July 23, 2010
By MARK TOOR
|FREE TO GO: Flanked by Court Officers, former Police Officer Patrick Pogan walks toward the courtroom July 14 for sentencing. He was given a conditional discharge, meaning he’ll serve no jail time unless he is re-arrested within a year, for lying on an official report about a violent confrontation he had with a Critical Mass bicycle rider that was filmed and posted on YouTube.
The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
Ex-cop Patrick Pogan received no significant punishment at his sentencing July 14 for lying about a violent encounter with a Critical Mass bicyclist that was filmed by a tourist and went viral on YouTube.
Mr. Pogan could have received up to four years in prison. His attorney asked for no jail time and community service, while prosecutors sought some prison time followed by probation. But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley said that “incarceration is not appropriate in this case,” and he sentenced Mr. Pogan to a conditional discharge.
’ Must Stay Clean for a Year
That means Mr. Pogan will serve no jail time as long as he is not re-arrested within one year, said his attorney, Stuart London. He does not have to report to a probation officer.
Mr. Pogan, 24, made just a brief statement thanking his attorney and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association outside the courthouse before walking away in the rain. His father, Patrick Pogan Sr., a retired Detective, called the sentence “a great relief. . . He’s a young kid and he can start his life again and do what’s right by everybody like he’s always done.” He said his son may continue in construction work, which he has been doing since he resigned from the Police Department shortly after the incident, or may seek recertification as an emergency medical technician.
|PATRICK POGAN SR.: Police work ‘a violent job.’|
Police work is “a violent job,” he said. When he worked in the Emergency Service Unit he said, “many times I had to perform violent acts to save people from themselves.”
‘Did the Right Thing’
The elder Pogan and Mr. London praised Justice Wiley for resisting the pressure that generally comes with police misconduct cases to punish officers harshly as a way of deterring wrongdoing by others. “The judge saw this for what it was and did the right thing,” Mr. Pogan’s father said.
Referring to the Critical Mass bicycle riders, PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said: “The anarchists were looking for a confrontation with police and found it in a rookie officer trying to do his job the best way he knew how. The conditional discharge doesn’t mitigate the fact that New York City has one less police officer today who could have served the city well.”
Time’s Up!, an environmental group that promotes Critical Mass, was less happy with the sentence. “While we weren’t expecting jail time, the judge giving him a sentence lighter than even requested by the defense attorney was another signal to the NYPD from the judicial system that it’s okay to continue their harassment campaign on cyclists that has been going on for over 10 years,” said Barbara Ross, a Time’s Up! volunteer and Critical Mass participant.
|PATRICK J. LYNCH: Laments officer’s departure.
“Until the higher-ups at NYPD are held accountable for fostering an environment of harassment and intimidation of cyclists in NYC, nothing will change,” she said. She also objected to the characterization of the riders as “professional agitators .... The ride is a celebration of biking, not a protest.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said only that it “accepts the judge’s sentence.”
10 Days on the Job
Officer Pogan was working his 10th shift after graduating from the Police Academy when he was assigned to a Critical Mass bicycle rally on July 25, 2008. Capt. Joseph White, who commanded the rally detail, testified that he called the riders “professional agitators” when briefing Mr. Pogan and other officers.
Mr. Pogan said that he decided to give one of the riders, Christopher Long, a summons because he was violating a number of biking regulations. He said he told Mr. Long to stop, but he did not, and they “collided,” as both of them described their confrontation.
Mr. Pogan arrested Mr. Long and brought him to a police station, where a Sergeant, Eric Perez, decided to write the computerized arrest report himself although he did not witness the arrest. Sergeant Perez testified that he was under pressure from Captain White to get the report finished as quickly as possible. The Sergeant testified that he wrote the entire report and decided what charges to file, although he asked Mr. Pogan to approve it.
Video Contradicted Cop’s Tale
Assistant District Attorney Maura Millendorf, who drafted the criminal complaint against Mr. Long on the basis of the computerized arrest report, testified that based on the report and her questioning of Mr. Pogan, she added a charge of attempted assault. She said he okayed the complaint.
The YouTube video appears to show Mr. Pogan approaching Mr. Long and shoving him off the bicycle. The arrest report says Mr. Pogan was knocked down three times, including one time when the video shows he clearly remained standing. He testified that he had believed at the time that he had fallen.
The jury acquitted Mr. Pogan of assault and harassment charges, but convicted him on two counts of making false statements in an official report, one of them a felony. He had resigned from the Police Department shortly after his encounter with Mr. Long. All charges against the bicyclist were dropped and he received a $65,000 settlement from the city.
In a statement before Justice Wiley at his sentencing, Mr. Pogan, his voice breaking at one point, said, “My family raised me to help people, and that is what I would like to continue to do, and put this nightmare behind me— it was a nightmare—and prove to you I am a highly productive member of society.”
DA: He Won’t Accept Blame
Assistant DA Ryan Connors told Justice Wiley that Mr. Pogan’s “most serious crime was when he told us he was the victim” and not Mr. Long, who could have been convicted based on Mr. Pogan’s untruthful report. Mr. Connors said Mr. Pogan’s account was “a lame story, a fantasy” in which he blamed Mr. Long, Sergeant Perez, Ms. Millendorf—“everyone else is to blame except for him.”
Mr. London argued that the report was the result of “one simple mistake” by an inexperienced officer making his first arrest. He said Mr. Pogan had been punished enough by the trial, the loss of his job and his status in the community, and “many, many sleepless nights.” He noted that both the probation report and Mr. Long had recommended against incarceration.