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Cop Who Tackled Tennis Pro James Blake Brings Defamation Suit

Retired tennis pro James Blake faces a federal complaint Wednesday from the New York City police officer who tackled him outside a hotel two years ago, believing he fit the description of credit card fraudster.

MANHATTAN (CN) - Retired tennis pro James Blake faces a federal complaint Wednesday from the New York City police officer who tackled him outside a hotel two years ago, believing he fit the description of credit card fraudster.

The violent encounter made headlines at the time, and officer James Frascatore complains that he is perceived to this day “as an out of control and corrupt officer who has no business being a member of the NYPD.”

Not helping this perception is Blake’s new book, “Ways of Grace,” published by HarperCollins in June.

“Blake sells his story as an encounter with a racist police officer, offering personal inscriptions of his book on his own website with the following description of how he has ‘faced racism firsthand — publicly – first at the U.S. Open and then in front of his hotel on a busy Manhattan street, where he was tackled and handcuffed by a police officer in a case of ‘mistaken identity,’” Frascatore’s complaint states, filed Wednesday in Manhattan.

Alleging defamation, Frascatore says Blake’s description of the confrontation is embedded with blatant falsehoods.

“Upon information and belief, it was not a coincidence that the release date was scheduled in close proximity to when Blake was expected to testify against Plaintiff in an NYPD disciplinary proceeding,” the 29-page complaint states. “It was also unlikely to have been a coincidence that Blake was in the final stages of negotiations with the City to settle his claims stemming from the minutes-long incident with Plaintiff, as both would help with book publicity. Despite suffering no physical injury, Blake ultimately settled that claim for $171,920.50 on July 27, 2017 and released the City and its employees from liability.”

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins declined to comment on pending litigation.

Frascatore names the city, its civilian complaint review board and the NYPD as co-defendants to the case, saying they scapegoated him “for the failures of his superiors and what amounted to an unfortunate mistake.”

“They actively avoided opportunities to set the record straight with the media and offered no defense of their own dedicated officer, leaving Plaintiff to hold the bag for the entire incident,” the complaint states.

Pointing to the leak of personnel records that documented Frascatore’s history of excessive-force complaints, the officer accuses the review board of tainting “the disciplinary process to the point that his private personnel matter has played out primarily in the court of public opinion.”

Though a spokesman for the city cited Frascatore's apparently pending complaint and disciplinary matter as a basis for not commenting, the officer's trial before the board reportedly wrapped up last week.

Its outcome is not a matter of public record, but the officer contends that the damage is done: “Plaintiff has been cast as a racist and a goon.”

In one telling paragraph, Frascatore counts the loss of vacation time as the only tangible consequence of his disciplinary proceedings.

He also claims, however, that threats caused his family to flee their home, and that “he faces a significant diminution in his long-term prospects for better assignments, promotions and recognition for his dedication to the public through his chosen career as a police officer.”

Disputing that he engaged in racial profiling outside the Grand Hyatt two years ago, Frascatore says the photo of the suspect he was given “portrayed a man bearing a striking resemblance to the way Defendant Blake appeared that day.”

Frascatore notes that the whole thing was over in 10 minutes and that he apologized to Blake personally at the scene.

“At the conclusion of the encounter, Blake and Plaintiff shook hands and patted each other on the back,” the complaint states. “All seemed forgiven.”

Frascatore says the NYPD even has security footage of the handshake, and that its failure to release this video to the press reinforced a negative public perception of Frascatore.

Alleging negligence, defamation, emotional distress, due process violations and other claims, Frascatore seeks punitive damages.

Blake did not return requests for comment sent through Facebook after business hours Thursday.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Entertainment, Media

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