by Nick Divito
The New York Post excoriated a retired cop who publicly decried the chokehold death of Eric Garner as a murder, he claims in a $200 million federal lawsuit.
Corey Pegues made the comments about Garner in an August 2014 appearance on the “Combat Jack Show,” a podcast his April 8 lawsuit describes as targeting black males “who embrace the hip hop culture.”
The podcast aired as horrifying footage was going viral of Garner’s death at the hands of Staten Island police the month before.
Though the New York City medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, it would be several more months before the grand jury refused to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who maintained the fatal chokehold on Garner as he gasped repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
In his lawsuit, Pegues says he had appeared on the podcast because he had been lobbying for police reform ever since an on-the-job injury in 2011 forced him to retire from the New York City Police Department.
Talking about the various adversities he overcame to join the force in the 1990s, Pegues allegedly told podcast listeners about trouble he got into as a black youth while “running the streets” on the Southside of Jamaica, Queens.
Pegues said he served in the Army after getting a misdemeanor juvenile arrest dismissed and sealed in 1986, and joined the force after his honorable discharge.
On “Combat Jack,” Pegues encouraged listeners that “your life does not have to define you or your future,” the complaint states.
Nearly a month after this podcast appearance, Pegues says the New York Post featured him on its front page as a “Thug Cop” with a “shocking life of drugs and crime.”
The splashy Sept. 8 headline allegedly prompted Nassau County Police Chief Thomas Krumpter to pull a “political favor” for New York City Police Chief Bill Bratton and other mostly white brass in the department to go to his home and seize his guns.
Pegues says Krumpter told a Post reporter, “This is my authority to do this and if [Pegues] doesn’t like it, he can take me to court and sue me.”
The Post did another “Gangsta cop” story about Pegues on Sept. 10, 2014, that quoted the retiree as saying his background made him better at his job, according to the complaint
On Dec. 6, as protests about Garner continued to rock the city, Pegues says Commissioner Bratton sent him an undated letter revoking his “Good Guy” status and demanding he give back his department ID.
He says the department then tried to discontinue his accidental disability retirement pension for alleged fraud.
The Post’s articles buoy its “support for conservative political views including law enforcement where African-Americans, Hispanics and other disenfranchised persons are openly racially and politically stereotyped for its commercial and political gain among Caucasian males and conservatives their target demographic,” according to the complaint.
Pegues also says the Post published the stories “in collusion” with Nassau County, New York City and their police chiefs to “destroy his personal and professional reputation” in the law enforcement community and black activists as a “political favor” to the mostly white heads of the New York City Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the Captain’s Endowment Association and others.
All of these individuals have been “publicly very critical of his police reform lobbying efforts,” according to the complaint.
Pegues says his First Amendment rights are being trampled for “discussing his life experiences, police interactions with communities of color, the Abner Louima, Sean Bell and Oscar Grant cases, [and in particular, calling Eric Garner’s death a murder.”
Louima was sodomized by cops with a broken broom handle in 1997. Bell was shot repeatedly and killed by undercover officers the morning before his wedding in 2006.
Grant was fatally shot by a transit police officer in Oakland, Calif., on New Year’s Day in 2009.
Several activist groups led a charge to unseal deliberations by the grand jury that investigated Eric Garner’s death, but a judge shot them down.
Pegues wants $200 million for free-speech violations, race discrimination, conspiracy and defamation.
His complaint names as defendants Nassau County, New York City, News Corp., Krumpter, Bratton and Joseph Reznick, deputy commissioner for the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
The Post declined to comment on the case. Nassau County and the New York City Police Department have not returned requests seeking comment.
Pegues is represented by Eric Sanders.