NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Justice Department is reportedly overhauling the team working the investigation into the death of Eric Garner.
With an impasse in the case, the New York Times reports that the Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers with a new team from out of town.
CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen said it’s a rare move.
“Maybe the feds in Washington became convinced that the feds in New York were too close to the case or were evaluating evidence differently than they should have, but this is not, in the end, a very complex case,” he told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “I mean, Eric Garner’s death is on video. Either the cops who killed him were breaking the rules and breaking the law or they weren’t.”
The Justice Department has been reviewing the case to determine if Garner’s civil rights were violated. The shake-up could put the government back on its way to filing federal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, CBS2 reported.
Attorney Stuart London, who represents Pantaleo, said the switch, if true, is a gross miscarriage of justice that reeks of politics, Diamond reported.
PBA President Pat Lynch also issued a statement, calling the decision to remove local officials investigating the case “both highly unusual and deeply troubling.”
“Two separate investigative teams have already spent more than two years reviewing the evidence in this case, without any action,” Lynch said. “Now, it appears that they are taking a third bite at the apple in an effort to reach a predetermined outcome. It is time to end this fishing expedition and let Police Officer Pantaleo move forward.”
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died on July 2014 on Staten Island as police tried to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Pantaleo used a takedown move that many have described as a chokehold.
Garner told officers “I can’t breathe” as he was being arrested. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.
The city medical examiner found the apparent police chokehold contributed to Garner’s death, but a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.
The city paid the Garner family nearly $6 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.