A New York City police officer violated the civil rights of an African-American man by arresting him because of his race on a false pretext and was overheard using a racial slur to refer to the man and others, a complaint in Brooklyn federal court charged Monday.
After an April 15 stop-and-frisk of a black man on Staten Island turned up no evidence of crime, prosecutors said, Officer Michael Daragjati made up a charge of resisting arrest because the man talked back and then confided to a friend in an eavesdropped phone conversation: "Another n---- fried, no big deal."
Daragjati, 32, a nine-year NYPD veteran from Staten Island, was being monitored because he was under investigation. Authorities said he beat and demanded $5,000 from a man he believed had stolen his truck and that he tried to file a false auto-insurance claim related to a snow plow business he ran on the side. He was charged with those counts Monday.
Prosecutors in their complaint said Daragjati's racial hostility was on display frequently, as he used the same derogatory term for black men a dozen times.
Prosecutors said the man in the April incident was held in jail for two nights because of the phony charges.
"The power to arrest -- to deprive a citizen of liberty -- must be used fairly, responsibly and without bias," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a prepared statement. "Our system of justice depends on the public's confidence that those who enforce the law also obey the law."
Critics have contended that NYPD officers stop and pat down black people they spot on the street to harass them. A lawsuit pending in Manhattan federal court says there is a pattern of such conduct at the department.
But NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement that the department initiated the probe of Daragjati, and praised federal agents "for bringing this case forward promptly and professionally."
Daragjati has been assigned to duties that do not involve contact with the public since July. Police Benevolent Association lawyer Michael Martinez said during a court appearance that his client -- a married father of two -- has now been suspended.
Prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Joan Azrack to detain Daragjati without bail. They said when he found out there was a federal investigation of the fraud and extortion charges, he said in a secretly recorded conversation with a friend, "If something happens, these guys are dead."
Martinez called that threat "loose talk" and "puffery," but Azrack decided to detain him. She agreed to hear more arguments on his bail at a hearing Wednesday.