The Day – Woman assaulted at Mystic Hotel pursued by suspected assailants


New London – On the steps of her New London attorney’s office on Tuesday morning, Crystal Caldwell spoke of her continued recovery from the injuries she sustained last year when, according to police, she suffered a racist attack while working as a hotel clerk in Mystic.

Caldwell, 60, said she sees doctors and physiotherapists four days a week and still heals injuries to her wrist, back, ribs, head and eyes.

Now, her lawyers have said, she is also suffering the emotional trauma of being sued by her alleged attackers.

Philip Sarner, 39, and Emily Orbay, 27, of New York City, were both charged with beating Caldwell, who is black, in an attack which was caught on CCTV at the Quality Inn on Whitehall Avenue in Stonington on June 26, 2020.

This summer, Sarner and Orbay filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Caldwell, his son Jamel Caldwell and the Inn’s parent company, laying charges that include a claim that the racial element of the attack is a hoax.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Kevin Smith of New Haven-based criminal defense law firm Smith and Pattis, refers to Caldwell’s case as a “girl who cried wolf” scenario. The lawsuit alleges Caldwell and his son “cried wolf” claiming the incident was racially motivated “to distract from their own criminal transgressions.”

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Caldwell’s attorneys John Strafaci and Josephine Miller objected to the “claim laundering list” presented in the civil lawsuit, saying the lawsuit was causing even more trauma to them. client following the attack.

Strafaci, who represents Caldwell in the criminal case, said he believed the trial was a tactic in Smith’s “playbook” used to “distract the public and everyone from what his client was doing.”

Miller said Smith was trying to “change the narrative” of the incident and convince people “to believe something other than what their eyes will see in the video.”

In hotel surveillance footage, Sarner and Orbay, who are white and were guests at the hotel, can be seen pushing, punching and kicking Caldwell. Caldwell told police the couple called her a monkey while she was beating her and told her her life didn’t matter.

The lawsuit alleges that Caldwell’s racism allegations were not made until June 30, four days after the attack. Caldwell spoke to The Day on June 29 and said she believed the attack was racially motivated.

In the lawsuit, Sarner and Obey allege that Caldwell “fabricated false statements” to paint a portrait of Sarner and Obray as “racist thugs who hate African Americans.”

The complaint alleges that Caldwell may have feared losing her job at the hotel and therefore “took advantage of the upward Black Lives Matter” movement “in order to portray herself as a victim and the complainant as a racist wearing a white balaclava. Bull Connor. ”Smith wrote, referring to a former Alabama politician who supported segregation and opposed the civil rights movement.

Smith claims that Caldwell tried to continually “terrorize” his clients.

“She waged a disinformation campaign designed to destroy the lives of the plaintiffs (Sarner and Orbay),” Smith wrote. He said his clients suffered retaliation for the crimes they were accused of.

Sarner and Orbay “cannot appear in public without facing – sometimes violently – racists and experiencing severe emotional distress every time they venture out in public,” Smith said in the lawsuit.

In August 2020, two months after the attack, Sarner was accused of harassing Caldwell’s attorney, John Strafaci.

On the day of the attack, Sarner and Orbay were staying in a room at the hotel, which is owned by Choice Hotels International, Inc. According to Caldwell, Sarner called the front desk where she worked shortly before the attack and reported that their la room had no hot water.

When Caldwell said she would have someone fix it or move it to another room, she said Sarner got mad and insulted her. He said he was sending his girlfriend to “kick her ass” so she hung up.

The civil lawsuit, filed on July 19, 2021, describes a similar chain of events: Sarner called to complain about a lack of hot water, then came down to the lobby to speak with an official. But according to the lawsuit, when Sarner and Orbay arrived in the lobby, Caldwell allegedly “jumped down the hall” towards them and shouted, “I’m going to call my husband and you’re going to get stabbed.” “

This confrontation, according to the lawsuit, led to a physical fight in which Orbay and Sarner were injured.

The lawsuit alleges that Caldwell, after the attack, used the Quality Inn computer system to access the personal information about Orbay and Sarner that they provided in order to check in at the hotel, and passed it on to his son , Jamel Caldwell.

He also alleges that earlier in the day, Jamel Caldwell attempted to get Sarner out to fight him.

Sarner and Orbay are suing for more than $ 75,000 in damages, according to the lawsuit, claiming Caldwell was trafficking personally identifiable information and accusing Crystal Caldwell, Jamel Caldwell and the hotel of common law negligence and causing emotional distress, court records show.

Orbay and Sarner were arrested in Brooklyn after a weeks-long police search. The couple were treated for injuries at a hospital on the day of the attack, then fled to New York City. The Stonington Police Department has come under scrutiny for its handling of the case.

This past summer, crowds gathered in support of Caldwell, rallying outside Stonington Police Department, the New London Superior Courthouse and at Black Lives Matter rallies across the region.

On Tuesday, Caldwell was joined in her lawyer’s office by family members, lawyers and activists who had come to show her their support.

Cornell Lewis, a civil rights activist from Hartford, has called on people to show their support for Caldwell in upcoming court appearances in his case. He said he and other activists stood with Caldwell, “to ensure that there will be no more attacks on her physically or emotionally.”

Sarner and Orbay are scheduled to appear in court on October 28 in New London Superior Court. Oral arguments are expected to be heard in the civil case in federal court in New Haven the same afternoon, according to attorney Miller.

Sarner faces charges of first degree bullying based on prejudice, second degree assault, third degree assault and second degree harassment.

Orbay faces first-degree bullying charges based on prejudice and two counts of third-degree assault, court records show.

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