Daniel Pantaleo, N.Y.P.D. Officer in Eric Garner’s Death, Should Be Fired, Judge Says

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

[The Pantaleo case has shadowed Mr. de Blasio on the presidential campaign trail.]

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

In the 47-page decision, dated Friday, Ms. Maldonado

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.”

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

Still, the judge cleared Officer Pantaleo of one charge against him: She found that he had not intentionally restricted Mr. Garner’s breathing.

Fred Davie, the chairman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency which acted as prosecutors at the disciplinary hearing, said the judge had vindicated the board’s long-held position that Officer Pantaleo had caused Mr. Garner’s death. “Commissioner O’Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the department,” Mr. Davie said in a statement.

The chokehold was captured in bystanders’ videos of Mr. Garner’s July 17 arrest published by The New York Daily News.

One shows Officer Pantaleo’s arms gripping Mr. Garner’s upper body and quickly sliding up to his neck as the two stumbled to the ground. Mr. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” 11 times as officers pressed him onto the sidewalk.

Both a grand jury on Staten Island and the Department of Justice declined to bring criminal charges against Officer Pantaleo. Federal prosecutors determined that Officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold, but they could not agree on whether they could prove it was intentional.

In the last two weeks, Mr. Garner’s relatives, backed by many of the city’s elected officials, have threatened to shut down the city if the de Blasio administration did not fire Officer Pantaleo.

On Friday, Mr. Garner’s family and their supporters said even Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal would not satisfy them, and they remain convinced Officer Pantaleo should have faced criminal charges in state or federal court. “Make no mistake about it, this is not justice for the Garner family,” the Rev. Sharpton said.

Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwenn Carr, also called on the commissioner to fire other officers involved in the arrest, including Officer Pantaleo’s partner, Justin Damico, and Lt. Christopher Bannon, who supervised the two officers and said in text messages that Mr. Garner’s death was “not a big deal.”

Police union lawyers argued at the disciplinary hearing that Officer Pantaleo had used an authorized takedown tactic to subdue Mr. Garner, who they said was resisting a lawful arrest.

Prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that investigates police misconduct accusations, presented evidence that Officer Pantaleo performed a takedown technique that he had not been trained to use.

When it went wrong, instead of letting go, he clasped his hands to secure his grip around Mr. Garner’s neck, they said.

The prosecutors, Suzanne O’Hare and Jonathan Fogel, said that Mr. Garner was trying to talk the officers out of arresting him, just as he had done two weeks earlier with Officer Damico.

Mr. Davie said the evidence prosecutors had brought forward at the departmental trial “was more than sufficient to prove Pantaleo unfit to serve.”

Colleges Challenge a Common Protection in Sexual Assault Lawsuits: Anonymity

The former college student said she had been raped three times as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, twice by students and once by an acquaintance who was on campus regularly.

She withdrew from the university and filed suit, saying that campus officials did not do enough to investigate the claims and protect her from being attacked again and again. As a precaution, she identified herself in public court papers only as S.B.

Her school fired back three times with a demand for the court: Reveal her full name or toss out the case.

For years, students have filed sexual assault complaints under pseudonyms, which allow them to seek justice without shame or fear of being targeted. Universities have generally accepted the practice.

But in two recent lawsuits — S.B.’s case against Florida A&M University and a suit by nine women against Dartmouth College — the schools have demanded that students publicly reveal their identities, going against longstanding legal practice intended to protect plaintiffs in sensitive disputes.

Experts on sexual assault cases say that these demands amount to a newly aggressive stance by universities that face potentially damaging lawsuits, and that they run counter to the spirit of federal civil rights policies. The identities of the women in both cases are known to the university lawyers, but not to the public.

“What you’re seeing in this particular case is real hardball,” said Andrew Miltenberg, a lawyer who typically represents men accused of sexual assault. “And it’s still not the way most lawyers or schools handle it. They’re a little bit more gracious about protecting someone who was their student.”

On Wednesday, S.B.’s lawyer sent a letter to more than 40 state legislators objecting to the university’s tactics and asking them to investigate the matter.

Why Manafort and Cohen Thought They’d Get Away With It

The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication. The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service. One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely president in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might still be working their frauds today.

  • .. Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the I.R.S.?
  • Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed?
  • What about the world of luxury residential building in which Mr. Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

.. The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement.

.. The F.B.I. shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of Sept. 11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s

The I.R.S.’s criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition.

The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

.. How could they not? Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.

.. The Department of Justice — in Democratic as well as Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drugmakers and so on. Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.

.. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has fallen upon a rash of other crimes. In doing so, he has exposed how widespread and serious our white-collar-fraud problem really is, and how lax enforcement has been for years.

.. The Southern District of New York, to which Mr. Mueller referred the Cohen case, raided the offices of Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, and fought for access to the materials, even as Mr. Cohen asserted attorney-client privilege. When federal prosecutors investigate large companies, out of custom and deference they rarely use such aggressive tactics. They place few wiretaps, conduct almost no undercover operations and do almost no raids. Instead government attorneys reach carefully negotiated agreements about which documents they can review, the product of many hours of discussion with high-powered law firms

..  The government has essentially privatized corporate law enforcement. The government effectively outsources the investigations to the companies themselves. The companies, typically trying to appear cooperative or to forestall government action, hire law firms to do internal investigations. Imagine if Mr. Mueller relied on Mr. Trump to investigate whether he colluded with the Russians or violated any other laws, and Mr. Trump hired Rudy Giuliani’s firm to do the inquiry.

.. Mr. Mueller isn’t looking to go soft to preserve his professional viability. I’m assuming that at age 74, he’s not going to go through the revolving door after this. That hasn’t been true for most top Justice Department officials in recent years. Many of them start out defending large corporations, and when they leave government they go back to the same work of defending large corporations.