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The Justice Department is not going to carry federal fees in opposition to a New York City police officer within the demise of Eric Garner, ending a yearslong inquiry right into a case that sharply divided officers and prompted nationwide protests over extreme drive by the police.
The United States legal professional in Brooklyn, Richard P. Donoghue, introduced the choice not to carry prison civil rights fees on Tuesday morning, someday earlier than the fifth anniversary of Mr. Garner’s demise.
Bystanders filmed the arrest that led to his demise on their cellphones, recording Mr. Garner as he gasped “I can’t breathe,” and his dying phrases turned a rallying cry for protesters throughout the nation. His demise was one among a number of deadly encounters between black folks and the police that catalyzed the nationwide Black Lives Matter motion.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen on the video wrapping his arm round Mr. Garner’s neck, and the federal investigation dragged on for years amid inside disputes within the Justice Department, each below President Obama and President Trump.
In the tip, Attorney General William P. Barr made the decision not to search a civil rights indictment in opposition to Officer Pantaleo on civil rights fees, simply earlier than the five-year deadline for submitting fees expired.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Donoghue known as Mr. Garner’s demise a tragedy, however mentioned “the evidence does not support charging Police Officer Pantaleo with a federal civil rights violation.” He went over the whole arrest step-by-step and mentioned the federal government couldn’t show Officer Pantaleo willfully used extreme drive to violate Mr. Garner’s rights as required below the legislation.
The determination extinguishes the hopes of the Garner household and their supporters that Officer Pantaleo would possibly face federal prosecution in a case that ignited demonstrations and debates over using drive by law enforcement officials and led to modifications in policing practices throughout the United States.
After assembly with prosecutors, Mr. Garner’s mom, Gwen Carr, denounced the choice, saying she would hold pushing to maintain the officers concerned within the arrest accountable. They additionally known as on town to hearth Officer Pantaleo.
“We might not never know justice in the D.O.J., but I think there will be justice, and we’re going to keep fighting,” Ms. Carr mentioned “We’re not going away, so you can forget that.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who was standing together with her, added: “Five years ago, Eric Garner was choked to death; today the federal government choked Lady Justice, and that is why we are outraged.”
In June, the Police Department completed a disciplinary trial to determine if Officer Pantaleo should be fired or punished in some other way for using what appeared to be a chokehold, which the department had banned more than two decades ago.
It is ultimately up to Commissioner James P. O’Neill, as the final arbiter of police discipline, to decide whether to fire Officer Pantaleo or take less drastic action, like docking vacation time.
But Mr. O’Neill will not make a formal decision until the police administrative judge who oversaw the disciplinary trial renders her verdict, and he is still awaiting her report, a spokesman for the department, Philip T. Walzak, said in a statement. “Because of the need to protect the integrity of the process, the N.Y.P.D. will not comment further at this time,” the statement said.
Officer Pantaleo, 34, has been on desk duty without a shield or a gun since Mr. Garner died, a status that has allowed him to accrue pay and pension benefits.
Mr. Garner, who was 43, died on a Staten Island sidewalk on July 17, 2014, after Officer Pantaleo wrapped an arm around his neck from behind and took him to the ground and other officers put their weight on him, compressing his chest against the pavement.
The officers had been ordered to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes, and he resisted them. A medical examiner testified at the disciplinary hearing that the pressure on Mr. Garner’s neck and chest set in motion a fatal asthma attack.
Mr. Donoghue said prosecutors did a rigorous analysis of the video and other evidence, but in the end they did not believe they had sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo committed a crime.
To prove criminal conduct, he said, the government had to convince a jury that in the middle of a dynamic arrest Officer Pantaleo willfully made a clear decision in his mind to apply a chokehold, a burden prosecutors did not believe they could meet.
None of the New York officers involved in Mr. Garner’s death have been charged with a crime or disciplined by the Police Department, a fact that has enraged the Garner family and various advocacy groups devoted to holding the police accountable for abuses of power.
Mr. Garner’s family members — including his mother, Gwen Carr — met with federal prosecutors and the Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday morning.
The state grand jury declined to bring charges against Officer Pantaleo in December 2014, after the police officer testified in his own defense that he did not put Mr. Garner into a chokehold, a maneuver that is prohibited by the New York Police Department, and that he feared that he would be pushed through a storefront window during the struggle.
But a federal investigation into Mr. Garner’s death proceeded, sharply dividing the Justice Department under four attorneys general and two presidents.
The attorney general at the time of the death, Eric H. Holder Jr., said that evidence strongly suggested that the federal government should bring charges against Officer Pantaleo, even though it is notoriously hard to prosecute police officers for deaths in custody and the government might lose.
While career civil rights prosecutors agreed with Mr. Holder, prosecutors under the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta E. Lynch, sharply disagreed. Because Officer Pantaleo had testified that he intended to put Mr. Garner into a takedown hold that would not restrict his breathing, it was not clear whether the dead man’s civil rights had been violated.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn and in Washington also disagreed about whether a passer-by’s cellphone video supported Officer Pantaleo’s account.
After Ms. Lynch succeeded Mr. Holder in April 2015, officials including the head of the civil rights division, Vanita Gupta, worked to convince her that the officers had used excessive force and had likely violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights.
Ms. Lynch allowed the civil rights division to take a lead role in the case, and the following September the department replaced the F.B.I. agents and prosecutors who had been working on the case with a new team from outside of New York.
But the case stalled again after Mr. Trump won the presidential election and appointed Jeff Sessions as his attorney general. Civil rights division prosecutors recommended that charges be brought, and they asked the deputy attorney general at the time, Rod J. Rosenstein, about indicting Officer Pantaleo.
But Mr. Rosenstein did not allow the department to move forward on an indictment, and many officials said they believed that there was a good chance that the government would lose the case should it go to trial.
The last time the federal government brought a deadly force case against a New York police officer was in 1998, when Officer Francis X. Livoti stood trial on — and was eventually convicted of — civil rights charges in the choking death of a Bronx man named Anthony Baez.
Federal prosecutors signaled they were still interested in the case as recently as June, when Elizabeth Geddes, the head of the civil rights unit that covers Staten Island, appeared at the disciplinary hearing for Officer Pantaleo. She left the proceedings at Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan after it became clear that Officer Pantaleo would not testify.
At the hearing, Officer Pantaleo faced charges of recklessly using a chokehold on Mr. Garner and intentionally restricting his breathing. Prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a police oversight agency, argued that he should be fired; his attorney, Stuart London, maintained that the officer did nothing wrong, but used a technique taught in the Police Academy known as the seatbelt maneuver, not a chokehold.
Ashley Southall contributed reporting.
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