Ex-Cop Makes Case for Vindication in Court Against the Attorney He Says Defamed Him

Patrick Lakamp, Buffalo News, December 15, 2011

Four years ago, Gregory M. Kwiatkowski was becoming a familiar name in Buffalo–but not in a way he wanted his two daughters or fellow police officers to see or read in news reports.

The 47-year-old recently retired Buffalo police lieutenant said he saw his name dragged through the mud–despite a highly decorated career since joining the police force in 1990–by those he said falsely accused him of punching another police officer and brutally beating suspects.

In the last two weeks, for the first time, Kwiatkowski offered his version of events as he testified against attorney Anthony L. Pendergrass, the man he called responsible for his portrayal in news reports in 2007.

{snip}

Kwiatkowski now awaits a judge’s decision in his defamation lawsuit against Pendergrass, the lawyer who represented former Police Officer Cariol J. Horne at her disciplinary hearing for jumping on Kwiatkowski’s back when he struggled with a suspect in November 2006.

Kwiatkowski sued Pendergrass for what he said on a radio show, in interviews with reporters and at a public meeting–not for what the lawyer said about him in Horne’s legal proceedings, where he had legal protection for his comments.

Kwiatkowski already won his defamation lawsuit against Horne earlier this year when the fired police officer did not show up in court to defend herself.

{snip}

He said testifying at his defamation suit gave him the chance to tell his side. A few times, during questioning by his lawyer, Kwiatkowski choked up and fought back tears on the witness stand. At other times, during Pendergrass’ cross-examination, he and Pendergrass had testy exchanges.

{snip}

Kwiatkowski’s suit alleges that Pendergrass, at a September 2007 public meeting, said Kwiatkowski beat a suspect “with brass knuckles while he was handcuffed,” according to the Challenger, a Buffalo newspaper with a predominantly black readership.

“I’ve never had a pair of brass knuckles in my entire life,” Kwiatkowski testified last week in court.

Pendergrass told a radio talk show host in 2007 that Kwiatkowski “administered a brutal beating to an individual” during an arrest in a South Buffalo bar, Kwiatkowski said.

“Absolutely never happened,” Kwiatkowski said during questioning by his lawyer, Andrew P. Fleming.

In a 2007 article about Horne, the Challenger quoted Pendergrass as saying Kwiatkowski “punched her so hard he knocked loose a dental bridge that she has had for over 10 years,” according to Kwiatkowski’s lawsuit.

“I never struck Officer Horne,” Kwiatkowski said in court.

In a 2007 Buffalo News article, Pendergrass said Horne “saved the life of a suspect who was already in handcuffs and was being choked out by Officer Greg Kwiatkowski,” according to the defamation suit.

“Absolutely deny,” Kwiatkowski said in court when asked whether he choked the suspect.

At an October 2007 meeting covered by television stations, Pendergrass told the audience that Kwiatkowski was “in the top four in the Police Department as far as complaints lodged against him,” according to the lawsuit.

Kwiatkowski said he had never been brought up on charges by the department when Pendergrass said that.

The former officer said he tried to shield his school-age daughters from the news coverage of him. He said he tried explaining to them that what they had heard or read others saying about him was not true.

“When you’re dealing with children, anything they see on TV they think is true, especially the news,” he said. They had looked up to him as a hero, proud of his police service. “I can never get that back,” he said.

Kwiatkowski said he saw their doubts, fueled by articles about him, like one in the Black Star News website headlined “Buffalo’s anti-black cop.”

{snip}

In court this week, Pendergrass contended that Kwiatkowski did not prove that he made the comments to the reporters or that they are false.

And even if they are false, Pendergrass said, Kwiatkowski must overcome a tougher standard.

“He hasn’t proved I knew it was false at the time I said it,” Pendergrass told Marshall. “These charges have not been proven with clear and convincing clarity.” What’s more, “a plaintiff who is a public official cannot recover for a defamatory falsehood unless he or she proves actual malice,” he added.

{snip}

During a deposition before trial, Pendergrass said he read news accounts of Kwiatkowski’s actions and also talked with witnesses and potential witnesses about what they saw.

{snip}

“They began to paint a picture of this police officer as being brutal and racist, and they began to paint a picture that he was very high in terms of the number of complaints that citizens sought to lodge against him.”

Pendergrass, at the 2008 deposition, did not back away from his criticism of Kwiatkowski. “I believe not only is he a racist, but my belief is he’s a coward, as well,” Pendergrass said. However, he said he misspoke about the brass knuckles, saying that it was another officer who had them.

Fleming said Pendergrass had political motives for smearing Kwiatkowski. Pendergrass “hit the publicity Lotto” with the Horne case, and he sought to build up his name in a campaign for city judge, Fleming said.

