Petitioners Move For Mayor De Blasio & NYPD Commissioners To Testify In Garner Judicial Inquiry Following Chief Reznick Testimony & Affidavits By Former CCRB Chair Maya Wiley And Queens Borough President Donovan Richards
On Wednesday, October 27th, on the heels of earlier testimony by NYPD Chief Reznick making clear that he had no authority on disciplinary matters, lawyers for the petitioners in Carr v. de Blasio, the historic judicial inquiry into the NYPD killing of Eric Garner and related misconduct that began this week, filed a motion for reconsideration of witnesses who will be required to testify in the court inquiry. New York State Supreme Court Justice Erika M. Edwards is presiding over the Carr v. de Blasio judicial inquiry. The motion and attachments can be found here.
In the filing, petitioners, who include the mother and sister of Eric Garner, requested the “Court to compel the testimony of City officials parallel in rank and senior to Deputy Commissioner Joseph Reznick”, including Mayor de Blasio, former NYPD Commissioners Bratton and O’Neill, First Deputy NYPD Commissioner Tucker, and former Deputy Commissioner Kevin Richardson.
During court proceedings on Tuesday, October 26th, Chief Joseph Reznick who heads the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, made clear that while the NYPD’s Department Advocates Office (DAO) can provide input into the scope and target of IAB investigations, the IAB has no role in disciplinary decisions, including in the disciplinary decisions that were and were not made related to the killing of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014.
Given Reznick’s testimony, petitioners in this matter filed papers to request that Justice Erika M. Edwards reconsider her earlier decision to exclude certain top City officials from being required to testify.
“This judicial inquiry is meant to bring about transparency into what we believe have been violations and neglect of duties by top NYC officials including Mayor de Blasio,” said Loyda Colon (they/them), spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and Executive Director of the Justice Committee. “Chief Reznick’s testimony this week and affidavits submitted today confirm what we already knew — there are others within the City and the NYPD who haven’t yet been required by the court to testify but had the power, ability and duty to require a more thorough scope of misconduct investigations and should have required additional firing and discipline of officers. We need full transparency, which means we need Mayor de Blasio, all 3 NYPD Commissioners, and other top officials to take the stand in this judicial inquiry.”
The request cited to the September 24, 2021 ruling by the prior judge on this case, Judge Joan Madden: “As the chief executive officer of the City, respondent Mayor DeBlasio is ‘responsible for the effectiveness and integrity of city government operations,” and “[c]ertainly, the death of an unarmed man during a police arrest raises questions of both the effectiveness and integrity of city government with regard to which the mayor has responsibilities” and “the Police Commissioner has the “duty to determine whether information from sealed records was made available to the press, and if so, by whom, how that information was released, and what if any disciplinary action should be taken with respect to any person responsible.”
This latest filing by counsel for the petitioners included affidavits to the court from former Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) Chair and former Counsel to Mayor de Blasio, Maya Wiley, and Queens Borough President and former City Council Chair of Public Safety Donovan Richards.
As a former CCRB Chair, Maya Wiley is an expert on CCRB and NYPD disciplinary and investigatory processes. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was formerly the New York City Council Member from District 31 and the Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, who also had insight and direct conversations with high-ranking City and NYPD Officials who were directly part of the investigation into Eric Garner’s killing.
From Maya Wiley’s affidavit: “Given that Charges and Specifications were not served on Officer Pantaleo until the summer of 2018, and based on my personal knowledge up through August 2017, decision- making concerning discipline arising from the killing of Mr. Garner continued well beyond the IAB’s recommendation to serve Charges and Specifications in 2015. Based upon my experience in City government, it would be customary that Deputy Commissioner Richardson would have consulted officials senior to him during this post-2015 decision-making process period. The chain of command for such consultations is from Deputy Commissioner Richardson to First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker to Police Commissioner William Bratton (prior to September 2016) or Police Commissioner James O’Neill (after September 1, 2016). Further, it would have been customary, for a high-profile matter like this, that the Mayor and the First Deputy Mayor, and/or their respective staff, would have been briefed and consulted periodically during the decision-making process by the Police Commissioner.”
From the Donovan Richards’ affidavit: “I also regularly voiced my concerns to City officials who were decision-makers or were influential on NYPD disciplinary matters in high-profile cases, including Deputy Commissioner Kevin Richardson (who oversaw the DAO), First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, the three Police Commissioners who have served in their roles since the death of Eric Garner, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the time of these discussions, these officials declined to comment on specifics concerning an open investigation surrounding the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner. However, they indicated knowledge of and input into the disciplinary process, but were not at liberty to disclose information about an open investigation.”
On August 27, 2019, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Ellisha Flagg-Garner, sister of Eric Garner; Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham; Loyda
After the City moved to dismiss the lawsuit, Justice Joan A. Madden issued a decision on September 24, 2020, allowing a judicial inquiry to move forward with respect to alleged violations and neglect of duty in connection with: (1) the stop, arrest, and use of force against Mr. Garner; (2) the filing of false official documents concerning Mr. Garner's arrest; (3) the leaking of Mr. Garner's alleged arrest history and medical condition in the autopsy report; and (4) the alleged lack of medical care provided to Mr. Garner by police officers. The judicial inquiry will also examine violations and neglect of duties related to the discipline, or lack thereof, for the officers, in relation to the categories above.
Unhappy with the court’s decision, the City tried to block the petition by filing a notice of appeal and by attempting to argue that there was an automatic stay to all further proceedings before the Supreme Court while the City’s appeal was pending. In December 2020, Justice Madden rejected the City’s arguments, allowing proceedings related to the inquiry to move forward, unless the City won a stay from an appeals court.
On February 12, 2021, the City filed a motion with the Appellate Division, First Department, the appeals court, seeking to stay the judicial inquiry. On March 23, 2021, the First Department denied this request. The First Department heard the appeal on May 25, 2021 and the Appellate Division, First Department denied the appeal on July 15, 2021.
Following Justice Madden’s retirement from the bench, Justice Erika M. Edwards was assigned to preside over the case.
In addition to the petition brought under Section 1109, the Gwen Carr, the Justice Committee, and Communities United for Police Reform submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board relating to Mr. Garner’s arrest and killing, to which the City has not yet provided full disclosures.
The City has also failed to meet discovery obligations in an order made by the court on July 23.
The judicial inquiry began October 25 and is expected to last for approximately two weeks. The schedule, which is subject to change, for the proceedings is as follows:
- Monday, October 25th - Friday, October 29th, 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
- Wednesday, November 3rd - Thursday, 4, 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM
- Friday, November 5th, 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
- There may be additional dates during the week of November 8th
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory and abusive policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.Topics: Eric Garner