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No Cuban compassion

Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights marched into Brooklyn Federal Court this week to sue the U.S. Government for taking its monitoring of American travel to Cuba too far.

They alleged that the U.S.’s common practice of fining American travelers to Cuba if they do not fill out what they called a “self−inc­riminating questionna­ire” is unconstitutional.

According to the lawsuit, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) requires that people who traveled to Cuba to “disclose detailed information” about their trip.

According to U.S. law, those who don’t fill out the questionnaire face monetary penalties.

Attorneys for plaintiff Zachary Sanders say that the fines are a “blatant disregard for the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self−inc­rimination and Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines.”

“The vindictive tactics of OFAC are nothing short of bullying,” Sanders explained. “In the spirit of progress and forward thinking, the U.S.’s restrictions on travel to Cuba and petty policies that perpetuate outdated Cold War ideology should be repealed.”

The lawsuit surrounds Sanders’ trip to Cuba in 2000, which the U.S. Government said was done without its authorization.

When Sanders refused to fill out OFAC’s requirement to furnish information about his trip, he was fined $1,000.

He appealed the decision, but the OFAC rejected the appeal.

The OFAC does not comment on pending litigation.

Shot cop settles with city

An NYPD sergeant who was shot twice in the back by one of his own men over a decade ago has finally settled with the city.

After a court appearance this week, Dexter Brown accepted a $3.25 million settlement offered by the city for lasting injuries he sustained following the February 1998 shooting.

For years, Brown and the city have been at odds over the wounded cop’s wrongful−injury lawsuit, which accused the Police Department of failing to properly train its officers in the use of deadly force.

The deal was struck just as a jury was being selected to hear the case in State Supreme Court.

Brown, a sergeant at the time, was supervising a narcotics team during a raid on a drug den on Franklin Avenue near Clifton Place on the day of the shooting when he was hit by what police called “friendly fire.”

One of his officers – with whom he had worked for two years – allegedly opened fire on him as he backed out of the crack house they had infiltrated.

According to published reports, two men ambushed Brown as he entered the building and tried to get his gun. Brown shot one of the suspect while the second suspect fled.

Brown, who is black, was retreating out of the building, trying to keep the fleeing suspect in sight when his support team opened fire, hitting him in the back.

The decorated officer suffered extensive internal abdominal injuries as a result. To this day, he still needs the assistance of a cane to get around.

Officials said that Brown wasn’t wearing a bullet proof vest because he didn’t want to blow his cover. His attorneys claim that the cop, who was later identified in court papers as Detective Louis Lopez, kept on firing after shooting Brown and ultimately killed the unarmed drug suspect the sergeant was fighting with.

The next day, police investigators closed the case, calling the shooting of the drug suspect “justified.”

Brown had initially filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city for the injuries he sustained at the hands of his brothers in blue.

When the agreement was reached, Brown said he felt vindicated.

Still, his anger toward the NYPD, as well as the city’s constant delaying of the trial, was palpable.

“Not only are we [African Americans] being beaten, crippled and killed, other actions are being taken against us needlessly,” he said, adding that the NYPD has a “prevailing mentality of shoot first and lie about it later.”

City officials said that they opted to settle to avoid the “uncertaint­ies inherent in a trial.”

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