Hi all. I’m Katie and I cover the Justice Department from The NYT's Washington D.C. bureau. Here's my story about the decision in the Eric Garner case.

Before moving to the East coast, I lived in San Francisco and covered startups, venture capital and Apple. I wrote about the encryption fight between Apple and the FBI and how tech employees chasing the Silicon Valley dream are often short-changed by executives and investors. Some of my work on the beat was also part of a package that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018.

Before joining The Times, I spent nearly a decade at Fortune covering financial markets, private equity and hedge funds. I profiled Hank Paulson and Robert Schiller and wrote features on the 2008 financial crisis and financial fraud cases.

I didn't plan on being a journalist. No J-School. No college paper. But I freelanced while I lived in Beijing for a few years and got an entry level job at CNN/Money upon my return to the US and decided that I really liked the job!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/xuyiwzszbra31.jpg

EDIT: Thank you for all of your questions! My hour is up, so I'm signing off. But I'm glad that I got to be here. Thank you thank you thank you.

Comments: 1543 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

Clint_Beastwood_1227 karma

Hi Katie, do you think there is any self-awareness from the presiding judge and police dept executives on how rulings like this erode the public's confidence in the justice system as a whole?

thenewyorktimes1034 karma

I really like this question. I would hope that the everyone in law enforcement has an understanding of the broader impact that high profile cases have on public confidence -- not because I think that public opinion should shape our law enforcement outcomes (then real life would be like some Twitter hellscape...) but because that awareness could encourage law enforcement to provide more transparency in decision making.

That said, it's hard for law enforcement to acknowledge when they are aware of optics, as they're supposed to be neutral arbiters of the law. So there's strong incentive for them to not acknowledge that awareness.

recycle4science492 karma

Nobody thinks they're neutral, though, that's the problem.

thenewyorktimes513 karma

Strong agree. And I worry about how a very divided media landscape and ultra partisanship on social media exacerbate this.

diabetes_says_no565 karma

Is there anything you heard or saw during the trial that didn't get much attention but you think deserved it?

thenewyorktimes811 karma

This isn't related to the disciplinary hearing (which is what I'm assuming you meant by the trial), but I am very curious about why DOJ doesn't seem to have interviewed Pantaleo, which would have helped establish his state of mind and intent when he applied the hold. A senior DOJ official would only say that the dept had access to “statements relevant to that analysis,” but wouldn't definitively say whether they had interviewed Pantaleo.

igabeup536 karma

will officer pantaleo stay on desk duty now that they've decided not to charge him, or will he be back on his regular patrol?

thenewyorktimes617 karma

Hello! Officer Pantaleo will remain on desk duty while he waits for the results of his disciplinary hearing, which wrapped in June. We expect the administrative judge to send her verdict to police commissioner James O’Neill soon, and then O'Neill will decide whether to fire or otherwise discipline Pantaleo. My colleague Ashley Southall has been covering that hearing, and you can read her top takeaways here!


HaLoGuY007322 karma

How has the DOJ's civil rights work/focus changed since the start of the current Presidential administration, and particularly since William Barr's confirmation as Attorney General?

thenewyorktimes639 karma

This is a GREAT question that hasn't gotten much attention given all of the Mueller/Russia investigation drama that consumed DOJ (and media, and readers, and lots of other folks) for nearly two years. But there has been a sharp shift away from civil rights enforcement under the Trump administration. Some of that is pretty predictable, as (this is a HUGE generalization) Dem administrations tend to focus more on civil rights enforcement and GOP administrations tend to crack down on crime. But under the Trump administration -- especially under AG Jeff Sessions -- DOJ has not necessarily stopped the work of the civil rights division.

Rather, it has sort of redefined whose civil rights to protect. It has shifted away from minority groups, LGBTQ people and other people in the country we have thought of as needing civil rights protections, and focused more on people who say they are being discriminated against for their religious values or their beliefs. That trend seems to be holding strong under AG Barr.

