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New York police officer pleads guilty in civil rights case

By Reuters
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 20:14 EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York City police officer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges that he violated an African-American man’s civil rights by arresting him on false charges.

Michael Daragjati, an eight-year veteran of the New York Police Department, was later heard using a racial slur to brag about the arrest by investigators who were recording him.

In entering a guilty plea to the civil rights violation, Daragjati, who had been suspended without pay, was fired from the force, authorities said.

As part of his plea deal, he agreed not to oppose his termination and agreed never to seek work in law enforcement again. He faces a potential sentence of a year in jail and a $100,000 fine; a sentencing hearing has not been set.

Daragjati stopped and frisked the man in New York City’s Staten Island borough in April, and the man complained about his treatment after he was found not to be carrying any weapons or contraband, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

Daragjati responded by arresting him and filing a report falsely claiming the man resisted arrest by flailing his arms and kicking, the complaint said.

Investigators from the FBI and the police department’s internal affairs bureau intercepted telephone calls in which they said Daragjati boasted about the arrest and made repeated derogatory references to African-Americans.

Don Fischetti, one of Daragjati’s attorneys, said after Tuesday’s hearing that one particular racial slur was “a vile statement that he regrets.”

“The reason why he pleaded guilty today is he because he wants to put this matter behind him,” Fischetti said, adding that Daragjati, 32, has a wife and three children.

Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement that Daragjati “criminally abused the immense authority and public trust conferred on him by his status as a police officer.”

“Hiding behind his badge, he subjected his victims to false arrest, imprisonment and threats of violence,” she said.

Daragjati also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges that he attempted to violently extort snowplow equipment from a man he believed had stolen from him. He faces a potential sentence of 20 years for the extortion charges.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)

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Reuters
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