A former city police officer was convicted Thursday of lying about a clash with a bike-riding activist, as seen by millions of YouTube viewers, but was cleared of assault and harassment charges.
Jurors delivered their verdict Thursday in the case against Patrick Pogan, whose trial underscored tensions between the city’s police and a group of pro-cycling demonstrators and highlighted the growing prevalence of witness videos in law enforcement.
Pogan initially reported that cyclist Christopher Long steered into him and knocked him down in July 2008 in Times Square, but a tourist’s video posted on YouTube contradicted Pogan’s account. The video, which garnered millions of views, showed Pogan making a beeline for Long and knocking him off his bike.
Pogan testified last week that he was trying to protect himself during the encounter and never meant to misrepresent what happened. He was 11 days out of the police academy when he confronted Long and resigned from the force last year.
Jurors deliberated two days before delivering their verdict in state Supreme Court. Pogan, 24, showed no reaction when it was read. He faces up to four years in prison at his June 23 sentencing.
The fallout from their confrontation also included a $65,000 settlement the city made with Long, who had sued seeking $1.5 million.
Pogan and Long crossed paths during Critical Mass, a freewheeling, monthly pro-bicycling event held in New York and other cities around the world. It aims to assert cyclists’ rights and decry urban areas’ reliance on cars and trucks.
Police began cracking down on the New York version in the summer of 2004, when more than 260 cyclists were arrested during what authorities saw as a chaotic Critical Mass ride shortly before the Republican National Convention.
The roundup has spurred years of legal fights between cycling groups and the city. The latest ruling came as recently as February, when a federal judge said the city could force groups of more than 50 cyclists to get parade permits, an idea Critical Mass has resisted.
Both prosecutors and Pogan’s lawyer alluded to the backdrop of friction between the police and cyclists.
During his closing argument Monday, defense lawyer Stuart London called Critical Mass an organization “that’s against NYPD, and unfortunately, officer Pogan became its scapegoat.”
But Assistant District Attorney Ryan Connors told jurors Monday: “This is not a case of the New York Police Department versus Critical Mass. This is about what (Pogan) himself did.”
Pogan was part of a group of rookie officers assigned to keep order and watch out for traffic violations as the bicyclists passed through Times Square on July 25, 2008.
Pogan said he told Long to stop for a summons for such traffic infractions as taking his hands off his handlebars. Long, who denied hearing any instruction to stop, kept going.
Pogan strode over to Long. Each testified that he felt the other was about to hit him and maneuvered defensively.
Long was launched off his bike and landed on a sidewalk grate. He wasn’t seriously hurt.
In the aftermath, Long darted away from Pogan and another officer, then flailed and shouted at them to “assault me!” as they tried to handcuff him, according to witness videos.
Pogan was not knocked over as he confronted Long, though he went down to the ground while officers grappled with him later. Pogan testified that he unintentionally confused the sequence of events when describing them to a supervisor who typed out his report, and later to a prosecutor who filed a court complaint charging Long with attempted assault and other offenses. The charges against Long were later dropped.
Jurors convicted Pogan of offering a false instrument for filing and a charge of making a false statement. He was acquitted of assault, harassment and other lesser charges.
Long, 31, is a sometime farmer and farmer’s market worker.
Pogan, whose father is a retired New York Police Department detective, has worked construction jobs since his resignation, his lawyer said.p>