The New York City police officer accused last year of arresting a black man on a pretext and later using a racial epithet to describe him pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and other charges Tuesday.
Officer Michael Daragjati, 32, of Staten Island, faces up to 1 year in prison on the civil rights violation, a misdemeanor, and 20 years for attempted extortion of the same man, whom he thought stole his snow plow. The man was allegedly lured to a parking lot and beaten to get him to return the plow.
The nine-year NYPD veteran allegedly took the black man into custody on a phony charge of resisting arrest last April because he talked back during a stop-and-frisk.
Daragjati's calls were being monitored because of an ongoing probe of his activities, and investigators overheard him describe the man to a friend in a racially insensitive way.
After the guilty plea, Daragjati's defense lawyer said he would argue at sentencing that racial motive is not an element of the charge of violating a person's right not to be arrested without cause, and that his client was not a racist.
It was "wrong" to use the racial epithet, said attorney Ron Fischetti. "But that doesn't mean he's a racist, for using that word," Fischetti told reporters.
The Manhattan lawyer said Daragjati, who is married with three children, is "remorseful."
Daragjati, in custody since his arrest last year, appeared in court in tan prison khakis. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to resign from the NYPD and never apply for another law enforcement job. He faces a range of 46 to 57 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutors have charged that he used racial epithets frequently -- more than a dozen times -- on monitored calls. The black man arrested in April spent two nights in jail.
No date has been set for sentencing.