James Blake won't sue city in wrongful arrest in exchange for fellowship

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Tennis star James Blake withdraws claim
Tennis star James Blake has withdrawn his claim against the city in a case of mistaken identity.

NEW YORK -- Tennis star James Blake has agreed to drop his right to sue New York after he was mistakenly arrested and tackled by police. In exchange, a legal fellowship will be created in his name that will bolster the work of the city's police watchdog agency.

The city and Blake's attorney announced the agreement Wednesday. The fellow will serve two-year terms at the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the city will fund it for six years. The salary will be commensurate with other staff there and will be no less than $65,000, officials said.

The fellow's job will be to help navigate the system for people making complaints against police, and to push for strong investigations.

Blake was tackled outside a Manhattan hotel on Sept. 9, 2015, by a police officer and handcuffed. Police said Blake, who had ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, had been mistakenly identified as being part of a cellphone fraud scheme. He was mistaken for a crime suspect who looks just like him, police said at the time.

Surveillance video surfaced from outside the hotel that showed Police Officer James Frascatore grabbing Blake's arm and roughly taking him to the ground. An excessive force complaint was substantiated by the civilian review board. Frascatore's internal case is pending. His lawyer had no comment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner William Bratton both apologized to Blake at the time.

Blake's attorney said Wednesday that the fellowship is a compromise that would do the most good for the city.

"This was created to get a more intensive focus on the issue of excessive force and to have an independent person brought into city government at the city's expense to address this very significant problem," said the attorney, Kevin Marino.

Blake said in a statement that he wanted to thank the city of New York.

"It has been my intention since Day One to turn a negative into a positive, and I think this fellowship accomplishes that goal," he said.

De Blasio, a Democrat, praised the agreement, which also included about $175,000 in legal fees and travel expenses for Blake and his team.

"Transparency and accountability are critical to further strengthening the bonds between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. The James Blake CCRB Fellowship is rooted in this administration's deep commitment to improving those relations," the mayor said in a statement.