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Staten Island DA silent on possible grand jury probe of Eric Garner's death

Eric Garner was confronted by police trying to

Eric Garner was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said. Photo Credit: National Action Network

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan was mum Monday when asked about the anticipated start this week of a grand jury probe into the July 17 death of Eric Garner in a street confrontation with police.

Donovan had said in August that a grand jury would begin looking into Garner's death, which the city medical examiner said was caused by compression of his neck by a chokehold, sometime this month.

Legal experts believe that Donovan will explore whether homicide charges, likely manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, were warranted against the NYPD officers involved in taking down Garner, who is seen on a video resisting arrest. Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen on the video placing his arm around Garner's neck area as he wrestled him to the ground. Pantaleo has been stripped of his badge and gun.

Garner's family believe Pantaleo's use of the apparent chokehold warrants a federal investigation but would cooperate with Donovan's office, attorney Sanford Rubenstein said Monday.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said he believed that if evidence was presented fairly to the grand jury that Pantaleo and other cops wouldn't be indicted. He also said Pantaleo didn't use a chokehold, which isn't allowed by the NYPD, but rather a "takedown" maneuver, which is part of police training.

James DiPietro, a Brooklyn defense lawyer not involved in the case, said lawyers for Pantaleo should try to persuade Donovan to only present a case of criminally negligent homicide to the grand jury. Such a charge might lead to no prison time if there is a conviction, DiPietro said.

Pantaleo's defense attorney Stuart London didn't return a telephone call for comment.

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