I wrote a whole story about this trend here... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/us/politics/civil-rights-justice-department.html

HaLoGuY007108 karma

Thanks a ton for your response Katie! Really appreciate all the work you and the newsroom do!

Also love the new Weekly show on Hulu!

thenewyorktimes106 karma


TerminatorMetal235 karma

Did you have to get any sort of clearance before doing this AMA?

If so, how far "up the chain" did the approval need to be, and how was Reddit explained to non-Reds?

thenewyorktimes411 karma

An editor at the NYT told me that Reddit was game to host an AMA and wanted to know if I'd do it. I didn't get any other approvals, so I guess I could really go rogue here but I'm going to keep my job for now :)

TerminatorMetal79 karma


What food do you miss most from the WestCoast?

thenewyorktimes222 karma

i mean, all of it

sauce07204 karma

Are you surprised by the outcome?

thenewyorktimes442 karma

I'm not surprised by the outcome.

iamtrollhearmeroar200 karma

Hi Katie. What have you learned while covering this story that surprised you?

Separately, our criminal justice system does not make a lot of sense to me. I'm wondering if there are some key learnings you can share to help me better understand it. How do things really work? What power dynamics are at play? Any myths you can bust?

Thanks for your work in journalism and for being here today.

thenewyorktimes329 karma

Hi there. These are great q's, some of which are too broad for me to satisfactorily answer in this format. But as for the first one... I was surprised by how much this case divided the Justice Department, and how upfront the department has been about the internal strife the case caused. TL;DR version: federal prosecutors in Brooklyn didn't think they had a case. civil rights prosecutors at DOJ in DC thought they could bring charges. Ultimately AG Bill Barr had to cast the deciding vote, and he sided with Brooklyn. Critics have seized on that debate to say that DOJ should have let a jury make that final decision given that civil rights prosecutors thought charges could be brought... that the DOJ shouldn't reject cases mainly because they worry they will not win.

sephstorm145 karma

So do you feel the decision was the right one?

thenewyorktimes399 karma

man, does Reddit AMA have a "have this convo at a bar with friends" option?

Ay_Gueyzerbeam62 karma

What part of this story--or a related story--do you wish that the NYT had the will and resources to investigate?

thenewyorktimes108 karma

I would love to learn more about the fight between EDNY and the Civil Rights division. Did Civil Rights think that EDNY handled the case, interviews, evidence etc properly? Did EDNY think that Civil Rights was being too influenced by politics and the protests?

And, I think I talked about this in a dif q, I would love to learn more about the internal workings of the NYPD on this and what role unions have more generally in sensitive disciplinary matters.

voodoolx57 karma

hello, thank you for doing this. do you think the process was delayed on purpose? do you think the officer is guilty?

thenewyorktimes141 karma

I don't think that the process was delayed on purpose. The federal case was caught up in the dispute between the federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and the civil rights division in DC. It was then delayed by the 2016 election, when the Trump administration's priorities and controversies (i.e. Russia) took up much of the department's energies, and by the fact that the civil rights division under Trump did not confirm a head until last October. These are not excuses. But the Pantaleo case is definitely an object lesson in how important work can get mired in bureaucracy. I don't want to weigh in on whether I think that Pantaleo is guilty. I will see that in the interviews I've done, many people have said that a jury should have made that ultimate determination; and I have a lot of respect for that POV.

zaphodava56 karma

What changes do we have to make to enable and ensure accountability for police misconduct?

thenewyorktimes103 karma

This is a very interesting question. I would love to read really great reporting on the power of police unions. Like all unions, they perform the essential task of protecting the safety and rights of their members. But how do they handle discipline cases? What role do they play in keeping officers on the force after they have been found to have violated rules or committed a crime? What clout do these unions have more broadly on local politicians? We've seen many folks scrutinize teachers unions, attacks that have driven shifts in education for better or worse. I wonder what would happen if there was more coverage of police union power. If there are 100s of AMAZING stories on this topic that I have just missed, please send them my way!

fullerm41 karma

How much has Attorney General Barr influenced the decision not to charge the officer?

thenewyorktimes100 karma

He made the final decision, so he was very influential!

