Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Police Officer Seen on Tape Shoving a Bicyclist Is Indicted by John Eligon and Colin Moynihan - NYTimes.com

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A police officer who was videotaped knocking a man off his bicycle in July during a monthly cycling event in New York City has been indicted, the officer’s lawyer said on Monday.

The officer, Patrick Pogan, has been instructed to report to State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday for the unsealing of the indictment, said the lawyer, Stuart London. Mr. London said he did not know what the charges would be.

But people with direct knowledge of the case said they believed that prosecutors were seeking felony charges of filing false records in connection with the police report that Officer Pogan filed after arresting the bicyclist, Christopher Long. Officer Pogan also could be charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.

“My client denies any wrongdoing in this matter,” Mr. London said in an interview on Monday. “I would have people withhold judgment until all the evidence comes out about the bicyclist’s actions prior to my client taking action.”

Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case.

David Rankin, a lawyer for Mr. Long, said the indictment was “some good vindication for his client.”

“I’m very pleased with the district attorney’s office taking this matter as seriously as it has,” he added. “What this really shows is that once you’ve committed some type of bad act, going ahead and lying on a charging document to cover it up is not something that’s going to be tolerated by the district attorney’s office.”

The bike incident, which gained widespread attention after someone captured it on videotape and put it on YouTube, occurred on July 25 during a monthly event known as Critical Mass, in which hundreds of cyclists ride their bikes through the city to advocate nonpolluting forms of transportation.

While Mr. Long, 29, was riding through Times Square, Officer Pogan lowered his shoulder and shoved him off his bike as Mr. Long tried to steer out of the way, the video shows.

Officer Pogan arrested Mr. Long and charged him with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. In his police report, Officer Pogan wrote that Mr. Long was obstructing vehicular traffic as he rode southbound on Seventh Avenue. After instructing Mr. Long to stop, Officer Pogan wrote, Mr. Long rammed him with his bicycle, causing the officer to fall to the ground and receive cuts on his forearms. Mr. Long then resisted arrest, Officer Pogan wrote.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office dropped the charges against Mr. Long in September, citing a lack of evidence.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said that if Officer Pogan were arrested, he would be suspended without pay. Mr. Browne declined further comment on the matter.

Tensions between Critical Mass riders and the police have long existed.

Shortly before the Republican National Convention in 2004, a large number of officers arrested more than 250 riders on charges that included parading without a permit. In 2006, a state judge turned down a request by the city to forbid Time’s Up, an environmental group that promotes the monthly rides, to take part in them, to gather at Union Square Park beforehand and to mention the rides on its Web site.

In a statement, Time’s Up applauded the indictment.

“We hope that higher-ups at the N.Y.P.D. will now discontinue their pattern of using excessive force and dangerous tactics against cyclists, and instead work with cyclists to make the ride safe and encourage nonpolluting transportation,” the statement said.