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January 31, 2019, 11:45 AM

NYPD trial in Eric Garner's death could be longest in department's history


Nearly two dozen witnesses may be called in the NYPD trial of the cop accused of using a deadly chokehold on Eric Garner, the Daily News has learned.

Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo is facing department charges for using a banned maneuver, killing Garner on a Staten Island street on July 17, 2014.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board said Thursday it plans to call 17 witnesses to the stand in Police Headquarters, with another 33 possible. Lawyers for Pantaleo said they intend to call 22 witnesses.

If that happens, the trial, set to begin in May, could be one of the longest departmental trials in history. The judge, Rosemary Maldonado can cut the list down to police officers only, and eliminate the civilians.

The CCRB and Pantaleo’s attorney Stuart London have filed motions in the case, but those filings will likely never see the light of day because of the de Blasio administration’s position on police disciplinary records. City Hall believes state Civil Rights Law, section 50-a bars releases of any such records. Civil rights advocates disagree.

Highlighting the administrative secrecy surrounding the now four-year-old case, the lawyers and Maldonado held an extended off-the-record conversation Thursday out of earshot of the packed gallery.

“We still see that the NYPD is covering up,” said Garner’s mother Gwen Carr. “It’s not just Pantaleo. It’s the other officers who (were) involved. We want all of them to stand trial. We want all of them to be fired.”

Garner, 43, was selling loose cigarettes before police approached him. When they tried to arrest him, he said he was tired of police harassment, threw his hands up and tried to back away. The cops wrestled Garner to the ground , and while he was in a chokehold and Garner said, “I can’t breathe” 11 times, lost consciousness and died.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Pantaleo — who was cleared of criminal charges by a grand jury — shouldn’t face a departmental trial.

“The basic facts of this case are that the officers were sent to arrest Mr. Garner on complaints from the community,” Lynch said. “He had been warned to cease his illegal activities the week before and chose to ignore the warning, so letting him go was not an option.”

Lynch said Garner refused to cooperate and pushed cops away. “The officers involved did not hit with their fists or batons, nor did they draw their weapons to gain compliance,” Lynch explained. “Mr. Garner was taken to the ground using the minimum amount of force by employing a maneuver taught in the police academy. Unfortunately, Mr. Garner’s extremely poor health and severely compromised cardiovascular system resulted in his tragic demise. Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo did nothing wrong.”

The NYPD and the CCRB did not return requests for comment.