New Yorkers might remember the name James Frascatore. This NYPD officer is in trouble for tackling retired tennis player James Blake during a stakeout at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in 2015. It was a mistake. Blake had nothing to do with the case being investigated. But in a defamation lawsuit filed Monday, Frascatore claim he “has been cast as a racist and a goon.”
The complaint, obtained by the New York Daily News, argues that Blake defamed Frascatore in the forward of his book “Ways of Grace,” and during a book publicity tour.
Frascatore is white. Blake is black. The dispute stems over the stakeout, in which officers were keeping an eye out for a credit card scammer. He argues that the book is selling this incident as a conflict with a racist police officer. As the book’s description online says:
“Like many people of color, James Blake has experienced the effects of racism firsthand — publicly — first at the U.S. Open and then in front of his hotel on a busy Manhattan street, where he was tackled and handcuffed by a police officer in a case of ‘mistaken identity.”‘
Blake isn’t the only defendant. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, its former executive director Tracy Catapano-Fox, and book publisher HarperCollins are also getting sued. Frascatore argues that officials threw him under the bus.
“We have a situation where James Blake, the police department, the mayor and the activist community have defined the narrative over the past two years,” said Frascatore’s lawyer Peter Brill in an interview with the Daily News.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Bill Bratton, who was police commissioner at the time, apologized to Blake.
Frascatore defended the tackling, saying he made the right decision using the available information at the time.
“I have a family to go home to,” he told the NY Post in a Sunday report. “I’m on a crowded sidewalk, with a possibly armed suspect in the middle of 42nd Street. You have to take control of the situation. I can’t just be pulling out my gun.”
Frascatore faced a departmental trial over the mistaken tackling, the results of which are pending. He could lose vacation days if it is determined he did anything wrong.
“He [Frascatore] used violence first,” Civilian Complaint Review Board prosecutor Jonathan Fogel said at a hearing last week. “He responded with brutal unprovoked violence. He used no words or warning, slamming him to the ground like a linebacker in NFL football.”
NYC’s law department, the NYPD, and the CCRB all declined comment to the Daily News, but Blake’s lawyer Kevin Marino responded.
“Mr. Blake will respond to this attack on his character with the same grace and dignity that has characterized the attack on his person,” he said.
[Screengrab via NYPD]