SCHENECTADY — City police charged a man with felony bribery Monday morning, accusing him of telling an officer he wouldn't sue if the officer would let him go.
Prosecutors, however, reduced that charge to a misdemeanor Wednesday and the man's defense attorney said his client might very well have a civil case as the attorney said police had no reason to detain him.
The case involves Nicholas Pangburn, 34, of Draper Avenue in Rotterdam. Police found him lying on a State Street bench, near the railroad bridge, just after 8 a.m., according to police spokesman Sgt. Matthew Dearing.
Officer Sean Donovan then approached Pangburn to see if he was OK, Dearing said. Donovan then asked Pangburn his name and date of birth as part of his investigation into what was going on, including why Pangburn was there and if he was OK, Dearing said.
According to papers filed in court, Pangburn refused to give his name and date of birth "and tried to walk away repeatedly after being told he was not free to go so [that] uniformed police officers can conduct a lawful investigation."
Officers then took Pangburn into custody after a brief struggle, according to papers. Police charged Pangburn with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, misdemeanors.
Then, while in custody, Pangburn allegedly told Donovan he would not sue the officer and get the officer fired if the officer let Pangburn go and dropped the charges.
"The offer was repeated throughout the arrest process to officer Donovan," the charging paperwork reads.
For that, officers charged Pangburn with one count of third-degree bribery, a felony.
He was arraigned and ordered held without bail because of two old felonies on Pangburn's record, his attorney, Steve Kouray, said. City Court could not set bail due to those.
The Schenectady County District Attorney's office has since reduced the felony bribery charge to a misdemeanor, after finding the accusations didn't fit the felony charge, prosecutor Ramy Lewis said.
Kouray confirmed that prosecutors reduced the bribery charge Wednesday morning to a similar misdemeanor count of giving unlawful gratuities. The reduction meant the City Court judge could set Pangburn's release and the judge released him without Pangburn having to post bail. Lewis also added that officers wanted to get Pangburn's name to check for possible open warrants.
Kouray called the case "not even close" to the felony bribery charge.
He described his client as sleeping and the officers waking him up and telling him to leave. But they also asked Pangburn his name.
Kouray argued Pangburn had every right at that point to decline to give his name.
"He doesn't have to," Kouray said. "He's under no obligation to do that."
Asked about Kouray's comments, Dearing said he did not know all the details of the interaction and couldn't comment.
A representative of the New York Civil Liberties Union could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Kouray said there was no reason for officers to hold Pangburn.
"Basically, as I see it, the guy was detained without justification," Kouray said, "and he said 'I won't sue if you let me go now.'"
As for Pangburn's claims of a lawsuit, Kouray said he has spoken with Pangburn about that.
"I certainly gave him the options and advised him he may have a civil claim against the city," Kouray said. "But I left that up to him."
Pangburn is due back in court June 9, Kouray said. He held open the possibility of the case resolving then, but, if it does, it won't be through a guilty plea, Kouray said.
"We have no intention to plead guilty to anything," Kouray said.