By Tom Hays
CADMAN PLAZA EAST — A white police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court to civil rights charges accusing him of falsely arresting a black man under the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk strategy.
Michael Daragjarti also pleaded guilty to an extortion charge stemming from a separate, off-duty incident involving a dispute over a stolen truck.
The NYPD fired 32-year-old Daragjarti Tuesday after his plea in federal court in Brooklyn. He faces a maximum of nearly five years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. No sentencing date was set.
In his plea, Daragjarti admitted trumping up a resisting-arrest charge against the black man, knowing that it would force him to spend the night in jail. But the officer didn’t address his motive.
Following his arrest last year, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said the officer was “motivated by racial animus.” Her office in Downtown Brooklyn cited wiretap evidence of Daragjati using an anti-black slur while recounting the false arrest.
Outside court on Tuesday, defense attorney Ronald Fischetti denied his client was a racist.
“He’s very remorseful,” Fischetti said. “He has to give up the job he loves.”
According to a criminal complaint, Daragjati was on patrol on Staten Island with a plainclothes anti-crime unit last year when he stopped a 31-year-old black man. It says the officer grabbed the man and frisked him but let him go after not finding any weapons or contraband.
The man objected, demanding the officer’s name and badge number and shouting insults as he walked away, authorities say. Hearing the insults, the officer and his partner chased after him and arrested him.
Daragjati later lied in text messages to his sergeant and in a sworn statement by claiming the man had pushed him and fought back while he was being handcuffed, the complaint said. After two nights in custody, the man finally appeared in court, agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and was released.
Around the same time, investigators in the extortion case intercepted a phone call between Daragjati and a woman. They say he was overheard complaining about having to work overtime to process the arrest and had “fried another (N-word).”
“What?” the woman asked.
“Another (N-word) fried,” the officer said, according to investigators. “No big deal.”
The stop-and-frisk strategy by the NYPD resulted in street stops of more than 500,000 people in 2010, the latest annual total available.
Civil rights advocates say the effort has unfairly singled out young black men and other minorities. The NYPD claims it’s essential for fighting crime in neighborhoods where men of color make up the vast majority of murder and shooting victims.
Daragjati had also been charged with beating and demanding $5,000 from a man he believed had stolen his truck.
Jan. 24, 2012