NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When the NYPD mistook tennis star James Blake for a criminal, it had repercussions around the world.
But as CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the photo of the man detectives thought they were looking for at the Grand Hyatt New York last week turned out to be a case of mistaken identity too. Schneider talked exclusively with that man, Sean Satha, Tuesday night.
An NYPD officer, James Frascatore, grabbed and took down Blake outside the hotel this past Wednesday. A financial crimes task force investigating $18,000 in fraudulent card purchases from an online shopping delivery service, police said.
Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said a courier making a delivery mistakenly identified Blake as a suspect who he delivered to in the past.
But Satha – the man for whom police mistook Blake – was not involved in the fraud ring either.
“At first I was kind of stoked that cops thought I looked like a professional athlete,” Satha said. “Initially I thought it was funny, until I saw the video of James Blake’s arrest, which was really awful and just over the top.”
It is a bit of a twisted tale how the Australian native’s Instagram photo got into the hands of American law enforcement. Satha’s twin brother had his credit card stolen, and the card was used to buy items through a delivery service called Go Butler.
It turned out that it was Sean Satha’s photo on his brother’s social media account, and both were innocent victims.
“My name is actually clearly tagged at the bottom of the photo, so to be honest, I think this whole mess could’ve been avoided if someone had spent about 10 minutes doing some research on Google prior to the manhunt,” Satha said.
Blake was tackled when the deliveryman for Go Butler – who was working as an informant – pointed to Blake and told police he was the suspect.
“In the unfortunate case of former tennis pro, James Blake, — who was clearly but mistakenly identified by a complainant — there certainly can be mitigating circumstances which caused the officer to handle the situation in the manner he did. Do they exist? Frankly, no one will know for sure until there is a full and complete investigation,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in part in a statement. “That is why no one should ever jump to an uninformed conclusion based upon a few seconds of video.”
But Satha now just wants his own name cleared.
“I’ve been in Australia the entire time,” he said. “I had nothing to do with any of this.”
Blake was cleared as the wrong suspect 15 minutes after he was taken down, but he maintained that it was excessive force and abuse of police power.
Blake said he plans to meet with the commissioner and mayor to discuss ways for the NYPD to change so he does not have to resort to a lawsuit.
“I’m not going to go and sue the city for my own gain,” he said. “If we’re going to sue for millions, we’re going to make it go to a fund to help victims of police brutality and we’re going to effect change to make sure this not happen again.”
Frascatore has been placed on desk duty, and the NYPD confirmed he has had several complaints filed against him in his four years with the department.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have both apologized to Blake about the incident.