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Russell Simmons, Jay Z lobby Cuomo on prosecuting cops

Russell Simmons speaks as activists call on New

Russell Simmons speaks as activists call on New York City leaders to take action to reduce police brutality and racial disparities in policing at a rally on the steps of City Hall, Wed., Dec. 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke privately with hip-hop magnates Russell Simmons and Jay Z Wednesday to hear their appeals for reforms on investigating police misconduct following a grand jury decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Simmons, the Def Jam records founder, said that Cuomo had promised him an immediate executive order appointing special prosecutors in cases "where police brutality is charged." But a spokeswoman for Cuomo said he was considering proposals to put before the State Legislature next year.

Cuomo is also weighing a request from state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for temporary authority to investigate fatal confrontations between police and civilians until broader changes in criminal justice procedure occur.

Simmons, the rapper Common and other music industry leaders joined a City Hall rally as part of a growing chorus of celebrity voices calling on elected officials to hold police more accountable.

Simmons told reporters: "To have special prosecutors in cases like this going forward is critical. We know the police cannot police the police."

Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said the governor spoke with Simmons by phone "about the range of options that could be included in a criminal justice reform package, including the creation of a special prosecutor's office to handle cases involving potential police misconduct, that the governor is committed to working to immediately pass next legislative session."

The governor also met Wednesday with Jay Z and "had a productive conversation about doing a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system," DeRosa said.

Joined by members of the activist group Justice League NYC, Simmons and Common at City Hall also urged an end to the NYPD's "broken-windows" policy of targeting low-level crime and called for an expedited federal investigation into Garner's death.

Eric Garner Jr., son of the Staten Island man who died last July after being placed in an apparent chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, attended the demonstration.

"I stand in front of a young man who lost his father for no reason," Common said. "We can't allow this to happen in this country ever again."

Simmons also spoke with Mayor Bill de Blasio by phone Tuesday, the producer and mayoral spokeswoman Marti Adams confirmed.

A few dozen protesters rallied around Manhattan last night, gathering at Grand Central Terminal and at one point staging a die-in at Penn Station.

Justice League NYC called on demonstrators to join what they called the "Millions March NYC" on Saturday beginning at Washington Square.

"As people are educated as to how unjust this system, how unaccountable this system is, then they will fight more and more and our numbers will multiply," Simmons said.With Karina Vigo


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