Ex-Officer Convicted of Lying About Confrontation With Cyclist
The New York Times: Ex-Officer Convicted of Lying About Confrontation With Cyclist
By JOHN ELIGON
Published: April 29, 2010
A former police officer was convicted on Thursday of lying about a collision with a bicyclist who was taking part in a Critical Mass ride in Times Square in 2008 — an altercation that was videotaped and became a viral presence on the Internet.
The jury found the officer, Patrick Pogan, 24, guilty of filing a criminal complaint that contained false statements concerning the cyclist, Christopher Long, including an assertion that Mr. Long knocked Mr. Pogan down by intentionally steering his bicycle into him. (The video showed that Mr. Pogan remained on his feet, while Mr. Long flew to the pavement.)
Mr. Pogan’s conviction carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Mr. Pogan, who resigned from the Police Department after the episode, was also convicted of a misdemeanor for attesting to the complaint’s truthfulness, even though it contained a warning against making false statements.
But Mr. Pogan, who was in his 11th day on the force when the collision happened, was acquitted of a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.
Prosecutors had contended that Mr. Pogan should have known that the force he used on Mr. Long presented a substantial risk of injury. None of the jurors, who reached their verdict in the third day of deliberations, were available for comment.
But Mr. Long said in an interview he was pleased with the verdict, in part because it would prevent Mr. Pogan from becoming a police officer again.
“The worst of it is he lied, and fortunately the jury saw it that way and convicted him on those charges,” Mr. Long said. “I don’t think he ever really intended to assault me.”
Mr. Pogan, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23, wore a blank stare as the verdict was read. He left the courthouse without commenting.
Outside the courthouse, Stuart London, Mr. Pogan’s lawyer, said he was pleased that his client was exonerated of assault, but was disappointed in the convictions.
“The important part to remember is, regardless of what’s on these documents, if at the time you filled them out you believe you’re being truthful, then that’s really all that should matter,” Mr. London said.
The collision between Mr. Long and Mr. Pogan occurred during Critical Mass, a monthly group ride that is viewed by the Police Department as a way for agitators to rile up the police.
Bill DiPaola, the director of Time’s Up, a cycling and environmental advocacy group, said he hoped the trial, which lasted about a week, would force the police to change the way they treat riders.
Mr. Long took the witness stand, and the bulk of the cross-examination focused on his background, which he admitted included frequent marijuana use and causing the death of a man in a traffic accident.
During Mr. Pogan’s testimony, he acknowledged that he told both his sergeant and an assistant district attorney that Mr. Long knocked him down with his bicycle, but characterized that as an honest mistake. He said he had confused the initial collision with two later instances in which he went to the ground while trying to handcuff Mr. Long.
The jury also acquitted Mr. Pogan on charges that he falsified the initial arrest report filed after the collision. (Mr. Long initially faced charges of attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but they were all dropped.)
The jurors apparently placed significance on Mr. Pogan’s testimony that his sergeant filled out and filed the arrest report, which Mr. Pogan did not have to sign.
The acquittal on the assault charge was perhaps indicative of the public’s belief that police officers should be given latitude to use force when they perceive a threat, said Philip Karasyk, a defense lawyer who regularly defends police officers.
“When an officer puts on that badge and uniform, he’s not feeling a heightened sense of security — he’s feeling a heightened sense of insecurity and a sense of being on guard,” he said.
Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.