Killer Cop Sentenced in Baez Case
Revolutionary Worker #978, October 18, 1998
It is 1994, three days before Christmas. The Baez family is all together. Some have come up from Florida to visit but now it's time to head back. Traffic will be bad, so the plan is to leave before the morning rush hour, maybe 3 or 4 in the morning. The luggage is already packed up and in the cars. So there's still some time to spend together. They play cards for a while, but there's too much energy to just sit inside. Around 1 a.m., four of the Baez brothers go outside and start a game of touch football. Iris Baez always had her kids play out in front of the house. That way, she could keep an eye on them and help them if there was trouble. Everybody's happy, playing around --then the ball goes off target. Thud--it hits the roof of a cop car parked on the street. Sorry about that. No big deal.
The cops like to park on this street, sometimes to drink coffee, sometimes to sleep. Another cop car pulls up. Francis Livoti is the driver, a cop who's had 14 official complaints filed against him. Many of them involved choking. He's with a sergeant who's supposed to be monitoring him to prevent improper conduct.
Thud. The ball hits Livoti's car. He gets out and orders the Baez brothers to go home. But they are home. The brothers try to continue their game. Livoti gets out. He's in a rage. "That's it! Who wants to fight?" he yells. He goes for one of the brothers, David, and arrests him. When Anthony protests, Livoti turns on him and gets him in a chokehold. Anthony's a big guy. He used to wrestle. If he wanted to, he probably could have inflicted some pain on Livoti, but he doesn't resist. Livoti doesn't care. He's crazy with anger. He holds Anthony around the neck 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds--a long killing minute. The life spills out of Anthony Baez.
Anthony falls unconscious, face down in the street. The cops kneel on his back and handcuff him. Anthony lays in the street for 15 minutes before they drag him to a police car. He never regains consciousness.
On October 8, former New York City cop Francis Livoti was sentenced to seven years in prison for the murder of Anthony Baez and fined $12,500.
The police tried to cover up this cold-blooded murder. But Iris and Ramon Baez, Anthony's parents, and their supporters refused to accept that. They had to struggle hard even to get Livoti indicted. It was only after they took over the Bronx D.A.'s office that Livoti was finally indicted for "criminally negligent homicide." Despite clear evidence of police perjury and obstruction of justice in this trial, Livoti was acquitted in October 1996. Thousands took to the streets in protest. In January 1997 the NYPD fired Livoti for using an illegal chokehold on Anthony Baez. He lost his pension--but the killer cop still had not been found guilty of any criminal charges. And the other cops who lied on the stand were not charged with any crime.
Ramon and Iris Baez refused to give up--they were determined to win justice. Due to their efforts, the widespread outrage over the outrageous verdict in the first trial, and the growing movement against police brutality, federal authorities were pressured to indict Livoti for violating federal civil rights laws. However, the feds did not indict him for murder because they claimed they could not prove such a charge. Instead, Livoti was charged with violating Baez's "right to be secure in his own person and free from the use of unreasonable force." This charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years, whereas a charge of murder has a maximum of life in prison. A jury found Livoti guilty on June 26.
The sentencing hearing was packed. On one side, people of different ages and nationalities were there to stand with the Baez family, including other parents whose children had been murdered by the police. On the other, up to 100 cops were there to support Livoti. The hallway was packed with people who couldn't get in. According to federal sentencing laws, each side was given time to argue for why the sentence should be more or less severe. Then the judge "considered" these arguments and handed down the sentence.
When Livoti and his lawyer got up to speak, they showed clearly that Livoti has no regret whatsoever about the murder of Anthony Baez. Livoti's lawyer Stuart London claimed Anthony Baez was a criminal who resisted arrest and put a "set of events in motion which led to his untimely death." He complained that Livoti forfeited a police department pension worth $1 million, lost his medical benefits, had been "vilified in the press" and said that even one day in jail was a "burdensome horror." He claimed Livoti might get hurt in prison and said, but presented no evidence to back it up, that the Latin Kings street organization had put a contract out on Livoti. Livoti stood up less than 20 feet in front of the Baez family. He told the judge he was remorseful but could not show it since, given the intense media coverage of the case, it would be seen as an admission of guilt. Then he whined about how he couldn't get a good job now and how he wants to go to school to get a physiology degree.
The government lawyers went next. They had written in a letter to the judge about Livoti that "His brazen response to the death of Anthony Baez has helped to undermine public confidence in law enforcement." In fact, this is the reason the federal government stepped in on this case --to try and head off the widespread outrage and protest that has developed against police brutality. The government lawyers claimed they didn't think they could prove a more serious charge. But there is and was plenty of evidence that Livoti murdered Anthony Baez. And Livoti has a whole history of abuse of other people, many of whom were choked in the same way Anthony was. Livoti was sentenced to seven months in prison last November on misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment charges for choking and slapping 16-year-old Steven Resto. Livoti came to this sentencing hearing from his prison cell on Riker's Island.
Given the charge he was convicted on, the judge could have sentenced Livoti to 10 years. She didn't because she said he was a police officer for 15 years with "500 plus" arrests and 17 commendations and she was "affected by Mr. Livoti's statement." She also claimed she lowered the sentence because the police department was at fault when it refused to take Livoti off patrol after numerous complaints of police brutality.
A week before the sentencing, the city of New York settled a lawsuit filed by the Baez family for $3 million. And Livoti has now received one of the highest sentences ever by a cop who has murdered someone --a mere seven years. This is a taste of justice that was won by the hard and persistent struggle of the Baez family and thousands of others against police brutality. But it is not nearly enough, and the system only did this because it was worried that the struggle against police brutality might get even stronger.
Outside the courtroom in the pouring rain, Iris Baez told the media: "The sentence should have been more higher because my son is dead. He can't make up his dreams. And Livoti said he wanted to study and he wants to get married. My son was married. He didn't give him the opportunity to have children. He stole that from Maribel, his wife. He stole that from me, for more grandchildren. Ninety months is nothing." Ramon Baez said, "Today what I see in the court was a hundred police officers supporting a criminal. And what they say in my neighborhood is if Livoti goes to jail, I have to move out of the neighborhood. This is not over yet."
Iris Baez said, "We're going to have a rally on October 22 and I hope all of you come out to the rally on police brutality, a march on city hall. Because he is responsible for what's going on in the city, our mayor, Giuliani. He's responsible for what's going on because he allows them to stay on the force. He congratulates them when they murder somebody."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)