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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, September 19, 2017

James Blake

"It shouldn’t happen to me. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” James Blake said of his false arrest in 2015.

Photo credit: James Blake Tennis Facebook

James Blake was anticipating a friendly hug, but absorbed a jolting body slam.

Blake testified at a New York City police disciplinary trial that when he saw a man approach him in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel back on September 9, 2015, he thought it was an old high school wrestling buddy approaching.

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Instead NYPD plain-clothes officer James Frascatore charged and body slammed Blake to the sidewalk. The officer handcuffed him for more than 10 minutes mistakenly believing Blake was a criminal in a credit card fraud case.

On Tuesday, Blake testified in Frascatore’s disciplinary hearing in Manhattan.

“It shouldn’t happen to me. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Blake said in comments published by the Associated Press. “There needs to be accountability for everybody.”

Frascatore, who declined a deal in which he would forfeit vacation days to settle the case, has denied using excessive force. He has been assigned desk duty and contends his actions would not even warrant a case if Blake weren't a celebrity and the incident hadn't been captured on video.

An NYPD administrative judge presiding over the case can recommend stiffer punishment to police commissioner James O’Neill. The hearing is expected to wrap up next Wednesday. O'Neill will make the final judgement in the case.

Blake has called for Frascatore's firing.

"Everyone has seen this video. Nothing short of firing Frascatore would be justice," Blake said. "He had five complaints of excessive force in seven months in 2013 and that’s more than most officers have in their whole careers."

Frascatore testified he was told to arrest Blake by a detective and believed he was armed.

"Officer Frascatore acted professionally, calmly and deliberately in every way and caused no injury to Mr. Blake," Frascatore's attorney, Stephen Worth, told the media after the hearing. "There was no cover up."

Yonkers, N.Y. native Blake said Frascatore never identified himself as a cop and never displayed a badge before tackling him.

Officer Frascatore said he did not identify himself as a police officer because he was trying to use the element of surprise to quicken the arrest.

Review board prosecutor Jonathan Fogel argued Frascatore's actions contradict that claim because when he arrested the actual suspect, Jermaine Grey, minutes later he did not use force and did not search Grey for weapons. 

In a recent interview with Tennis Now, Blake said Frascatore has never reached out to him to accept accountability for his actions.

“The officer who assaulted me never apologized and has not made contact with me in any way and I don’t expect him to at all,” Blake told Tennis Now. “I don’t think he was legally able to when the investigation into his actions were still open.

“Since then, I don’t think he would have it in him to stand up like a man to my face and admit he made that mistake. If he did, I would start asking him a lot of questions about the other incidents he has had. Or about why he felt it was necessary to attack me in the manner he did.

"My feeling about him still being employed is that it’s a shame someone like that has the ability to make life or death decisions for the community he polices. Those decisions also seem to be done without accountability.”

The slam to the sidewalk was a launching pad for reflection—and ultimately action.

The former world No. 4 wrote a book, Ways of Grace, inspired by Arthur Ashe’s Days of Grace highlighting athletes who used adversity as a unifying rather than a divisive force.

“Two years later the incident is still with me and I am forever changed by it,” Blake said. “I’ve spent some of those years wondering how to address it, the injustice of it, as it relates not only to me to anyone who has had a run-in or altercation with law enforcement.”

Blake, named after his grandfather, who was a New York City cop, is not suing the NYPD, but wants Frascatore fired for his actions.

Initially, officers on the scene claimed Blake was only detained for about a minute.

Only when surveillance video from the Grand Hyatt security cameras showed the entire assault did then NYPD Commissioner William Bratton acknowledge Blake’s version of the incident was the truth.

“If not for the video, it would have been my word against five police officers,” Blake told Tennis Now. “With those odds, the story from them would have been that I wasn’t even in cuffs and nothing happened.

"As credible as I am, I still don’t believe anyone would have seen my side over the police officers. So I think without the video, it would have been swept under the rug and nothing would have happened.”

The disciplinary hearing continues today.


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