By Murray Weiss, DNAinfo Columnist / Criminal Justice Editor
NEW YORK CITY — The city will defend an NYPD commander who punched an Occupy Wall Street protester in the face during a 2011 demonstration in Lower Manhattan, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona will meet this week with attorneys from the city’s Law Department to begin to map out legal strategies involving his role in an NYPD clash with OWS protesters on Oct. 14, 2011, where he was caught on tape hitting activist Felix Rivera-Pitre.
Cardona, who has since been sued, told investigators he approached the protester to take him into custody after Rivera-Pitre tried to elbow him in the face. Other video apparently showed Rivera-Pitre with a clenched fist as though he was preparing to strike the veteran NYPD supervisor.
During an ensuing scuffle with several people, Cardona said he suffered hip and knee injuries that required surgery.
Roy Richter, the president of the Captains Endowment Association, insists Cardona is “the true victim” of the clash.
In recent weeks, published reports wrongly claimed the city had abandoned Cardona in any civil litigation.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said Friday that it would not bring criminal charges against Cardona or another deputy inspector, Anthony Bologna, who pepper-sprayed several women on E. 12th St. during a September 2001 demonstration.
In Bologna’s case, the city did announce it would not defend him in civil court based on the fact that Bologna pleaded guilty in an NYPD disciplinary hearing to violating an internal guideline by using pepper-spray in a non-arrest situation.
He was docked 10 vacation days. The city said it could not defend an officer who admits any wrongdoing.
Richter said he was pleased that the city was planning to fight for Cardona, but he called on the mayor to reverse the decision on Bologna.
“While I am pleased with the decision to indemnify Deputy Inspector Cardona, it highlights the perversion of the Law Department review process where any possible excuse is identified to abandon an officer who is sued as a result of his taking action in the performance of duty,” he told “On The Inside.”
“It is an abdication of responsibility for the city in the civil review process to subject police commanders to personal liability when their only fault is taking action as directed and in accordance with their training and experience."
“For the Mayor to continue to deny representation to Deputy Inspector Bologna is an equal injustice and one that should be corrected in light of the District Attorney's review."
Attorney Ron Kuby, who represent several of the OWS protesters including Rivera-Pitre, chastised the Manhattan DA for lacking the backbone to bring charges against Bologna and Cardona, and vowed to take the matter to federal and civil courts.