15 Jul 2010 | The Telegraph
A New York police officer has escaped a prison sentence after he was caught on camera pushing a cyclist from his bicycle during a demonstration in Times Square.
The clash between Patrick Pogan, the officer, and the bike-riding activist happened in an instant, however, the fallout lasted for almost two years after video of the confrontation that became a YouTube hit.
It ended on Wednesday when the officer's criminal case was closed without jail time or probation after he was convicted of lying about the 2008 incident.
Pogan, 24, fought back tears, hugged relatives and thanked his lawyer and police union after hearing his sentence, technically known as a conditional discharge.
He had gone to a Manhattan court facing the possibility of up to four years in prison, but a judge did not jail him and instead gave him a conditional discharge.
Jurors in April acquitted Pogan of assault and harassment in his 2008 encounter with pro-cycling activist Christopher Long, however, Pogan was convicted of lying after a witness's video contradicted his account in a court document.
Ryan Connors, Assistant District Attorney, pressed for jail time for Pogan, saying "the entire fairness of the criminal justice system was called into question" by his falsehoods. Pogan's misleading account led to attempted assault and other charges against Mr Long; the charges ultimately were dropped.
But defence lawyer Stuart London portrayed Pogan as a novice who "made an isolated mistake on paperwork."
Pogan, then about 10 days out of the police academy, was assigned to keep order and watch out for traffic violations as a loosely knit bike protest called Critical Mass passed through Times Square on July 25, 2008.
Participants and police have had a rocky relationship since more than 260 cyclists were arrested during what authorities saw as a chaotic Critical Mass ride shortly before the Republican National Convention in 2004.
The Pogan case stoked the tensions, with the president of the Police Benevolent Association union decrying it as the result of "anarchists" who "were looking for a confrontation with police." The group that organises the group ride, Time's Up, said it was disappointed with Pogan's sentence but hoped the incident and aftermath would ultimately improve relations between officers and cyclists.
Pogan said he told Mr Long to stop to get ticketed for such infractions as taking his hands off his handlebars. Mr Long kept going, and he testified he never heard any instruction to stop.
Pogan initially reported that Mr Long steered into him and knocked him down, but a tourist's video showed the officer striding over to Mr Long and shoving him off his bike. The video has garnered more than 2 million YouTube views.
Pogan testified that he was trying to protect himself and never meant to misrepresent what happened.
State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley said he found incarceration and further court supervision unwarranted in Pogan's case. A conditional discharge usually involves conditions a defendant must meet for the case to be closed, but Wiley didn't set any.
Long, a sometime farmer and farmer's market worker, wasn't seriously hurt. He got a $65,000 settlement after suing the city.
Pogan resigned last year from the New York Police Department and has been working construction jobs. His felony conviction will bar him from police work.