NEW YORK – Law enforcement and other sources confirmed that a federal grand jury heard testimony from police officers about the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
A legal expert said the grand jury could reach a decision by the time a new administration is sworn in Friday.
The disturbing video from July 17, 2014 shows Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, saying he “can’t breathe” as NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo puts him in a chokehold.
The city medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, yet a Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict the officer.
A federal investigation into civil rights violations has dragged on for months, but suddenly seems to be in high gear.
Criminal defense attorney Peter Frankel said that with the Obama administration about to end, a grand jury presentation signals an indictment may come soon.
Sources with direct knowledge of the federal case told me that police officers testified before the grand jury, which was initially convened about a year ago. While officially federal prosecutors maintained the investigation was active and ongoing, doubts intensified about any resolution on the horizon.
Frankel said for a federal probe to last this long and come down to the wire “smacks of political involvement.” He said the grand jury could hand up an indictment or decide not to indict.
Even if the grand jurors find Pantaleo guilty of violating Garner’s civil rights, the decision could be dismissed by the likely new attorney general.
Jonathan Moore, attorney for the Garner family, said he has reassurances from the highest levels of the justice department that they are actively investigating. Federal prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
Officer Pantaleo is still on desk duty with the NYPD. Last year he made over $100,000.