim and the courts and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again," said chief MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.

Although it has happened before. Back in 2005, a judge ordered the MTA to fork over $15,000 for withholding key evidence from the court in a subway fatality case.

"I think it's a culture that's gone on for many years, at least so long as I've been practicing," said Roth.

While the MTA admits to unintentionally withholding information in the Asim case, they claim the video vindicates the officer showing he stopped before driving over the cable and even got out to help her when she fell.

The victim's attorney says the video shows the officer drove too fast over the cable. This issue of who's to blame will be decided by the court.
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