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Dan Donovan: Blind Ambition or Naked Opportunism?

January 12, 2015

In a move certain to widen the city’s racial divide, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan has announced he’s running for Congress.

Donovan gained national attention, if not notoriety, for failing to bring an indictment against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner.

Whether Donovan’s decision stems from ambition or opportunism, he already has secured the borough’s Republican nomination for the 11th Congressional District seat of Michael Grimm, who recently resigned after pleading guilty to a felony tax charge.

Garner died in July as police attempted to arrest him for selling “loosie” cigarettes. His death came about a month before the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury also declined to indict the police officer in that shooting.

Donovan has refused to explain his grand jurors’ reasons for not indicting Pantaleo, citing grand jury secrecy. Pantaleo had tried to arrest the 350-pound Garner after local merchants complained that Garner, who had 30 prior arrests, hurt their businesses by illegally selling loose smokes. The fatal encounter was captured on video, which showed Pantaleo using what appeared to be a department-banned chokehold to bring Garner to the ground after he resisted arrest.

Since then, New York has been in turmoil. During citywide protests, two lieutenants were beaten on the Brooklyn Bridge, and last month two NYPD officers were assassinated by a supposedly deranged black man from Baltimore who cited Garner’s death as a reason for killing them. A subsequent cop-work slowdown followed.

In a statement Friday, Donovan said, “Last week I announced that I would seriously consider running for the vacant Congressional seat in the 11th Congressional District of New York. I made that announcement after a 24-hour period in which my phone never stopped ringing with expressions of enthusiastic support from elected officials, party leaders and residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn ….

“In the week since my last announcement, the enthusiasm for my candidacy has only broadened and intensified, with expressions of support also from beyond the two boroughs.”

Such support, like that of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is virtually all white. But if you are a black New Yorker, you might view Donovan in a different light.

Brooklyn congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who had demanded that Pantaleo be indicted and sent to jail, said in a statement that Donovan’s “entire public record, including what happened and did not happen in the context of the grand jury investigation into Eric Garner’s death, is something that should be heavily scrutinized.”
Ordinary black New Yorkers might be forgiven for voicing the same words about Donovan’s congressional candidacy that Garner uttered on the video as Pantaleo brought him to ground: “I can’t breathe.”

With last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and the ensuing demonstration this weekend, there was little news coverage of the life-in-prison sentencing here in New York of radical London cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri on 11 terrorism charges.

Mostly forgotten now is that al-Masri’s arrest in 2004 by FBI agents and NYPD detectives on the Joint Terrorism Task Force led at the time not to mutual adoration between the two agencies, as might be expected, but to a public breach.

The breach was sparked by then-Commissioner Ray Kelly’s singling out George Corey, an NYPD detective on the task force, and crediting him with al-Masri’s arrest.

Kelly’s identification of Corey led reporters to his address and unlisted phone number. When photographers camped outside Corey’s home, his wife became so upset that she contacted Police Plaza, and Corey, who had been sent to London to testify at an al-Masri hearing, was whisked home.

“This is NOT the way we do business,” Pat D’Amuro, the head of the FBI New York office, wrote in an email to bureau employees that was leaked to the media. [See NYPD Confidential, June 4, 2004.]

Corey, meanwhile, retired from the NYPD and joined the U.S. Attorney’s office, which prosecuted al-Masri.

At an earlier hearing, Corey complained to this reporter for including his wife’s first name in a story. It is unknown whether he complained to Kelly for publicly identifying him.

Meanwhile, as the terrorist attacks in Paris continued, Kelly’s myrmidons, such as the logorrheic Mitchell Silber, were full-blast on the airwaves and in print. If, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack in New York City, you can be sure they will return to point out that no such terrorist attack occurred under Kelly. Unless, of course, you don’t count Times Square where in 2010, a watchful street vendor noticed an ignited car bomb and alerted the NYPD before it exploded. Two days later, the FBI arrested 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen since 2009.

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