Consider this: What if, as Daniel Pantaleo’s lawyer claimed last week, Eric Garner died not from the NYPD cop’s supposed chokehold, but from poor health — specifically, Garner’s obesity?
Michael Graham, the St. Louis medical examiner, testified last week for Pantaleo in his departmental trial, and refuted claims by NYC’s medical examiner’s office. The city’s medical examiner concluded that Garner died from an NYPD-banned chokehold. Instead, Graham maintained Garner died from heart problems “exacerbated by his interaction with law enforcement.” Garner resisted as Pantaleo attempted to arrest him for selling “loosie” cigarettes in Staten Island in July 2014.
The police academy instructor who conducted Pantaleo’s tactical training also testified for Pantaleo. He said Pantaleo used a “seat belt takedown” maneuver approved by the NYPD, not a chokehold. The instructor refuted earlier testimony of a prosecution witness, Insp. Richard Dee, who said Pantaleo was not trained to use a seat belt hold and that video evidence showed that the way Pantaleo grabbed Garner met “the definition of a chokehold.”
As far as expert testimony goes, that’s a wash. Were this a criminal trial, the conflicting testimony might create reasonable doubt, which could mean acquittal. But this a departmental trial, which means the criteria for conviction or acquittal is “the preponderance of the evidence.”
That means that the NYPD — via trial Judge Rosemarie Maldonado and Commissioner James O’Neill, who has the final say — will make its determination based on whatever evidence is accepted or ignored. Maldonado’s ruling is expected in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, Pantaleo is a dead man walking. That’s because a cultural revolution with a leftward tilt is afoot in NYC, where rules and values of the past have been upended.
When O’Neill was appointed in 2016, he was portrayed as a cop’s cop. Since then, he has become Mayor Bill de Blasio’s cop, whether supporting the mayor’s neighborhood policing, or denouncing Sgt. Hugh Barry after he fatally shot an emotionally disturbed woman, who Barry believed was about to swing a baseball bat at his head.
Is there any doubt that the mayor wants Pantaleo fired? Is there any doubt that O’Neill will comply?