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.”

Trump Shows Us the Way

Donald Trump slipped into the Oval Office through a wormhole of confusion about the American identity.

.. We were moving from a white-majority, male-dominated country and manufacturing base to a multicultural, multilateral, globalized, P.C., new energy, new technology world, without taking account of the confusion and anger of older Americans who felt like strangers in a strange land.

.. And we certainly don’t want men like Rob Porter who have punched, kicked, choked and terrorized their wives to be in the president’s inner circle, helping decide which policies, including those that affect women, get emphasized.

.. We don’t want the White House chief of staff to be the sort of person who shields and defends abusers — and then dissembles about it — simply because the abuser is a rare competent staffer. Or a man who labels Dreamers “too lazy to get off their asses” simply because they didn’t apply for legal protections in time.

.. John Kelly served as a character witness not only for Porter, after he didn’t receive security clearance because F.B.I. agents had heard the harrowing tales from his battered ex-wives. Kelly also testified as a character witness for Gen. Robert E. Lee and a former Marine who pleaded guilty to sending inappropriate sexual messages to female subordinates; who drove drunk to an arraignment; and who got charged in Virginia with sex crimes against children.

.. As a more lucid Trump tweeted in 2012 about Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown, “A beater is always a beater.”

.. We don’t want a president who bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators — or who is a sexual predator himself.

.. We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance, to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.

.. We don’t want a president who is too shallow to read his daily intelligence report and too obsessed with the deep state to deal fairly with our intelligence agencies.

.. We don’t want a president who suggests that Democrats who don’t clap for him are treasonous and who seems more enthralled by authoritarian ways than democratic ones.

.. who loves generals but trashes Gold Star parents

.. who wants the sort of chesty military parade that we mock Kim Jong-un for, a phallic demonstration of overcompensation that would only put more potholes in the D.C. boulevards.

.. one who could be so easily trapped in lies that he can’t even be allowed to talk to an investigator.

.. And, finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.

Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?

The junior senator from Arkansas is a hybrid of insurgent and old guard.

At forty years old, Cotton is the youngest member of the Senate

.. when we hear that kind of ridicule, we hear them making fun of the way we look, and the way we talk, and the way we think.”

.. It was, on one level, a breathtaking leap—to equate mockery of a louche New York billionaire with attacks on the citizens of this small, conservative city, which lies across the Arkansas River from Oklahoma.

.. “Next to Trump, he’s the elected official who gets it the most—the economic nationalism.

.. Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, whose term is not up until 2020, said that, by threatening journalists, Trump was violating his oath to defend the Constitution.

.. “The President puts things sometimes in a way that I would not,” he said in early October. “But he was still nominated by our voters and elected by the American people to be our President, and if we want him to accomplish our agenda we need to set him up for success.”

.. From the beginning, Tom could play to both the establishment and the Tea Party. Everyone recognizes he’s got a firm set of conservative principles, but that makes him a polarizing figure. There are a lot of people here, too, who hate him and think he’s the Antichrist. The only thing everyone agrees on is that he wants to be President someday.”

.. To make that next leap, Cotton expresses the militarism, bellicosity, intolerance, and xenophobia of Donald Trump, but without the childish tweets.

.. He and his supporters see Trump and Trumpism as the future of the Republican Party.

.. He was the one who told us about John Kelly,” the former Marine Corps general who is now Trump’s chief of staff

.. after Cotton spoke out against a quick deal to protect the Dreamers, Trump made a formal proposal to Congress that attached many strings Cotton had demanded.

.. Trump gave Cotton a victory on the touchstone issue of his Senate career by decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-arms deal

.. “Putting aside the issue of technical compliance or noncompliance, it’s clear that the agreement is not in our national interest.”

.. “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees you drive him to the ground and choke him out.” In response, a questioner pointed out that killing a prisoner of war is not “American practice.” (It is, in fact, a war crime.)

.. in North Korea, Cotton supports Trump’s brinkmanship with Kim Jong Un

.. one recent report suggested that the President would name him director of the C.I.A. if Mike Pompeo, the current director, were to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

.. Cotton would ratify the President’s instincts. He offers Trump a certainty that matches his own

..  “The Democratic Party has drifted away from them,” Tom told me, as his parents sat nearby. “Bill Clinton would be repudiated by his own party today.

