DA Challenged|on Eric Garner Case

     BROOKLYN (CN) – The local prosecutor’s handling of the fatal police chokehold on Eric Garner warrants intervention by the state, a group says in court.
     James Meyerson with the Staten Island branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say he sent a 50-page letter to the New York Attorney Grievance Committee with complaints that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan breached his “obligations and responsibilities as an attorney” in his handling of the Garner case.
     Meyerson also demanded the DA’s ouster, according to his petition filed Friday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
     But the committee shot him down in January, saying it was the not the “appropriate forum” to decide such matters.
     When the committee asserted that it lacks authority to issue reports or make recommendations on this matter, Meyerson said he fired back with another letter, asking why an attorney oversight committee lacks standing to oversee the conduct of a district attorney – “the people’s attorney’s prosecutor.”
     Having received no response, Meyerson went to court.
     A representative with the oversight committee told Courthouse News last week that he was unable to respond to, confirm or deny any correspondences with the agency. The NAACP’s letter notes that there are “disproportionate” numbers of “black and brown males” who are “more likely than their white counterparts to become entangled in the Richmond County criminal justice system.”
     “Eric Garner was one such African American male who was the subject of deadly excessive force literally at the hands of white New York City police officers and the abusive application of their power in the interactions that they had with him on that fateful July 17, 2014 day.”
     After footage of the fatal police altercation with Garner on July 17, 2014, sparked massive protest of abusive police tactics, the public outrage only grew in scale when a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict Garner’s killer, police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
     “I can’t breathe,” the phrase Garner gasped at least 11 times before passing out in Pantaleo’s grasp, became a mantra of the movement.
     Coroners ruled Garner’s death a homicide. The 43-year-old had apparently been selling “Loosies,” or single cigarettes, near the Staten Island ferry when approached by police.
     In addition to seeking disciplinary proceedings against Donovan with regard to the Garner case, the NAACP also wanted the grievance committee to issue a report relating to the “serious issues about the role of a local prosecutor raised by the Garner matter (among others).”
     Donovan has his eye on Congress, seeking to fill the seat of disgraced former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned in January after copping to a federal tax evasion charge for underrerporting earnings at his Manhattan restaurant.
     Part of Grimm’s initial defense involved a claim that Donovan came after him in a bid to take him down and steal his seat.
     Donovan did not represent his own office during deliberations to unseal the grand jury’s transcripts during a hearing last month; an assistant DA made the people’s case.
     After Richmond County Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney ordered the grand jury’s proceedings kept private in December, the ultimately unsuccessful appeal went to Justice William Garnett.
     Meyerson had wanted Garnett to recuse himself from the case, arguing that it would be impossible for him to be impartial in a tight-knit community full of law enforcement officials, but Garnett refused.
     Donovan’s opponent in the election is Staten Island councilman Vincent Gentile, a Democrat who has vowed to fight for the release of the transcripts in the Garner matter.

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