Officials in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and federal prosecutors in New York have staked out opposing positions on whether a police officer should be charged in the death of a 43-year-old Staten Island black man whose videotaped take-down by officers sparked national outrage.
This has left the investigation in a holding pattern until one side relents or someone higher up intervenes.
At least some prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office feel that no civil rights charges should be brought in the case of Eric Garner. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Division feel criminal wrongdoing should be pursued.
That disagreement is unusual, as prosecutors in a U.S. Attorney’s Office are typically pushing to bring charges, while officials at the Justice Department are often more hesitant.
The case is centered around Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was among a group of officers that took Garner to the ground. Stuart London, Pantaleo’s attorney, said the process “seemed to have stalled,” and his client had not been called to appear before it.
“My position has always been, it was a simple street encounter. There was no specific intent to violate anyone’s civil rights,” London said. “It’s tragic and sad, but it’s very different than my client violating someone’s federally protected constitutional rights.”