The Prosecutor Who Failed to Indict in the Eric Garner Case Could Be Headed to Congress


The prosecutor who failed to bring an indictment against the New York Police Department officer who killed Eric Garner with a banned chokehold this summer says he is "very seriously considering" running to replace Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who will resign in January after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion this week.

"Last night and this morning, with the announcement that a vacancy will exist, my phone has been ringing off the hook," Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said in a statement Monday night, adding that he is "deeply flattered by the enthusiastic expressions of support" and "will make an announcement after the due deliberation such an important decision deserves."

Mike Groll/AP

Donovan has come under fire for the way he handled the Staten Island grand jury. Like St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch in the Michael Brown case, Donovan did not suggest charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo before presenting evidence to a grand jury. In both cases, no charges were returned and the officers walked away without facing a jury trial.

The Garner decision was especially disturbing because of the graphic video evidence showing Pantaleo squeezing the life out of Garner, who gasps and begs for air before losing consciousness. He died soon thereafter. But his final words — "I can't breathe!" — have become a rallying cry for protesters in New York and across the nation.   

Frank Franklin II/AP

Despite the unrest triggered by the grand jury's decision, Donovan is likely to benefit from the result if he decides to run for Grimm's seat. New York's 11th Congressional District covers all of Staten Island and a sliver of south Brooklyn, making it something like a company town for NYPD officers and their families. 

"He could have killed [Garner] himself and still would get reelected [district attorney]," a Staten Island Democrat told the Daily Beast 48 hours after the grand jury's decision. "Everybody just loves Danny. To them, the guy can do no wrong."

Given the district's willingness to overlook potential flaws in its political leaders — Grimm was reelected overwhelmingly despite being charged with corruption and, months earlier, threatening to "break [a reporter] in half" — Donovan should win election easily if he runs. And when he arrives in Washington, D.C., he'll have the NYPD to thank.