October 27, 2016 | 1:00am
By Jamie Schram and Yoav Gonen
|EBill de Blasio and Loretta Lynch Photo: Daniel William McKnight|
Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday gushed about Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to take over the Eric Garner case, lauding the Justice Department as “the gold standard in terms of protecting civil rights” and leaving a bad taste in the mouths of federal officials in New York.
“I’m sure she has her reasons for what she’s done, and our message to her is we will cooperate in any way she asks,” de Blasio told reporters. “I think everyone wants to see things move speedily, but I respect her decision, certainly.”
The mayor’s comments infuriated the Brooklyn-based federal investigators who had spent two years looking into the case, determining there wasn’t enough evidence to file civil-rights charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Garner in a chokehold that contributed to his death in 2014.
“Yet another example of our racially charged mayor ignoring the facts, our initial investigation and now turning his back on hard-working federal law-enforcement officers, as he’s done with the men and women of the NYPD,” said one federal source familiar with the case.
Lynch launched the federal investigation into the Garner case when she was still the US Attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn.
As attorney general, she recently replaced the Brooklyn probers with DC investigators because no indictment had been brought against Pantaleo, who was not indicted at the state level. Law-enforcement sources close to the case told The Post on Tuesday that it’s only a matter of time before Pantaleo is charged.
“It’s going to happen sooner than later,” one insider said of the indictment. “Washington wants to indict him.”
Federal investigators in Brooklyn were steamed by Lynch’s decision to bypass them.
“We already ... came to a conclusion which they didn’t like. It’s truly disgraceful what they’re doing,” said another insider.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has also weighed in on the hot-button issue, calling the Justice Department’s actions a “fishing expedition” after two fruitless investigations.
“Now it appears that they are taking a third bite at the apple in an effort to reach a predetermined outcome,” PBA President Patrick Lynch has said.
The 31-year-old Pantaleo and fellow officers had clashed with Garner, who was illegally selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island street. Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold banned by the NYPD and wrestled him to the ground.
Garner, who was black, pleaded with Pantaleo, who is white, to release him, saying, “I can’t breathe.” The incident was caught on video, sparking nationwide protests.