One of the nation’s most prolific public-interest law firms on Friday released a statement that it had filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, as well as the City of New York and the New York Police Department (NYPD). The FOIA court action was initiated in order to get these federal and local departments to turn over information pertaining to the April 14, 1972 ambush and murder of Police Officer Phillip Cardillo. The officer was killed at a major Nation of Islam mosque in Manhattan’s Harlem section. Cardillo was responding to a fake “10-13” officer in distress phone call.
The government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice after it failed to adequately search for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s May 15, 2017 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice ).
According to Judicial Watch, the non-profit’s lead attorney in New York, Ethan Leonard, seeks a number of records and reports. Mr. Leonard is a seasoned litigator specializing in complex commercial matters and employment disputes. Ethan is diligent, caring, and tenacious, with a keen focus on achieving practical and creative solutions to complicated legal problems.
Judicial Watch seeks:
- All records concerning the Nation of Islam Mosque #7 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, or the building located at 102 West 116th Street. This request includes, but is not limited to, all informant, wiretap, electronic surveillance, and physical surveillance records relevant to the Nation of Islam Mosque #7, located at 102 West 116th Street, in New York City.
- The time frame for the request was identified as January 1, 1970 to January 1, 1973.
The Judicial Watch is arguing that the DOJ “has violated FOIA by failing and/or refusing to employ search methods reasonably likely to lead to the discovery of records responsive to accordingly, failing and/or refusing to produce any and all non-exempt records responsive to the [FOIA] request.”
Judicial Watch sued New York City and the NYPD after they failed to respond to June 5, 2017 Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests (Judicial Watch v. The City of New York and the New York City Police Department ).
Judicial Watch also seeks:
- The audio tape of the 10-13 “officer in distress” call recorded by the Police Communications Division at 11:41 p.m.. on April 14, 1972; and
- The Major Case Squad report and files on the homicide of NYPD Patrolman Philip Cardillo.
In its complaint, Judicial Watch stated: “[NY City and NYPD] have yet to provide one responsive document and only have provided conclusory, unsubstantiated, non-specific bases for denial by an individual with no personal knowledge of the underlying investigation.”
Judicial Watch disputes the claim made by New York City and the NYPD that the case is ongoing. Judicial Watch also points out that the denial of its records request is missing key information required by the open records law.
A New York Post article titled: “Did an FBI call accidentally kill an NYPD officer?,” written by Judicial Watch Chief Investigative Reporter Micah Morrison, details Officer Cardillo’s murder:
“A 10-13 is every cop’s worst nightmare, a red alert meaning ‘officer in distress.’
“Two policemen, Phillip Cardillo and Vito Navarra, rushed to the address, which was the Muhammed Mosque #7 of the Nation of Islam. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, had offices on the third floor.
“In the reception area, Cardillo and Navarra encountered six men. Navarra darted up the stairs. Somewhere up on the second floor, he believed, a brother officer was in serious trouble. He was met by 10 men who forced him back down the stairs.
“Nine more cops rushed into the reception area. A fight broke out.”
Cardillo died from his injuries six days after the fake 10-13 call. A suspect was tried twice but not convicted. The NYPD’s Major Case Squad reopened the investigation in 2006.
“Officer Cardillo’s murder, over 40 years ago, is relevant today. We need to completely clear this case to properly honor a fallen hero,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “There should be no informal statute of limitations on the death of one of New York’s finest. It is shameful we are being stonewalled by law enforcement bureaucracies on this murder. Rank-and-file NYPD officers want answers, too.”
On January 13, 2016, the Retired Detectives Association of the New York City Police Department honored Judicial Watch and its Chief Investigative Reporter, Micah Morrison, for their investigation of one of the most notorious cold cases in New York City’s history: the April 1972 shooting death of New York Police Department Patrolman Phillip Cardillo inside Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7.
The murder of Cardillo, quickly dubbed the “Harlem Mosque Incident,” is the only unsolved police killing in modern NYPD history. According to the Retired Detectives Association, Morrison’s probing investigation and revealing April 2015 New York Post article – “Did the FBI Accidentally Kill an NYPD Officer” – “gives new meaning to the words ‘Never Forget.’”
Morrison’s Judicial Watch investigation uncovered significant new documents and leads in the case, including new evidence of the FBI’s role in the 1972 events.