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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NYPD Brass Tape on Occupy Arrest Can Roll

MANHATTAN (CN) - For the same reasons that the brass wants to gag it, the public has a right to watch the taped deposition of a former police chief about an Occupy Wall Street arrest, a federal judge ruled.

Once the NYPD's former chief of department, Joseph Esposito reportedly went to great lengths to avoid deposition in the lawsuit filed by Faith Laugier, a reporter for WBAI public radio who says police repeatedly violated her rights to cover protests.

The New York Daily News reported that 66-year-old Esposito, who now heads the Office of Emergency Management, cited the Ebola crisis and alleged "threat of ISIS" to duck Laugier-related depositions.

With Esposito ordered to appear on camera by Nov. 25, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman told New York City lawyers on Monday that they cannot avoid the release of this video.

In arguing for suppression, New York City lawyers emphasized that Esposito was a "high-ranking public official in New York City and likewise, a public figure."

The city also warned that it was "not inconceivable that the media may attempt to obtain a copy of the videotape."

Furman found these arguments unavailing, saying the "Commissioner Esposito's status as an appointed official, along with the pre-existing public interest in this case, cuts in favor of allowing public access to the video, not against it."

The judge did, however, allow for police to redact portions of the video in accordance with a protective order.

Furman also placed limits on "certain types of extrajudicial statements" the lawyers can make to prevent the tainting of a future jury, "should this case get that far."

The New York City Law Department cited this warning in declining to comment.

Laugier was one of the hundreds arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, 2011, in a mass arrest the catapulted the then-weeks-old Occupy movement into national headlines and prompted two federal lawsuits.

She says in this, and other occasions where she reported on the movement, the NYPD used excessive force and violated her First Amendment rights to free speech, free press and assembly.

Laugier's lawyer did not reply to a request for comment before press time.

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