The FBI: Protector of New Yorkers' Civil Rights?
May 22, 2006
A student protestor who risked a year in jail but insisted on going to trial, claiming she was wrongfully arrested by police during the Republican National Convention, may become a focus of the FBI's civil rights investigation into possible police misconduct.
Twenty-year-old Annette Karlin, who attends Pratt Institute, was arrested at a demonstration at Union Square on Aug. 26th, 2004 and charged with interfering with governmental administration.
"She held out," said her attorney, Alan D. Levine. "She would not plead. She said, 'I didn't do anything.'"
A jury acquitted her after only five minutes.
Part of the evidence was a videotape of Karlin's arrest that Levine says contradicts the arresting officers' testimony.
Levine says that Cynthia M. Deitle, the FBI agent heading the bureau's investigation, has asked for a copy of the videotape and of the transcript of her criminal trial.
"At the demonstration, they arrested a guy with a bullhorn," said Levine. "The captain said, 'Arrest the girl, too,' referring to Karlin. So the cop has to make something up and said the girl jumped on his back. But the videotape shows she didn't touch anybody."
Levine identified the arresting officers as Deputy Inspector Paul McCormack, a captain at the time, and. police officer John Murtagh.
Attempts to reach them yesterday were unsuccessful. Police spokesman Paul Browne did not return a call.
Karlin's criminal attorney, Martin Leahy, said, "I was worried about the jury. She faced a year in jail. These were two decorated officers versus someone who was out protesting. It's not something you roll the dice about.
"I have always taken the position with police officers that there is a lot going on," he added, "that they could have thought someone else was grabbing and saw her standing there and might have made a mistake.
"I never said the cops flat out lied. But I find what happened totally bizarre when confronted by the tape."
The FBI had written to the New York Civil Liberties Union On May 11th, seeking help in locating protestors whose arrests had been dismissed because of contradictory videotape evidence.
One case involves Dennis Kyne, who was accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest. The charges were dropped after a videotape contradicted an account by the arresting officer.
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin declined comment on the investigation, saying only, "The letter we sent to the NYCLU makes it apparent we are actively looking to determine whether there have been instances of police misconduct in connection with the convention."
He described Deitle as a veteran agent with two masters degrees in law, whose squad also investigates child exploitation and child abduction cases.
The subject of police misconduct at the Republican convention has been a sore one for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Last week he castigated the Civilian Complaint Review Board after it criticized two deputy chiefs for ordering the mass arrests of protestors. Kelly called the NYPD's policing of the convention "one of the department's finest hours."
Kelly further complained the CCRB had provided a copy of its criticisms to the New York Times before sending them to him. However five days before it released its letter to the Times, the CCRB sent an unsigned draft of the letter, seeking for Kelly's comments, to Assistant Commissioner Julie L. Schwartz of the Department's Advocate's office.
That office, which is under the jurisdiction of the First Deputy's office, either never forwarded the letter to Kelly's office or Kelly chose to ignore it.
Thus spoke Joe Tacopina, attorney for former police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who may or may not soon be indicted in the Bronx on corruption charges. They stem from a $240,000 renovation of his Bronx apartment, which a New Jersey contractor says was paid for by Interstate Industrial, a New Jersey construction company with alleged mob ties.
Kerik, who wanders between here and the Middle East, has recently been back in town, though he is scheduled to head out again this week. Although Tacopina denies it, a source close to the NYPD says Kerik has been reaching out to retired officers to accompany him to court should the black day arrive.
Accepting $240,000 as a quid, however, is not in itself a crime. The government must prove a quo. In short, what did Kerik do for Interstate in return?
Nearly 25 years ago, amidst a ton of national publicity, former Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola, a Democrat, indicted the nation's Republican Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan on corruption charges.
The current Bronx D.A., Robert Johnson, is also a Democrat. An indictment of Kerik, a supporter of Republican President George Bush and an ally of Rudy Giuliani, a leading Republican candidate for president, will draw even more publicity than Donovan.
For Johnson's sake, the proof of Kerik's guilt better be simple for a jury to understand. That is, if history is any guide.
In the case of Donovan, the charges were so complicated they took nine months to present to the jury. The jury acquitted Donovan in nine hours.
Despite having been handcuffed and arrested by Palisades Parkway police after a fracas stemming from his daughter's traffic ticket; despite his conviction in a New Jersey traffic court, where the presiding judge all but called him a liar; despite the embarrassment to the image of the NYPD; and despite the fact that two Internal Affairs detectives documented the entire proceeding, Commissioner Kelly appears to have given McCarthy a pass.
Of course, we can't say this with 100 per cent certainty as no one knows what goes on at the top levels of the NYPD except Kelly himself.
But McCarthy was one of some 200 top brass — one-star chiefs and above, as well as civilian deputy commissioners — whom Kelly feted earlier this month at a Bigfoot Appreciation night at The Water's Edge in Long Island City. [Menu: chicken, steak or red snapper.]
The Police Foundation's Pam Delaney was also there, suggesting that the Police Foundation picked up the tab. She pretended to be too busy to speak to Your Humble Servant about the dinner at headquarters last week.
McCarthy was also said to have suited up for last weekend's football game with the fire department. [No report on how he played.]
But Kelly is said not be crazy about having his top people playing games [or practicing] on department time. Just ask his star softball pitcher, chief of staff Joe Wuensch.
Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt