It was NYPD Police Officer James Frascatore’s disciplinary hearing — but it was an expert witness testifying on his behalf who wound up on the hot seat Wednesday.
Retired NYPD Lt. Daniel Modell was called to the stand to explain Frascatore’s take down of tennis star James Blake — but had to answer questions about his disciplinary record during his time with the department.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado cleared the courtroom for more than 20 minutes when Civilian Complaint Review Board prosecutor Jonathan Fogel began his line of questioning — over concerns it violated Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law, which prevents the public disclosure of personnel records of uniformed officers.
Modell admitted he was disciplined for playing a bit part in the 2013 NYPD ticket-fixing scandal before Maldonado stopped Fogel’s cross examination, citing the 50-a law.
During the portion of Modell’s testimony that was public, he said Frascatore did nothing wrong when he pulled the tennis pro to the ground outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on E. 42nd St. on Sept. 9, 2015.
“It is entirely in keeping with his training,” Modell said. “(Cops) are trained to take control of the situation as quickly as possible.”
Modell also said the move caught on video — which the retired lieutenant referred to as a “cross armbar” — is designed to not inflict pain on the subject “unless they resist.”
On the day he tackled Blake, Frascatore was working in plain clothes on a case involving an identity theft ring making massive purchases on a concierge website GoButler.com.
Frascatore rushed Blake after a courier misidentified him as a player in that ring.
The suspects, his superiors said, were armed with knives.
Surveillance video shows Frascatore twisting Blake’s left arm, grabbing him by the back of his neck and pulling him down to the sidewalk.
Cops running the operation released Blake once they realized they had the wrong guy.
But the confrontation made headlines and was viewed by many through the lens of race and as example of how minority men are treated by police.
NYPD Officer James Frascatore (pictured) was involved in taking down and falsely arresting former tennis star James Blake.
Frascatore is white. Blake is biracial.
Then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio apologized to Blake, once the No. 4 ranked tennis player in the world. The city set up a fellowship named after Blake to help those who report police misconduct to the CCRB.
Blake is now calling for Frascatore’s termination from the force.
Modell was one of several hundred officers disciplined for the ticket-fixing scandal. He said he received the same discipline as the other officers, which amounted to a letter of reprimand in his file.
CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche said the trial room should never have been closed.
“The open nature of the trial room is vital to the disciplinary process,” Darche said in a statement. “The burden that must be met before closing a courtroom is high, and was not met in this case.”
The NYPD released video footage from the Manhattan incident involving James Blake.
Frascatore’s attorney said that, courtroom theatrics aside, he was happy with Modell’s testimony.
“It was important to show that police officers are trained to win the encounter,” Stephen Worth said.
“(Frascatore) was told to arrest this man and he did what he needed to do to arrest the man. It’s not a sporting event. It’s not a tennis match. You don’t get two serves to start. You are there to win the encounter. That is why we train and equip officers the way we do.”
The hearing will continue on Tuesday when Detective Daniel Herzog, the officer who ordered Frascatore to arrest Blake, takes the stand.
If Maldonado and Police Commissioner James O’Neill find Frascatore guilty of using excessive force, the six-year veteran could lose several vacation days. He could also face dismissal, although police sources say that is unlikely based on the charge.
Whatever the outcome, the NYPD will not release the findings of the proceeding, citing 50-a, a department spokeswoman said.
Modell published two pieces in the Daily News in 2016, one recommending the NYPD not use long guns, and the other about the risks pit bulls pose for police during domestic calls.