Justice Department leaning against charges in Eric Garner case

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is weighing whether to pursue federal charges against a New York City police o...

Posted: Apr 21, 2018 1:06 AM
Updated: Apr 21, 2018 1:06 AM

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is weighing whether to pursue federal charges against a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the discussions.

There is a split among department prosecutors on whether to pursue charges, but they appear to be moving toward declining to prosecute, the source said.

"At this point, there's real push-back from some of the career prosecutors at the table on the idea of moving forward," the source said, explaining that the department has not made an official decision, but "it's leaning no."

A separate source familiar with the discussions said that the civil rights division is prepared to indict the police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, and has recommended prosecution.

Federal investigators have been examining the circumstances of Garner's death since 2014 after a grand jury in New York declined to indict the Staten Island officer, who is white.

The case plagued the Obama Justice Department. The civil rights division in DC was poised to pursue charges, but prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York and the local FBI field office did not support the move, causing a stalemate that was left unresolved before President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, according to another source familiar with the discussions.

Experts say excessive force cases are notoriously difficult to win given the high standard under federal civil rights statutes. The law requires that an officer's conduct be evaluated from the perspective of a "reasonable" officer on the scene, rather than with added perspective of hindsight.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Garner, a 43-year-old African-American father of six, was confronted by police for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in July 2014. When approached, Garner raised both hands in the air and told the officers not to touch him. He was unarmed.

Video footage shows Pantaleo grab Garner from behind and put him in a choke hold, causing Garner to say repeatedly: "I can't breathe!"

An asthmatic, Garner was later pronounced dead.

The Garner family did not immediately return requests for comment.

Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, said his client "has consistently denied that he ever used the choke hold or violated Mr. Garner's civil rights. This has always a simply street encounter."

"Politics should never trump the rule of law," London continued. "Although this has been a frustrating period for officer Pantaleo, my client realizes that the case is a tragedy based on the loss of life."

The New York Times first reported the current division within the Justice Department.

Garner's case is just one of a series that were left in limbo at the end of the Obama administration, leaving some civil rights advocates bracing for how Attorney General Jeff Sessions might handle the decisions.

At a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Arizona last year, Sessions vowed to make sure the department addresses police misconduct.

"This Department of Justice will encourage the proactive policing that your departments must do to keep our neighborhoods safe," Sessions said. "And we will have the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 764448

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1049701803
Lake567981029
Allen42685698
St. Joseph37253568
Hamilton37131426
Elkhart29699470
Tippecanoe23347230
Vanderburgh23106404
Porter19538327
Johnson18755391
Hendricks18012321
Madison13463345
Clark13450198
Vigo12789255
LaPorte12533224
Monroe12494178
Delaware11100198
Howard10612237
Kosciusko9736123
Hancock8707149
Bartholomew8235157
Warrick8031157
Floyd7975181
Grant7337181
Wayne7222201
Boone7145105
Morgan6886142
Marshall6323116
Dubois6267118
Cass6083111
Dearborn598578
Noble595790
Henry5939111
Jackson514677
Shelby509097
Lawrence4901127
Gibson460696
Montgomery454492
Clinton453555
DeKalb451585
Harrison450576
Whitley414745
Huntington411781
Steuben409560
Miami404073
Jasper399455
Knox387091
Putnam383762
Wabash367383
Adams351656
Ripley350471
Jefferson340486
White338954
Daviess3084100
Wells302281
Greene292285
Decatur291493
Fayette285864
Posey280435
Scott278058
LaGrange276972
Clay273048
Washington252437
Randolph247083
Jennings238149
Spencer237531
Fountain233750
Starke229859
Owen221059
Sullivan219043
Fulton207645
Jay202832
Carroll196522
Orange190556
Perry189139
Vermillion179644
Rush177027
Franklin171635
Tipton171547
Parke153616
Pike141234
Blackford137832
Pulaski122948
Newton122436
Benton109215
Brown105743
Crawford105116
Martin92515
Warren87615
Switzerland8308
Union73510
Ohio58211
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1120922

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1300711493
Cuyahoga1169882259
Hamilton822191259
Montgomery533351059
Summit487911014
Lucas43688832
Butler39879614
Stark33752937
Lorain25937509
Warren24850312
Mahoning22663612
Lake21429396
Clermont20338260
Delaware19088138
Licking16820227
Trumbull16744491
Fairfield16735207
Medina15800276
Greene15468254
Clark14325308
Portage13391218
Wood13327201
Allen12026245
Richland11707213
Miami10976228
Wayne9238227
Columbiana9182236
Muskingum9114137
Pickaway8729123
Tuscarawas8706254
Marion8691140
Erie8109166
Ashtabula7264179
Hancock7039134
Ross7004165
Geauga6939153
Scioto6636108
Belmont6203179
Lawrence5905104
Union590049
Jefferson5718162
Huron5622122
Sandusky5467130
Darke5436130
Seneca5373128
Washington5352111
Athens526260
Auglaize506787
Mercer490285
Shelby480497
Knox4603112
Madison446966
Ashland441898
Defiance438099
Fulton435275
Putnam4349104
Crawford4103111
Brown408862
Preble3940107
Logan391479
Clinton387966
Ottawa374981
Highland364668
Williams355478
Champaign347560
Guernsey329554
Jackson321154
Perry298050
Morrow294543
Fayette287950
Hardin278865
Henry276967
Holmes2725102
Coshocton272461
Van Wert251465
Gallia248450
Adams247758
Pike244537
Wyandot235257
Hocking221763
Carroll200349
Paulding179342
Meigs150740
Noble137639
Monroe137445
Harrison115038
Morgan111524
Vinton87117
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
85° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 92°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 92°
Huntington
Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 91°
Decatur
Mostly Cloudy
85° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 92°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 92°
Showers and storms are possible early Sunday morning, but we'll be dry by sunrise. Partly sunny skies and hot conditions are expected for the second half of the weekend.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events