A judicial inquiry is set to begin Monday over allegations by Eric Garner’s family that city officials, including by Mayor Bill de Blasio and former police commissioners, neglected their duties by failing to fully investigate Garner’s fatal 2014 arrest.
Garner’s mom Gwen Carr, his sister and other activists filed suit in August 2019 to force the unusual legal procedure citing an obscure part of the City Charter — Section 1109 — that allows a judge to order city officials to answer questions under oath when five citizen-taxpayers bring claims of official misconduct.
But unlike a traditional trial, there will be no ruling by a judge nor a jury verdict at the conclusion of the inquiry, which is slated to last for about two weeks and will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carr’s lawyer Alvin Bragg told The Post the purpose of the hearing is to shed “sunlight” on officials’ actions both during Garner’s arrest on Staten Island on July 17, 2014 and in the aftermath of his death.
The inquiry will be limited to addressing four broad topics including the stop and arrest of Garner and the force that cops used; the papers that officials filed on the arrest; the alleged leaking of Garner’s arrest and medical history and autopsy report; and the alleged lack of medical care he received during the arrest.
“Putting that kind of information into the public domain, we think, will be helpful to the public discussion and also prompt some action by the city,” said Bragg, who is running to replace outgoing Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
The push for the hearing — which the city has fought against — was brought shortly after then-Police Commissioner James O’Neill fired cop Daniel Pantaleo for placing the 43-year-old father in a prohibited chokehold during a routine arrest for allegedly selling “loosie” cigarettes.
A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo and the feds chose not to prosecute him on civil rights charges. A departmental trial against Pantaleo was held in 2019, but Garner’s family says it left many questions unanswered.
“There is a good in just having the information and we are hoping the information will be used,” Bragg said of holding the judicial inquiry.
While the family lost its bid to call top officials, including de Blasio and former and current police commissioners, Internal Affairs Commissioner Joseph Resnick is expected to take the witness stand in the virtual hearing.
In total, the family plans to call 11 to 12 witnesses, with two planned to testify each day.
“We are talking about significant depth of examination,” Bragg said.
Some other witnesses include three other cops involved in Garner’s arrest, including Pantaleo’s partner Justin D’Amico, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis and Lt. Christopher Bannon — all of whom are still on the force.
Carr has called for the other officers to be fired.
“We have been fighting for seven years for transparency and accountability for the murder of my son Eric Garner and the cover up that involved city officials at the highest levels. Now, we will have our day in court,” Carr said in a prepared statement.
Bragg said possible next steps after the inquiry wraps up could be advocacy and organizing, a potential lawsuit or even the city acting on its own to discipline or terminate officials for misconduct.
On the latter, Bragg said, “I’m not sure that will happen here but we think the sunlight will help drive the conversation and hopefully lead to action.”
Bragg said he knows of only one other judicial inquiry held roughly a century ago. And in the last two decades, two former Big Apple public advocates have sought the legal procedure with one case settling before it took place and the other getting blocked on appeal, he said.
“It is most certainly rare,” said Bragg, referring to the process.
The NYPD deferred comment to the Law Department, whose spokesman, Nick Paolucci, said, “While we don’t believe that there is a need for the summary inquiry to go forward as so much has already been made public about this tragic event, we look forward to the hearing and satisfying the court’s order for further transparency concerning the nature and scope of the department’s investigation into Mr. Garner’s arrest and death.”