The New York police officer who forcibly handled James Blake in a mistaken arrest is suing the former professional tennis player for defamation.
In the lawsuit, James Frascatore claims that Blake depicted him as an “out of control and corrupt officer” in the athlete’s book Ways of Grace, which details the incident.
In 2015, Blake was tackled and detained outside of a Manhattan hotel by cops who mistook him for a suspect in a credit card fraud ring. Once the officers realized that they wrongfully identified Blake, they let him go. The encounter left Blake with cuts and bruises.
“In my mind there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what, there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody,” Blake, who is black, told the New York Daily News at the time. “You’d think they could say, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you. We are looking into something.’ I was just standing there. I wasn’t running. It’s not even close [to being OK]. It’s blatantly unnecessary.”
In a recent interview, Frascatore ― who was suspended and later placed on desk duty after the incident, per ESPN ― told the New York Post that given the information he had, his decision to tackle Blake “was the right call.”
“I have a family to go home to. I’m on a crowded sidewalk, with a possibly armed suspect in the middle of 42nd Street,’’ said the officer, who is white. “You have to take control of the situation. I can’t just be pulling out my gun.”
Frascatore told the Post that Blake’s book, which was released in June, made him “very angry and upset while reading it.”
The lawsuit states that “Blake’s defamatory statements about Officer Frascatore were circulated to millions of readers and viewers in print, on-line, and through mobile and social media.”
In addition to Blake, the city of New York, the NYPD, the director of the department’s civilian complaint review board and HarperCollins, the book’s publishing house, are named as defendants. The lawsuit claims that the parties paint Frascatore as “a racist and a goon.” Frascatore also claims that a police watchdog group illegally leaked his disciplinary records from before the incident, showing his history of using excessive force.
The suit says that “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.”
Frascatore is seeking $75,000 in damages for emotional distress and slander.