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NYPD Officer Who Tackled Tennis Star James Blake Sues for Defamation

By Aidan Gardiner | October 3, 2017 1:35pm
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MANHATTAN — The plains clothes officer who tackled tennis star James Blake outside a Midtown hotel thinking he was a suspected robber is suing the NYPD and Blake himself for maliciously accusing him of being a racist and violating his rights to due process.

James Frascatore, who filed his defamation suit Monday, accused Blake of lying about their interaction in order to paint the officer as a racist and profit off the story in his new book, "Ways of Grace," according to the federal lawsuit.

In 2015, the officer pounced on Blake while responding to reports of armed suspects robbing couriers in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

"[Frascatore] has been cast as a racist and a goon. Though this characterization could not be farther from the truth, this public perception has not only led to his family fleeing their home in fear as a result of public threats to their safety, it has ruined a good man's career, name and reputation," the officer's lawyer, Peter Brill, said in the suit.

Brill also accuses the Civilian Complaint Review Board of illegally leaking Frascatore's personnel records and the NYPD of improperly penalizing the officer because of negative press coverage, even though the department hadn't fully reviewed the incident.

"[Frascatore] was branded a racist while taking normal and appropriate police enforcement action, given the information supervisors and civilian witnesses provided him at the time. All defendants perpetuated that narrative throughout [Frascatore's] public pillorying," the lawsuit reads.

In September 2015, Frascatore was working a case involving thieves using fake identities to order high-end goods to hotels and then robbing the couriers outside the hotels, the suit says.

In response, authorities placed an order from a delivery service to the Grand Hyatt at 109 E. 42nd St. and distributed photos to everyone working the case that included an image of a man "bearing a striking resemblance to the way Defendant Blake appeared that day," according to the suit.

Investigators believed the suspects carried knives, Frascatore noted in the court documents.

The officer spotted Blake and, thinking he was one of the armed suspects, tackled him to the ground "to avoid a potentially dangerous foot pursuit or violent confrontation," the suit adds.

Investigators realized Blake wasn't a suspect and, according to Frascatore, apologized. "Blake and [the officer] shook hands and patted each other on the back. All seemed forgiven," he says in the suit.

Over the next few years, however, Frascatore believes Blake changed his account to a "narrative of victimization" and profited from it, the suit says.

"Blake has recently embarked on a worldwide press junket to promote his new book, the forward of which perpetuates his false statements," the suit adds, noting it was "not a coincidence" that the book's release June 27 release occurred when the player was set to testify against Frascatore at an NYPD disciplinary hearing.  

Blake's attorney, Kevin Marino, defended his client, but said little else about the lawsuit.

"Blake will respond to this attack on his character with the same grace and dignity that has characterized his response to the attack on his person," Marino said Tuesday morning.

Frascatore never faced an internal NYPD trial after Blake settled with the city, but the officer remains on modified duty, according to the suit.

Both the NYPD nor the city's Law Department declined to comment.