.. I wrote against sacred cows, such as the cult of diversity, affirmative action, conspicuous compassion and radical participatory democracy. I wrote in favor of taboo notions, such as Promise Keepers, student apathy, honor and (most unforgivably) conservativism.”

.. The letter combined outrage, overstatement, and savvy politics in a manner that Trump would perfect a decade later.

.. “ ‘God, guns, and gays’—social issues—were driving white conservatives to the Republicans all along

.. It is impossible not to see race as a central element in the fall of the Democratic Party here

.. “It took a black President to bring out the threat.”

.. “I would always say to my liberal white friends, ‘Oh, come on, surely it’s gotten better.’ And they’d say to me, ‘Oh, no, it hasn’t. You can’t believe what white people say about Obama in private—he’s Kenyanhe’s Muslim, they’d call him unprintable racial epithets.’ ”

.. I think a lot of people in Arkansas thought he was ‘uppity,’ to use the old smear.”

.. Cotton also benefitted from enormous outside spending by conservative groups, including some affiliated with the Koch brothers

.. outside groups spent twenty-three million dollars for Cotton, compared with fourteen million for Pryor.

.. Democrats in Arkansas had a special reason to disdain Obama: “It wasn’t because Barack Obama was black, it was because Barack Obama stopped the Clinton restoration.”

.. About three hundred thousand people, which amounts to more than ten per cent of the state’s population, have taken advantage of the law to obtain health insurance.

.. The program is not called Obamacare but, rather, Arkansas Works.

.. “If you live in a big city and you work in an office building, immigration is almost an unalloyed good for you. . . . It makes the price of services that you pay for a little bit more affordable—whether it’s your nanny to take care of your kids for you, or landscaping your yard, or pedicures, manicures, that sort of thing. And you get a lot of exciting new fusion restaurants as well.

“But if you live and work in a community where they have a large illegal-immigrant population

  • that’s straining the public school,
  • that’s clogging up the emergency room when you’re trying to get care,
  • that makes it more dangerous to drive in the roads because people don’t have driver’s licenses or they don’t have insurance,
  • or if they are bidding down the wages or even taking jobs away from you, then it doesn’t look nearly so good,”

.. Most economists believe that immigrants, legal and otherwise, add more to the economy than they take from it, and that their presence in the labor force does not lead to lower wages over all.

.. “He probably knows more about geopolitics than most senators.”

.. In March of his first year in the Senate, Cotton wrote an open letter to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which was co-signed by forty-six other Republican senators, warning the mullahs that Congress might undo any agreement they reached with Obama. The letter was denounced by Executive Branch officials as an attempt to interfere in a diplomatic initiative, but Cotton regards it as a triumph.

..  he boasted about the letter

 .. You simply cannot neglect security, and without security there cannot be political compromise and reconciliation, there cannot be good governance, there cannot be economic development, there can’t be anything.”

.. If Rand Paul is the leading Republican isolationist in the Senate, Cotton, in short order, has become heir to the opposing wing of the Party, the one associated with Senator John McCain, whose efforts to increase the defense budget Cotton has championed.

.. But Cotton has gone well past McCain in his swaggering belligerence.

.. “In my opinion, the only problem with Guantánamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now,” Cotton said. “We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I’m concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell, but as long as they don’t do that they can rot in Guantánamo Bay.”

.. skirted the edge of demagoguery. “I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do,”

.. Cotton made his name in the Senate in a more personally poisonous way. In his first year, Cotton placed a hold on Obama’s nominations for the Ambassadors to Sweden, Norway, and the Bahamas, because of an unrelated dispute regarding the Secret Service.

.. “There is a point where winning a political battle isn’t worth it.”

.. “How many guys in town can give a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations and also get kudos in the pages of Breitbart? The answer is, one guy.”

.. Cotton has carved out a clear Trumpism-without-Trump agenda:

  • limits on immigration through legislation,
  • deportations, and a wall;
  • longer prison sentences for American convicts and suspected terrorists abroad;
  • a bigger budget for the Department of Defense.

.. The question is whether he has the charisma to sell that agenda to a broader public.