This month, Iris Baez marks 21 years since her son, Anthony, was choked to death by a cop in 1994. Officer Frank Livoti was eventually dismissed by the NYPD and went on to run a self-defense businesses as well as sing Frank Sinatra songs at parties.
But Livoti served almost seven years in prison after he was convicted in federal court of violating Baez's civil rights. Livoti, a police union delegate, was represented by union attorney Stuart London, who represents Daniel Pantaleo, the cop in the Eric Garner choking case.
Pantaleo, of course, is a free man today, and Commissioner Bill Bratton, also at the NYPD helm at the time of Baez's death, won't fire him. Livoti choked Baez, a 28-year-old asthmatic from the Bronx, for hitting his patrol car with a football; Pantaleo choked Garner while arresting him for allegedly selling cigarettes.
Bratton has said the NYPD can't move on Pantaleo until a federal probe is completed. Livoti was fired before his federal trial on civil rights violations. Iris Baez says Bratton is stalling, and others agree with her. Len Levitt's column last month said police sources suggested Bratton is using the federal probe excuse to delay action.
Iris says she believes that because Bratton works closely with police unions, who have furiously defended Pantaleo. With Garner, as in the Baez case, the unions tried blaming the men's health as reasons for their demise. Iris also says Mayor Bill de Blasio won't help because he's afraid of the police and its union.
Though Livoti is free today and the Baez family still carries a heavy heart, the fact that an officer saw the inside of a prison in the death an unarmed New Yorker is notable.
It took immense public pressure, flooding city and federal offices with phone calls and letters, to bring down Livoti. Both Bratton and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended him, and Bronx Judge Gerald Sheindlin, who famously noted a "nest of perjury" in the police department, could not bring himself to convict Livoti. The disgraced officer has said he has nothing for which to repent.
Iris says Bratton should stop avoiding the issue and respect grief-stricken families: "When they murder a family member, they murder the whole family."