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Staten Island DA silent on grand jury probe of Eric Garner's death

A police chokehold, as well as chest compression,

A police chokehold, as well as chest compression, were the causes of death of Eric Garner, the city medical examiner's office says. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; National Action Network

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan was mum Monday when asked about the start of the grand jury probe into the July 17 death of Eric Garner in a street confrontation with police.

Donovan had said in August that a grand jury would begin looking into Garner's death, which the city medical examiner said was caused by compression of his neck by a chokehold, sometime this month.

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday to determine whether there will be criminal charges in connection with Garner's death, union officials said. Legal experts believe that Donovan will explore whether homicide charges, likely manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, were warranted against the NYPD officers involved in taking down Garner, who is seen on a video resisting arrest. Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner's neck area as he wrestled him to the ground. Pantaleo has been stripped of his badge and gun.

Garner's family believe Pantaleo's use of the chokehold warrants a federal investigation but would cooperate with Donovan's office, attorney Sanford Rubenstein said Monday.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said he believed that if evidence was presented fairly, Pantaleo and other cops wouldn't be indicted. He also said Pantaleo didn't use a chokehold, banned by the NYPD, but a "takedown" move, part of police training.

James DiPietro, a Brooklyn attorney not involved in the case, said Pantaleo's lawyers should try to persuade Donovan to only present a case of criminally negligent homicide to the grand jury. Such a charge might lead to no prison time if there is a conviction, DiPietro said.

Pantaleo's defense attorney Stuart London of Manhattan didn't return a telephone call for comment.

With the Associated Press

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