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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Info Sought on Chokehold Cop in Eric Garner Death

MANHATTAN (CN) - New York City should produce the disciplinary record of the Staten Island police officer who killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold, a group says in court.

The Legal Aid Society says it made a "very narrow and specific request" with the Civilian Complaint Review Board this past December for information about whether civilian complaints were ever filed against Officer Daniel Pantaleo and what the possible outcomes of those complaints were.

Legal Aid now has filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court since that petition and the ensuing appeal were denied.

"Requesting the right to an informed public discussion of our city's systems of police oversight, accountability and discipline is not abuse; it is necessary," the 25-page complaint states.

The review board said its response followed protocol.

"The current statute is clear, that we have no authority or power to release the information they are seeking," the CCRB said in an email. "Only if the state legislature changes the law could we do that."

Court documents show that an officer Pantaleo already faces at least one federal civil rights lawsuit filed in June 2013 over the allegedly illegal strip search of a black man on Staten Island in March 2012.

It is unknown whether this is same Pantaleo whom a grand jury investigated but refused to indict on the July 2014 death of Eric Garner, though it was ruled a homicide. A bystander videotaped the fatal encounter on Staten Island in which Garner gasped, "I can't breathe" 11 times before losing consciousness.

Legal Aid says it wants "the most general kind of information: whether prior complaints existed and if so, whether they led to any prosecutions and, if so, what the outcome was. Hardly detailed enough for any kind of undue embarrassment or degradation."

The lawsuit says the city is "still reeling" from Garner's death, and "needs to know whether the systems of police oversight, accountability and discipline in New York City failed to prevent Mr. Garner's death from failing to deter an officer with a history of excessive force."

Legal Aid lawyer Cynthia Conti-Cook said in a statement that she hoped the lawsuit will help in "expanding the conversation" on police-community relations.

Legal Aid is also a party to a request for the release of transcripts from the grand jury that cleared Pantaleo in December.

The most recent lawsuit was filed by Seymour W. James, Jr.

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