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N.Y. police officer charged with civil rights violation

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Mon October 17, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officer Michael Daragjati is accused of arresting a man without cause
  • In a phone call, he said he had "fried another n-----," court papers say
  • "The defendant allegedly abused his power and responsibility," the U.S. attorney says

New York (CNN) -- A New York City police officer is being charged with violating civil rights law after allegedly arresting a black man in Staten Island without cause and later using racial slurs to describe the incident to a friend during a phone call that was intercepted by authorities, court documents say.

Officer Michael Daragjati, 32, was arrested Monday over an April 15 incident in which, investigators say, he falsely claimed the Staten Island man he collared had resisted the arrest by flailing his arms and kicking his legs, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

In a phone conversation with a female friend the day after the arrest, Daragjati said that by making the arrest he had "fried another n-----," the complaint says.

Daragjati also accused the man, who was carrying no firearm or contraband, of disorderly conduct. Because of his false police report, the victim spent 36 hours behind bars, investigators said in a Justice Department news release.

Daragjati could face a maximum one-year prison sentence and a $100,000 fine if he is convicted on the civil rights charge, according to the release.

"The power to arrest -- to deprive a citizen of liberty -- must be used fairly, responsibly and without bias," said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who announced the charges against Daragjati on Monday.

"Motivated by base racial animus, the defendant allegedly abused his power and responsibility," Lynch added in a written statement.

Investigators also intercepted at least 12 phone calls between Daragjati and his friends or relatives in which he used derogatory terms to refer to black people, according to the complaint.

In one call, Daragjati was recorded telling a friend that "I could get fired tomorrow. ... I could throw somebody a beating, they catch me on camera and I'm fired," the complaint says

Daragjati, an eight-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, has since been suspended from the police force, according to department spokesman Paul Browne.

The investigation was initiated by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, Browne added.

In addition to the civil rights violation, Daragjati is being charged with attempted extortion and wire fraud, the prosecutors say.

The complaint alleges that while running a construction and snow removal business, Daragjati and a group of men attacked a man whom he suspected had stolen one of his trucks. He allegedly threatened the man with a handgun and demanded he return the snow plow or turn over $5,000.

The wire fraud charge stems from an alleged plot to intentionally damage one of his trucks and commit insurance fraud, prosecutors say.

Daragjati's lawyer, Michael Martinez, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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