The New York City police officer implicated in the death of Eric Garner five years ago is set to face an administrative trial next week after a judge cleared the way Thursday.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who has been on desk duty since Garner’s death in July 2014, is accused of violating NYPD rules regarding the use of a choke hold; choke holds that data show are still in use by police officers, according to the New York Times.
If Pantaleo is found guilty at the NYPD administrative trial, prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, he could face punishment ranging from loss of vacation days to being fired, the Associated Press reports.
Pantaleo’s attorneys had argued to a judge that the Civilian Complaint Review Board lacked jurisdiction in the case, but the judge disagreed.
“It has been nearly five years since this tragic incident,” Judge Joan Madden said Thursday. “The Garner family, the police officer and the public should have resolution of the issues involved in this trial.”
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who was at the courthouse for the ruling, thanked the judge for allowing the case to move forward.
“We all seen Eric being murdered on video. It wasn’t just me; it wasn’t just an eyewitness, it was all of us who saw Eric being murdered on camera,” Carr said on the steps of the courthouse, her voice cracking, “and they’re still trying to say we didn’t see what we saw.”
A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges in Garner’s death, which was captured on video that went viral and showed Garner making a final plea: “I can’t breathe.”
The video appeared to show Pantaleo dragging the unarmed father to the ground by placing his arm around Garner’s throat while trying to arrest him on a street in New York’s Staten Island.
Last month, Pantaleo’s lawyer said an NYPD surgeon saw no choke hold, and instead blamed Garner’s history of asthma and other health issues for his death. A CCRB prosecutor slammed that account, saying the surgeon only looked at the video and not the autopsy findings.
But in the almost five years since Garner’s death, choke holds continue to be used by police, a New York Times analysis finds.
Despite spending $35 million to retrain officers not to use choke holds, a New York Times review found:
Records of complaints show the banned holds are still being used by some officers, and only a tiny fraction of officers accused of chokeholds have been found guilty and have faced discipline. When they do, the punishment meted out has been remedial training and the loss of vacation time. None have been fired.
As the Times notes, the NYPD’s record with regard to the use of choke holds will almost certainly come up during Pantaleo’s administrative trial set to being this coming Monday.