{snip}

What Pendergrass said of Kwiatkowski, the lawyer said, was “nothing short of hate speech, over and over and over again.”

“We have demonstrated more than malice,” Fleming said. “We demonstrated hate.”

GregoryKwiatkowski.jpg

Gregory Kwiatkowski

AnthonyPendergrass.jpg

Anthony Pendergrass

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  • Tom S.

    This is a perfect example of what I stated in a post awhile back – blacks go to WHITE law schools where WHITE teachers train them to be lawyers and then use those law degrees against Whites. I also stated that any Whites that teach blacks in elementary through college are just helping to make the rope thats going to hang us all.

    I also gather that this is a good example of how “dreadlocks are accepted in boardrooms” today.

    What do you want to bet that Mr. Pendergrass also only dates White women since he’s a “big time lawya nah”?

    To me, he just looks like a thug with a tie!

  • Gen. Lee

    Three days ago, news broke about another 47 year-old white New York Cop, who was slain by a black thug in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Last month, the black killer was allowed to walk free after he was brought in on drug charges, despite an outstanding warrant from the State of North Carolina. The judge who let him walk free is also black.

    http://goo.gl/7ZJPD

    I’m pretty surprised AmRen hasn’t posted anything about this black-on-white cop murder yet, as both the NYC Police Chief and Mayor Bloomberg have commented on it.

  • Deirdre

    A black guy who looks like Pendergrass and was released from a NY jail by a black judge — despite being a known violent felon — shot a NYPD cop with four daughters. White, of course. Keep moving people. Nothing to see here. And of course we’re still hearing about Sean Bell. Ugh. The double standard is utterly amazing. I’m glad Kwiatkowski is going after this loser who sees him as a stepping stone to politics, not as a human being.

  • Anonymous

    What is this ‘you have to prove I knew it was false’ nonsense? If this defense actually holds up in court, let’s just hand the country to the mullahs now cause this country is done if that’s the standards our courts are using. Why is it not instead ‘There’s an obligation to prove that what you say is founded in reality BEFORE you say things that could potentially be defamatory if proved to be false.’ If you say something that ends up being defamatory because of your own lack of due diligence to validate the truth of statements, rather than there being no expectation there, that a person should be allowed to just accept everything they hear as inherently factual and use that as an excuse to drag someone’s name through the mud, then yes they ARE liable for those defamatory statements.

    What if my “neighbor” told me some unflattering things about Pendergrass – pure hearsay – then by Pendergrass’s standard I should be able to take out a press release slinging mud at him based on my “neighbor’s” unverified statements right? Pendergrass would have no objection to that? Somehow I think he’d argue for a different standard in that case.

  • andy griffith

    The images they show of the “cops” standing in memoriam to the slain cop in New York are a reflection of this country. Slovenly, fat, out of shape, sloppy clothing, disheveled, unreal. My uncle was a cop back in the 60s and 70s, and they looked like Marines. Marines of old that is. They had standards, fitness and mental grooming.

  • Anonymous

    The encompassing story here is how degraded the legal system

    has become and how the media is happy to exploit the whole mess.

    Lawyers self-policing their own ranks is less and less in evidence, cultivated appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

    The media are happy to contaminate the whole legal process by

    being a “firing range” for comments back and forth from lawyers who didn’t learn it all in law school. Cultural meltdown.

  • Tom Iron

    5 — andy griffith wrote at 9:58 PM on December 15:

    The images they show of the “cops” standing in memoriam to the slain cop in New York are a reflection of this country. Slovenly, fat, out of shape, sloppy clothing, disheveled, unreal. My uncle was a cop back in the 60s and 70s, and they looked like Marines. Marines of old that is. They had standards, fitness and mental grooming.

    ______________________________________________

    Correct, The NYPD has fallen on hard times. They are a reflection of lowered standards everywhere. There was a recent incident on Staten Island where a male cop was being overpowered by teenagers while his female partner stood by and verbally tried to stop the assault (that’ll work). The firemen came and turned a water cannon on the teenagers which proved very effective in stopping the assault. But when I go up to the city, I’m always shocked a the appearance of the police. I’m an older man now, but if I couldn’t hold my own against most of them in a fight, even now, I’d be ashamed of myself.

    Tom Iron…

  • Anonymous

    The “judge” who set the NYPD cop killer free.

    http://goo.gl/5QB6G

  • sbuffalonative

    I can give you some background on the events which precipitated Officer Kwiatkowski retiring. It’s a cautionary tale of why white police officers don’t want to work in black neighborhoods.

    The trouble began on Buffalo’s black east side. A black woman called the police to report that her black boyfriend had stolen a check from her mailbox. (This accusation was untrue as the check arrived soon after).

