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N.Y. officer charged with bias-based false arrest of black man

October 18, 2011 |  6:48 am

A white New York Police Department officer was ordered held without bail Monday on a federal complaint of manufacturing charges against a black New Yorker and “for doing so based on racial animus,” according to authorities.

The officer was also charged with wire fraud, extortion and insurance fraud having to do with a snow removal business he operated on the side.

According to court papers, Officer Michael Daragjati, 32, stopped an unnamed man in April as the man was walking down a Staten Island street about 9:30 p.m. with his hands in his pockets. After roughly frisking the man and discovering he was unarmed and carrying no contraband, Daragjati let him go, the account said.

But after the man complained about his treatment and asked for the officer's name and badge number, according to the papers unsealed Monday, Daragjati cuffed him and allegedly falsely wrote in a police report that he had "flailed his arms and kicked his legs" during the arrest, justifying a resisting-arrest charge.

The man spent 36 hours in jail.

The FBI, which was investigating Daragjati on other complaints, said it later heard the officer on an intercepted phone conversation bragging that he had “fried” another black person, using a racial slur, and that it was “no big deal.”

The FBI's monitoring of Daragjati’s private calls also led to charges that he allegedly arranged and participated in the beating and extortion of another victim whom he suspected of stealing a snowplow from his off-duty business.

A police union lawyer was dismissive of the alleged extortion scheme, insisting that Daragjati was just trying to get back his snowplow equipment, according to news reports of the officer's appearance in court Monday. Daragjati did not enter a plea or say much in court Monday. He is scheduled to return to federal court on Wednesday, when Martinez will apparently try to convince the judge to set the officer free on bail.

An eight-year veteran of the NYPD, Daragjati has twice before been charged with falsely arresting black people; the city paid $12,500 to settle one case and the other is pending, according to the New York Daily News.

“The power to arrest — to deprive a citizen of liberty — must be used fairly, responsibly, and without bias,” Brooklyn U.S. Atty. Loretta E. Lynch said Monday in a statement about the indictment. “Motivated by base racial animus, the defendant allegedly abused this power and responsibility.”

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly praised Lynch and her staff “for bringing this case forward promptly and professionally” and the NYPD internal affairs department for its involvement.

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 -- Geraldine Baum in New York

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