Newsday
May 7, 2010

Pogan Hopes to Avoid Jail After Conviction for Lying

Ex-Cop Acquitted of Assault

By MARK TOOR

   
HIS ‘DREAM’ PROFESSION NO LONGER A REALITY: Patrick Pogan, leaving the courtroom with his father, Patrick Pogan Sr., a retired Detective, saw his hopes of gaining reinstatement to the NYPD vanish when he was convicted of two charges of lying in a criminal complaint against a bicyclist with whom he tangled in Times Square two years ago.

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang

 

The next question for Patrick Pogan is whether he will be able to go on with his life or have to serve time.

The former rookie cop, made famous on YouTube by a video that appeared to show him shoving rider Christopher Long off a bicycle without provocation during a Critical Mass bike rally, was convicted April 29 of two charges of lying in an official report, one a felony that could cost him up to four years in prison. The jury acquitted him of misdemeanor assault and harassment charges.

‘A Chilling Effect’

Mr. Pogan sat impassively as the verdict was read and did not speak to reporters afterward. But his attorney, Stuart London, said outside the courthouse that “he’s disappointed; we’re all disappointed.”

The decision “will have a chilling effect on every new Police Officer that goes out there,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent President Patrick J. Lynch.

Mr. Pogan, who was on his 10th day of patrol after graduating the Police Academy, “did nothing wrong,” Mr. London said.

“Anyone with 10 days on the job will make a mistake,” Mr. Lynch said. “It should have been treated as one.”

Mr. London said he hoped his client would avoid prison time, adding, “He needs to put this tragedy behind him.”

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Connors, had no comment after the verdict.

The jury was given two disparate portrayals of Mr. Pogan. The prosecution depicted an officer who picked Mr. Long out of a crowd of bicyclists at the July 25, 2008 rally, knocked him to the ground for no reason and then lied about the circumstances of the confrontation to his Sergeant and an Assistant District Attorney who filed a criminal complaint against the bicyclist. Charges against Mr. Long were eventually dismissed and he received a $65,000 settlement from the city. Mr. Pogan quit the NYPD after being indicted.

‘Do What You Need to Do’

The defense described an eager rookie who was poorly trained but well-meaning and was incited by supervisors to give summonses to Critical Mass riders. Capt. Joseph White, who helped police the rally, said he characterized them to Mr. Pogan and other officers as “professional agitators.” While he didn’t remember what he said during the briefing that included Mr. Pogan, the Captain testified that when asked about stopping the bikes he generally responded, “Do what you need to do.”

   
  PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘A chilling effect on new cops.’

Mr. Pogan said he targeted Mr. Long for a summons because he saw the bicyclist committing infractions including riding in the middle of the street and taking his hands off the handlebars. He said he yelled at Mr. Long to halt, although Mr. Long testified that he received no order or signal to stop, and no such order is heard on the YouTube video. In testimony, both Mr. Pogan and Mr. Long described their physical encounter as a collision. The criminal complaint, which was ostensibly based on information from Mr. Pogan, said Mr. Long steered his bicycle in the direction of the officer and then hit him.

Sergeant Wrote Report

Mr. Long got up and started walking away, Mr. Pogan said, at which point he and his partner physically stopped the bicyclist. Mr. Long began cursing and waving his arms to avoid being handcuffed—another point on which Mr. Long and Mr. Pogan agreed. Mr. Pogan testified that he and his partner were so inexperienced that a Sergeant had to tell them how to apply the handcuffs.

At the Midtown South Precinct stationhouse, Mr. Pogan said, his supervisor, Sgt. Eric Perez, decided to fill in the computerized booking report although the Sergeant was not at the scene and did not witness the arrest. Mr. Perez testified earlier in the trial that he was under pressure from Captain White to finish the report as quickly as possible, although the Captain testified that he knew of no specific urgency for filing the report.

Sergeant Perez conceded that his fingers were the only ones that touched the computer keyboard. He said he wrote the account of what happened and decided what charges should be filed. He said Mr. Pogan participated in writing it but gave no indication of nervousness that might hint at lack of truth. “Not for a second,” the Sergeant said, did he suspect any lying. He said Mr. Pogan reviewed the report and okayed it.

Assistant District Attorney Maura Millendorf, who drafted the criminal complaint against Mr. Long on the basis of the computerized arrest report, testified that she called Mr. Pogan and asked him to describe the circumstances of the arrest. Based on his description and the report, she said, she added a charge of attempted assault. She testified that she faxed him a copy of the complaint and he approved it.

Knocked Down or Went Down?

Mr. Pogan said he believed that he was knocked down three times, once by the initial collision and two more times during the ensuing confrontation. Both the arrest report and the criminal complaint make that assertion. On viewing the video, which does not show him falling when colliding with the bike, he testified that he was confused and initially believed that he had fallen. Under cross-examination by Mr. Connors, he admitted that the other two falls were not really falls but instead were tactical decisions he made to lower himself to the ground during the arrest process.

“The Assistant District Attorney put words in his mouth and Sergeant Perez put words in his mouth,” Mr. London said after the trial.

One undercurrent in the trial was the role of Critical Mass, a loosely organized international group that conducts monthly bicycle rides in more than 150 U.S. cities. The New York Police Department demands that Critical Mass, whose rides can involve hundreds of cyclists, obtain parade permits; the organization says that requirement violates its constitutional rights. A Federal Judge recently came down on the side of the city.

On the stand, Captain White described a hostile relationship between police officers and the bicyclists. He said they would break traffic laws and when intercepted would try to agitate police officers by yelling, “Stop hitting me, stop hurting me, you’re beating me.” He said he had been in YouTube videos himself.

‘Knew He Would Be Scapegoat’

Testimony showed Mr. Pogan never received any training on Critical Mass before Captain White’s 10-minute briefing on the night of the rally.

Another undercurrent in the jurors’ deliberations was the behavior of Mr. Long, who admitted during cross-examination that he smokes pot once or twice a day, has heckled police officers during Critical Mass rides before, has not worked in several months, killed a pedestrian while driving a car and recently, while drunk and high, kicked the side-view mirror off an occupied car he thought was in his way.

He felt sorry for Mr. Pogan, he testified, because “I knew he was going to be scapegoated.”

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley set sentencing for June 23.