Baez brutality case fuels political bid
May 8, 1997
The mother of a 29-year-old man who died after an escalating argument with a police officer over a touch football game announced her candidacy for Bronx borough president yesterday.
"My first issue is police brutality," said Iris Baez on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, where seven months ago Police Officer Francis X. Livoti was acquitted of causing the death of her son, Anthony, in 1994. Livoti was subsequently dismissed from the force for having used a department-banned, chokehold, which medical experts testified appeared to have caused Anthony's death.
The case has become a touchstone for opponents of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, fueled by supportive remarks about Livoti made by Giuliani favorite, Chief Louis Anemone, a few months after Baez' death.
A few hours after her announcement, Baez sat in a Bronx courtroom where her family has filed a $48 million law suit against Livoti and the city, and heard Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon announce that one of Livoti's six substantiated Civilian Complaint Review Board cases involving the use of force is mysteriously missing.
McKeon ruled yesterday that the Baez family attorneys were entitled to all six such substantied cases, as well as the confidential statements, known as GO15s, that Livoti and other officers who witnessed Baez' death gave to department officials.
The missing CCRB case occurred in 1984, the year Livoti joined the department, and is mentioned by number - 84-2592 - in two subsequent CCRB complaints against Livoti, McKeon said.
"I gave you every piece of paper they the Police Department said exists," Elizabeth Gross, an attorney with the city corporation counsel's office, told McKeon in court yesterday.
Asked about the missing case file, police spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said, "I have nothing for you."
Outside the courtroom, Baez' husband, Ramon, said, "Is this another cover-up?"
The first coverup he referred to was alluded to by Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Sheindlin, who acquitted Livoti of criminally negligent homicide in his criminal trial last October and referred to the testimony of the half-dozen officers with Livoti at the crime scene as "a nest of perjury."
Although the the Police Department promised an investigation of the nest, Police Commissioner Howard Safir said at the announcement of Livoti's dismissal earlier this year that he had never heard of any such allegations and had no plans to investigate them.
Meanwhile, Iris Baez' anouncement of her candidacy, on the independent Bronx Green Party line, was attended by a score of journalists, indicating that the issue of her son's death would remain a theme in this year's mayoral race.
In fact, Baez has been courted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said yesterday: "I think it's a good thing. We've been talking. I will hold my own press conference in support of her.
"I see her like Carolyn McCarthy," he said, referring to the Long Island woman whose husband was shot dead on the LIRR by a deranged gunman and who recently won election to Congress on an anti-gun platform.
"She has the option of also running in the Democratic primary," said Sharpton. "Either way, I'll support her."
Email Leonard Levitt at email@example.com
© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.