The NYPD officer who tackled and wrongfully detained former tennis star James Blake in 2015 has rejected a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid a public disciplinary hearing. As a result, Officer James Frascatore now faces a trial in September on charges of excessive force.
The officer was widely expected to avoid a trial, and that he would instead accept a deal to keep his job while losing a few vacation days. In an agreement reached last month, Blake agreed to drop his excessive-force claim against the city, in exchange for the creation of a Civilian Complaint Review Board fellowship in the tennis player's name. As part of that settlement, the city said that Blake would also drop his case against the officer.
Instead, following Thursday's hearing, Frascatore's attorney told reporters that the City Law Department had not adequately demonstrated that Blake had given up his right to sue Frascatore in the future.
"It fell apart because of this," NYPD Lawyer Stephen Worth said, according to the Times. "This is a sticking point. My client doesn't feel he has all the protection he should have, and he's not prepared to go forward without all the protection he can get."
Blake's attorney, meanwhile, emphasized that the arrangement between the officer and the review board had nothing to do with his client.
"The suggestion that Mr. Frascatore has turned that down because of something Mr. Blake did or did not do just does not have any basis in fact," Blake's lawyer Kevin Marino said. "Mr. Blake is pleased that the case was not resolved by plea agreement because he, too, relishes the opportunity to testify at a hearing against Mr. Frascatore."
Blake Videoby Gothamist
In the 2015 incident, Frascatore can be seen tackling Blake outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel, slamming him into the ground and handcuffing him. The Civilian Complaint Review Board—which makes nonbinding recommendations that are frequently overruled by the NYPD Commissioner—determined that the cop was guilty of excessive force and recommended departmental charges leading to his suspension or dismissal.
According to a WNYC police misconduct investigation, Frascatore has a lengthy civilian complaint record, and once racked up five complaints in the span of seven months. Last year, the city paid out $40,000 to a Queens man who accused Frascatore of punching and kicking him.
A senior law enforcement official told the Wall Street Journal that it's unlikely Officer Frascatore would be fired. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 19th.