CITY HALL -- Eric Garner’s arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes on Bay Street was processed after he was already dead and not later voided, Officer Justin D’Amico testified Tuesday on the fifth day of Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s disciplinary hearing, which is being delayed by more than a week.
D’Amico, who was Pantaleo’s partner in 2014 on the day of Garner’s death, said he was the one who saw Garner selling loose cigarettes from at least 200 feet away from Victory Blvd. and St. Marks Place.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is prosecuting the case, later pointed out that the area D’Amico observed the sale from was more than 320 feet from where Garner was that day.
At the time of Garner’s death, D’Amico coordinated the 120 precinct’s quality of life and graffiti investigations, which included the sale the untaxed cigarettes.
He testified that he was the officer who processed Garner’s arrest and initially charged him with a felony tax charge, which requires someone to have at least 10,000 cigarettes, 22,000 cigars or 440 pounds of tobacco on hand in order to be prosecuted.
But D’Amico said that as Garner lay on Bay Street, he only found four sealed packs of cigarettes and one opened pack with 15 cigarettes with a Virginia tax stamp on the bottom.
He admitted during cross examination that the felony tax charge was an inaccurate charge.
D’Amico also said it had not been his first encounter with Garner, about two weeks earlier he said he caught him selling untaxed cigarettes but let him off with just a warning.
PARTNER CLAIMS PANTALEO’S ARMS WERE NOT AROUND GARNER’S NECK
He also said that as he approached Garner that day he believed he was armed and claims he saw a bulge in his left side pocket.
When shown a picture of Pantaleo’s behind Garner, D’Amico said his partner’s arm was not around Garner’s neck but his body.
Fellow 120 precinct Officer William Meems also took the stand Thursday.
Meems arrived on Bay Street on July 17, 2014 after the situation began to escalate between the two officers and Garner.
Asked by the CCRB whether Garner was moving his body in a desperate attempt to get air as he lay on the ground at 202 Bay Street, Meems said he wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know what he would be moving his body for, he was in the process of being arrested,” Meems said.
TRIAL DELAYED BY MORE THAN A WEEK, ANGERING GARNER SUPPORTERS
Pantaleo’s trial was supposed to span 10 day and end before Memorial Day weekend, however, the next court date got pushed to June 5 because the medical examiner Pantaleo’s defense asked to testify based in St. Louis, Mo. is not available until that week.
The move angered many Garner supporters after Thursday’s hearing, who blamed Pantaleo’s attorney Stuart London for attempting to “prolong and delay” the trial.
The last five days of the trial have painted a detailed picture of how the fatal July 17, 2014 event unfolded and has brought in witnesses including acquaintances of Garner who saw and captured his encounter with Pantaleo, as well as the other officers who were at the scene that day.
Pantaleo could face penalties ranging from the loss of vacation days to firing if he is found to have violated department rules. Police Commissioner James O’neill will have the final say in determining how Pantaleo should be punished. Pantaleo has denied wrongdoing.
Pantaleo’s attorney opened his defense on the first day of the trial by arguing his client used an approved technique known as the “seat-belt-hold” to restrain Garner and that the officer was being used as a “scapegoat” in a politically charged atmosphere.
However, the NYPD’s top trainer and a city medical examiner have said Pantaleo did use a chokehold on Garner.
The trainer also said the seat-belt-hold was not taught at the police academy until Pantaleo left.
Text messages shown in court last week revealed the Island lieutenant who called officers to the scene before Garner’s fatal encounter with Pantaleo told his deputy it was “not a big deal” when he learned Garner may have been dead on arrival.
Over the course of the last several days of the hearing, Garner’s family and supporters have blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for not stepping in to push the NYPD to conduct a disciplinary trial for Pantaleo sooner.
On Thursday, they said de Blasio, now a presidential candidate, was “not presidential material,” and just as guilty as Pantaleo for not stepping in to fire the officer when they asked them previously.
“How do you arrest a dead man? And they went on and processed him after death,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr outside of One Police Plaza after Thursday’s hearing.