Civil Rights

New York Officer Is Charged in Arrest of Man Who Tried to Film Him

A New York City police officer who arrested a man as he tried to film him and other officers with a cellphone camera was charged on Tuesday with official misconduct and lying on a criminal complaint.

The charges brought against the officer, Jonathan Munoz, highlight a trend. Conflicts between citizens and the police have become common in recent years, sometimes ending in arrests for disorderly conduct, as cameras have proliferated and passers-by have begun to videotape the police at work.

Officer Munoz, 32, of Suffern, N.Y., pleaded not guilty as he was formally charged before Justice Marcy L. Kahn in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. His lawyer, Stephen C. Worth, said the officer was justified in making the arrest and should never have been indicted. “We look forward to his exoneration,” he said.

The charges stem from an encounter on March 12 outside La Casa Del Mofongo, a nightspot in Washington Heights, where Officer Munoz arrested Jason Disisto, 21, on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and interfering with a police investigation. The officer later said that Mr. Disisto had crouched in a fighting stance, lunged at him and swung a fist before he was arrested.

But that story was not borne out by surveillance videos from the restaurant and bar, near 183rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, a prosecutor, Julio Cuevas Jr., said in court on Tuesday.

Those videos — reported by WNBC News — show Officer Munoz approach a 20-year-old female friend of Mr. Disisto and illegally search her pockets, Mr. Cuevas said.

Another video shows Mr. Disisto then borrow a phone from another friend and raise it to film the police. Officer Munoz grabs his arms and, with the help of two other officers, takes him into custody, the video shows. Later the phone is thrown from a police car.

Mr. Cuevas told Justice Kahn the videos revealed that “not only had the man not engaged in the actions attributed to him by Munoz, but that Munoz had unlawfully searched the woman as she stood on the sidewalk.” Mr. Worth, the defense lawyer, said there was no audio on the videos, giving a misleading impression about what happened.

Mr. Disisto has sued the Police Department and the city in federal court in Manhattan, charging he was the victim of a false arrest and malicious prosecution. “The officers attacked him and this is borne out entirely by the video evidence from the bar,” said David B. Rankin, a lawyer representing Mr. Disisto. “But for this video, Mr. Disisto likely would have been prosecuted.”

The lawsuit also accuses the Police Department of having a “custom and practice” of making retaliatory arrests against people who photograph or videotape police activity. In legal papers, the city has denied that the Police Department has a policy or practice of retaliation for videotaping, said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department.