    The black boyfriend denied he had taken the check (which was true) but tensions quickly rose between the black boyfriend and the white Officer Officer Kwiatkowski and a physical brawl took place. A double affirmative action (black and female) officer Cariol J. Horne entered the fray later claiming that Officer Kwiatkowski was choking the black boyfriend. (It’s important to note that by the time of the brawl, there were other officers present including a large number of black police officers none of which ever defended Office Cariol Horne or testified in her defense. This was later blamed on blacks acting white and defending fellow police officers instead of defending the black, female officer).

    Kwiatkowski already won his defamation lawsuit against Horne earlier this year when the fired police officer did not show up in court to defend herself.

    Notice that Officer Horne didn’t or couldn’t defend her accusations and didn’t even show up in court when she was fired.

    Anthony Pendergrass (note the now professionally acceptable dreadlocks) went on a campaign to destroy the integrity of Officer Kwiatkowski. He went to the black press and local black radio. Blacks chimed in that Officer Kwiatkowski had a long history of ‘racism’ and brutality in their community. Most of the charges were hearsay, second-hand accounts, and general belief that because Officer Kwiatkowski was white, he must have been a brutal racist. The damage was done.

    “He (Pendergrass) turned Gregory Kwiatkowski into the poster child for police brutality,” he said.

    What Pendergrass said of Kwiatkowski, the lawyer said, was “nothing short of hate speech, over and over and over again.”

    “We have demonstrated more than malice,” Fleming said. “We demonstrated hate.”

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Pendergrass said he misspoke about the brass knuckles, saying that it was another officer who had them… He (Pendergrass) also described some of his statements as opinion. Even if (my comments) are false, Pendergrass said, Kwiatkowski must overcome a tougher standard.

    Pendergrass had free reign to publicly lie, distort and outright destroy Officer Kwiatkowski’s life calling him a “brutal racist” and “coward”, telling the media that Kwiatkowski “beat a suspect with brass knuckles while he was handcuffed,” “administered a brutal beating to an individual” and “”punched (another officer) so hard he knocked loose a dental bridge that she has had for over 10 years.”

    AFAIC, the media are to blame as well for airing Pendergrass’s assertions without refute. They are just as guilty of racial hate crimes as Pendergrass.

    Meanwhile, Kwiatkowski could not talk with reporters to tell his side or to expose Pendergrass’s “opinions” and lies because department rules forbid it.

    Pendergrass deserves nothing less than disbarment, loss of any/all assets and hard prison time for destroying this officer’s life. Also, a “strong message” must be sent that acts such as this will be not be tolerated and will result in severe punishment.

    This reminds me of another similar case out of New York, when $harpton falsely accused White DA Steven Pagones of rape, daring Pagones to sue him for defamation, “Sue us — sue us right now!” $harpton bellowed — which is exactly what Pagones did.

    The jury unanimously found $harpton guilty and ordered him to apologize and pay Pagones $65,000, neither of which he’s ever done (rich friends settled the judgement).

    Let’s hope justice is served in this case.

    Bon

  • Anonymous

    Bon,

    >>

    AFAIC, the media are to blame as well for airing Pendergrass’s assertions without refute. They are just as guilty of racial hate crimes as Pendergrass.

    >>

    Does not the Media in fact -have- ‘a higher standard’ of fiduciary responsibility when dealing with information which could, say, induce a run on Wall Street that turns into a panic?

    That’s essentially what has happened here. A man’s life has been run over, completely.

    That said, the real problem is determining whether these fine folk do what they do (aggressively prosecute smear campaigns only against one side) because-

    1. They are fearful of the consequences of being wrong. i.e. Their little social engineering boat will flip completely. Turning turtle their whole agenda.

    2. They are controlled by outside agencies with a separate agenda which -is- deliberately destructive. And doesn’t care if right/wrong or truth/fiction comes into it.

    The first can be fought by reassuring these ‘fine folks’ that there is a way out from under their debilitating (to their own, hype-centerd, shrinking, audience base) and delusional perceptions. Careers in stable, conservative, racially honest, papers or more likely, online, media for instance.

    The second requires that we cut the puppeteer’s strings so that Pinocchio’s nose grows no longer.

    We cannot win a fight which places us in diametric opposition to the very people who are truly the victims here: the mass population who believe what they are told because the teller never takes a step back and says- “I was wrong, here is the real truth.”

  • Julie

    #11

    Follow the money, it is said. I think that if we followed the money it would go back to “advocacy groups” who have a habit of dipping into public taxpayer money to run their extortion rackets. Root out the politicians who are funding these dishonest operations. Many White people vote for these clowns. The Dems have been sticking a knife in the backs of the White population for a long time. Look at who promoted the 1965 immigration act. Who pushed for school busing? And to think that many Whites have been voting for these people who have white faces and warm friendly smiles.