A ruling by an NYPD administrative judge will make canning the cop who used a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner much more difficult, police union officials said.
Because the Civilian Complaint Review Board didn’t charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the Staten Island father’s 2014 death before the statue of limitations expired, Judge Rosemarie Maldonado ruled that the cop cannot be tried on lesser charges of violating police guidelines.
Pantaleo had to be charged within 18 months of Garner’s July 17, 2019 death, but the CCRB waited until January — almost five years after the fact.
Now, the CCRB has to show that Pantaleo committed a crime — either assault or strangulation, according to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Lawyers for the watchdog agency said they are confident the judge’s ruling will not inhibit their ability to find the officer guilty.
In December 2014, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the officer. A federal investigation into whether Pantaleo violated Garner’s civil rights has dragged on with no action for years.
“All we have asked for in this process is fairness, so we are glad that the judge has rejected CCRB’s attempt to skirt the law," PBA President Patrick Lynch said. "This case now boils down to a single fact: P.O. Pantaleo did not commit a crime. A grand jury of regular New Yorkers has already reviewed the same evidence and come to that conclusion. This disciplinary trial must yield a similar result.”
In a statement Frederick Davie, CCRB chairman, disputed the union’s claim. “Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado properly denied Police Officer Pantaleo’s motion to dismiss the charges against him, as no statute of limitations applies in this case," he said.
Neither the union, the NYPD nor the CCRB provided a copy of the judge’s order - presumably because of the city’s interpretation of state Civil Rights Law section 50-a, which it claims prevents the release of all NYPD disciplinary records. The decision caused a significant amount of confusion about the judge’s order.
“We are confident that, once all the evidence has been presented, the Police Commissioner will find Officer Pantaleo guilty of misconduct and ultimately terminate him from the Department,” spokeswoman Collen Roache said.
Loyda Colon of Communities United for Police Reform, called the union’s claims misleading.
“Pat Lynch and Daniel Pantaleo’s legal defense team are desperately trying every dirty trick in the book to let Pantaleo avoid any consequences for killing Eric Garner,” Colon said.
Pantaleo initially faced departmental charges strangulation and attempted reckless assault. A city official said it was necessary to file the patrol guide charges to bring a case in the NYPD trial room, even though they would be dismissed on statute of limitations.
The Pantaleo trial is slated to start Monday.