BatmanAffleck36 karma

What’s your opinion on resisting arrest, even if it is for a civil infraction?

Also, so you believe Eric Garner’s obesity and medical history played a huge roll in their death?

thenewyorktimes78 karma

I'm not a doctor, so will avoid the second question.

But on the first question, I think it's reasonable for a person to expect to face consequences for resisting arrest. But a problem arises if death is routinely the consequence for resisting arrest -- or even for not resisting! -- no matter the circumstances.

KingShaniqua31 karma

Is it likely the DA will present another set of charges, presumably manslaughter?

thenewyorktimes82 karma

I don't foresee this happening. Keep in mind that a state grand jury declined to bring charges against Pantaleo five years ago.

eriwinsto29 karma

I’m in a similar situation to you in your early career. How did you start getting freelance gigs?

Beyond that, did you mostly pitch your own ideas, or did editors have assignments for you?

What kinds of stories did you report as a freelancer?

thenewyorktimes66 karma

I freelanced while living in Beijing, so things were in some ways easier because there was not as much competition and it was easier to meet editors. (Expat communities are small and English language publications few!) I mostly pitched my own ideas and I wrote about art, music, travel and current events. It was also VERY cheap to live in Beijing (this was nearly 20 years ago), so I could take my time with articles and pick up jobs doing things like teaching English and not have to worry about where food $$ would come from. It was a very gentle entry into journalism!

TheGreenBastards8 karma

Will you or your Dept begin to bring the PBA and it's abuse of union regulations to light more regularly, as well as bring harder hitting questions to DeBlasio about this issue?

thenewyorktimes21 karma

If we're all doing our jobs as reporters, De Blasio will get a lot of hard hitting questions on this issue. The guy is running for president! It's essential to understand his response to a heated case like this one.

241118 karma

This particular case raises a lot of concern over the police's use of force in general, especially to response to mere suspicions and non-violent crimes. Do you believe that there's evidence of overuse of force involved with many arrests, and that the misuse of force is often overlooked?

There's also a lot of public outcry regarding how lightly the involved officers in such cases is prosecuted. Would there be an effort to increased the amount of transparency in the proceeding of such case to inform the public?

thenewyorktimes11 karma

I think that this case -- along with the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland -- made the misuse of police force a huge national issue that the country had not wrestled with since the Rodney King beating in 1991. Based on the DOJ's work, I would say that evidence has been uncovered that shows police officers and police forces have used inappropriate force and abused its powers. Some of those findings resulted in consent decrees, a court enforced agreement in which a force or city agrees to a list of things it will do to remedy unfair practices. (Keep in mind that as his last act in office AG Sessions sharply curtailed the DOJ's ability to use consent decrees... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/us/politics/sessions-limits-consent-decrees.html)

I am not sure if there will be an effort to increase the amount of transparency in cases like the Garner/Pantaleo investigation, but I am hopeful that elected officials will feel pressure to be more transparent about decision making.

dumesne0 karma

Is it the PD that decides whether or not to charge?

thenewyorktimes1 karma

Police commissioner James O’Neill will get the judge's decision on the disciplinary hearing, and then decide whether or not to fire or otherwise discipline Pantaleo.

TalkingBackAgain-4 karma

Hey Katie, what is the public perception of there apparently being no repercussions for killing a man over selling loose cigarettes?

thenewyorktimes15 karma

From what I've heard on social media, in my interviews, on TV and talking to friends (my working definition of "public perception" for the purposes of this q), there is a lot of outrage over the idea that in this case death is essentially an accepted consequence for selling cigarettes.