A white NYPD cop convicted of extortion and of violating the civil rights of a black man who he arrested for talking back and later described with a racial slur was sentenced to 57 months in prison Friday by an outraged Brooklyn federal judge.
Former officer Michael Daragjati, 33, told U.S. District Judge William Kuntz that he was not a racist and used the slur to describe anyone who disrespected police. But the judge said his excuse reflected an unhealthy police culture that dehumanized people it was supposed to protect.
"The law does not sanction that culture," said Kuntz, a newly appointed African-American judge who served on the NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board. "This court does not sanction that culture. And the better angels in the police department do not sanction that culture."
Daragjati, an eight-year NYPD veteran from Staten Island, admitted fabricating a charge of resisting arrest in April 2011, so he could jail a black man who mouthed off after a frisk on Staten Island. Under surveillance in an insurance fraud probe, he was later caught on a wiretap using the racial slur in describing the incident.
Separately, he also pleaded guilty to extortion for threatening and attacking a man who Daragjati believed had stolen a snow plow from him. Kuntz sentenced him to 48 months on that charge, plus 9 months on the civil rights charge, which carried a maximum of one year.
The courtroom was packed with friends and family of Daragjati, a married father of three. Kenrick Gray, who has asserted in a federal lawsuit that he was the victim falsely arrested by Daragjati, also attended.
Daragjati choked up several times as he apologized for his "bad judgment," asked the judge to take eight years of police work into account, and insisted he wasn't a racist.
"I said stupid words," he said, "but when it comes down to the heart, my heart cries for any colored child as it does for my own."
Kuntz, however, said Daragjati had been the subject of five previous complaints from African-American men -- including two court suits that the city settled.
"You knew how to act as a real police officer," the judge said. "You embraced the anti-cop way, the criminal way."