More than two years after a New York City police detective was caught on video choking a man to death, the United States Department of Justice said it plans to charge the cop.
At least according to the New York Post, which is quoting an anonymous source within law enforcement.
Washington-based federal prosecutors are planning to charge NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo with civil rights violations in the 2014 death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, a law enforcement source told The Post on Tuesday.
“It’s going to happen sooner than later,” the source said. “Washington wants to indict [Pantaleo],” who was accused of putting Garner in a fatal chokehold banned by the police department.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch approved the plan after federal investigators in Brooklyn were replaced by their D.C. counterparts because they didn’t want to bring charges in the case, the source said.
Local federal investigators who worked on the case are privately seething. They accused their Beltway colleagues of only trying to “make an example out of Pantaleo” at any cost, said one source familiar with the case.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, was furious, blasting the USDOJ for going on a “fishing expedition” after Panateo was cleared by an internal investigation as well as a grand jury.
“Now, it appears that they are taking a third bite at the apple in an effort to reach a predetermined outcome,” Lynch said in a statement.
The news to indict New York City police detective Daniel Pantaleo has been even been reported by the New York Daily News, the newspaper that first posted the video showing Eric Garner’s final moments of life as he gasped, “I can’t breathe” as the detective had him in an illegal chokehold.
Instead, the Daily News is reporting the following:
As the Justice Department looks to indict NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo by year’s end in the civil rights probe of the Eric Garner police chokehold case, experts said Tuesday that bitter in-fighting between prosecutors has made a potential trial a defense lawyer’s dream.
The probe is now firmly in the hands of the DOJ in Washington, D.C., which appears to have overruled recommendations from Brooklyn prosecutors and FBI investigators not to indict the NYPD cop, sources said.
The New York-based feds determined they could not bring a criminal civil rights case against Officer Pantaleo for Garner’s death — leading the DOJ to take control of the case.
Defense lawyers and former prosecutors said the unusual split opens a trove of evidence that could potentially help Pantaleo if he’s indicted.
On Monday, the New York Times reported the following:
The Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, officials said, a highly unusual shake-up that could jump-start the long-stalled case and put the government back on track to seek criminal charges.
Mr. Garner, 43, died in 2014 on a Staten Island street corner, where two police officers confronted him and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, was seen on a video using a chokehold, prohibited by the New York Police Department, to subdue him. Mr. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for protesters around the country.
In recent weeks, the F.B.I. agents who have been investigating the case were replaced with agents from outside New York, according to five federal officials in New York and Washington. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are no longer assigned to the case. It is not clear whether civil rights prosecutors from Washington will work alone in presenting evidence to a grand jury in Brooklyn and in trying the case if charges are eventually brought.
The officials who described the reorganization did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
This is a breaking story, so come back for more details as we will be updating it throughout the evening.
UPDATE: The New York Post updated its article shortly before 8:30 p.m. to remove the statement from NYPD union boss Patrick Lynch about this being a “fishing expedition,” so don’t be surprised if he turns out to be their internal source.
In other words, he is probably trying to generate outrage against the United States Department of Justice, which is likely why the other media have not been reporting the possible charges against Pantaleo.
Read the New York Post’s previous version here, which was posted at 6:45 p.m.
But now read the updated version here, which no longer contains Lynch’s name or attributed statements.
It appears that Lynch did not expect to see his name in print in connection with this story.
UPDATE II: It’s been 24 hours since the New York Post quoted an anonymous source that New York City Police Detective Daniel Pantaleo will be charged in the death of Eric Garner, but it does not appear to be so cut and dry at this time.
ABC News just posted a story saying that even if the United States Department of Justice decides to bring charges against the cop, it would still need to be brought before a grand jury for an indictment in order to move ahead.
A New York grand jury already refused to indict Pantaleo in December 2014, but that was made up of Staten Island residents, who tend to be more conservative than the rest of New York City.
The USDOJ grand jury would determine whether Pantaleo “willfully violated” Garner’s civil rights when choking him to death for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.