A New York City police officer who was forced to turn himself in after he was accused of attacking a subway worker was charged with three misdemeanors Thursday to the outrage of a subway worker’s union who believes he should have been charged with a felony.
But everybody knows the rules are different for police.
That difference was notable in the New York media from the initial release of his photo where they described him as a “hulking brute” and a “thug,” changing their tone when it was revealed he was a cop as Reason points out.
Mirjan Lolja pleaded not guilty to third degree assault, second degree harassment and official misconduct.
Under New York law, it is a felony punishable by up to seven years to attack a Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee who is on the job. The law treats MTA employees no different than police, paramedics or firefighters. And the MTA is sure to remind commuters about the law to make them think twice before attacking workers.
But the unspoken law, of course, is that cops can attack whomever they want, whenever they want, even if they are off-duty as Lolja was in this case.
It’s surprising the case made it this far, but he is probably being charged as merely a formality before they acquit him.
“There is a glaring disparate treatment at play with New York’s criminal justice system when a police officer is allowed to brutally assault a uniformed TWU Local 100 conductor and walk away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen.
“Had one of our conductors viciously assaulted a uniformed female police officer, an arrest would have occurred immediately, and that conductor would be facing substantial felony charges.
“It’s despicable,” Samuelsen added, “and transit workers will not be silenced in our outrage.”
“Based on the complaint, it’s sufficient to allege that he intended to cause a transit worker injury and did,” said Mark Bederow, a former Manhattan prosecutor. “In the state of New York, that is sufficient for a felony assault.”
In a statement, Bronx District Attorney spokeswoman Terry Raskyn defended the charges.
“There is an adequate scope of punishment (one year) covered by a misdemeanor charge,” Raskyn said. “Charging is always at the discretion of the District Attorney.”
Prosecutors say Lolja was off duty when he bum-rushed Futa at the Tremont Ave. station because he was irate about having to wait 20 minutes for a train.
Lolja “jumped on (Futa’s) back (and) wrapped his upper arm and forearm around (her) neck, causing (her) to fall to the ground and experience substantial pain to her knees, neck and shoulders,” the complaint says.
While Futa was on the ground, Lolja grabbed her hair with both hands and pulled — causing “substantial pain in her scalp,” the complaint adds.
The officer fled the scene but turned himself in after a video captured him going through the turnstiles with a smirk on his face. He was subsequently suspended from duty.
In an interview with the Daily News earlier this month, Futa said she had no time to react.
“Before I turned around, this guy was on my back and I’m on the floor,” Futa told The News.
“I was on my knees on the floor. It just happened so fast. I’m trying to get this guy off me and he’s not letting up. He’s choking me and pulling my hair.”
The beatdown on the D line platform continued even after a co-worker tried to stop Lolja, Futa said.
“I felt like it lasted forever,” she added. “I was really scared for my life.”
Lolja initially claimed he was attacked by the subway worker after he tried to take a photo but that story is no longer being mentioned as it is probably false.