A former NYPD officer alleging that he was wrongfully terminated due to his friendship with former President Trump’s one-time adviser Roger Stone is pushing forward with his federal lawsuit despite a judge dismissing some aspects of the cased related to First Amendment protections.
Sal Greco alleges that then-NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, Deputy Commissioner Legal Matter Ernest Hart, Commanding Officer of the Internal Affairs Bureau Group Daniel Cutter and Internal Affairs Group Sergeant Jeremy Orenstein “collectively investigated and terminated him due to his personal ‘familial’ and ‘political’ relationships” with Stone, Kristin Davis, members of the OATH Keepers and Proud Boys and “others who support Trump’s America and the political paradigm of Making American Great Again[.]”
The lawsuit, filed in August 2022, makes allegations including that the defendants violated his First Amendment rights of free speech and association.
In a new order Tuesday, Brooklyn Senior U.S. District Judge Frederic Block said the defendants’ motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part, ruling that Greco’s First Amendment “intimate association claim” and his New York Labor Law claim related to alleged discrimination on the basis of political activities undertaken outside an employee’s working hours were dismissed.
However, the judge also wrote that Greco has a valid expressive association claim and that “qualified immunity is inappropriate at this stage.” Block allowed the claim that Sewell, Hart, Cutter and Orenstein could have retaliated against Greco for his political support of Stone.
The lawsuit goes after each defendant individually and in their official capacities as employees of the NYPD.
“I am pleased by the court’s decision to allow this case to move forward and prove that the defendants terminated me not only because of my friendship with Roger Stone, but my support for President Donald Trump. I look forward to my day in court,” Greco told the New York Daily News, adding that he was fired following a “14-year unblemished record of service.”
“The main argument is preserved and going forward,” Greco’s lawyer Eric Sanders added, saying he “looks forward to discovering further evidence to prove these defendants retaliated against Mr. Greco because of his support of the MAGA Movement coined by President Donald J. Trump.”
Tuesday’s order reiterates how NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner Paul M. Gamble issued a report in June 2022 that found Greco violated four out of five alleged department disciplinary infractions. The department took issue with Greco associating with someone who had engaged in criminal activities. Stone was found guilty in November 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but Trump later commuted that sentence in 2020.
The NYPD also said they took issue with Greco informally assisting Stone’s security detail in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5-6, 2021.
Greco is said to have driven Stone and Davis to their hotel on Jan. 5 along with OATH Keepers co-founder Joshua James. Greco testified that he carried his NYPD-issued off-duty firearm to accompany Stone to a barbershop and flashed his NYPD identification to Secret Service agents in a failed bid to get Stone into Trump’s speech.
Stone ended up not attending the event, and Greco drove Stone back to the airport to leave Washington, D.C.
Gamble also found Greco violated department policy in failing to cooperate with the NYPD’s internal investigation into his activities in connection to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Still, Gamble found “insufficient evidence that Greco knew he was associating with members of organizations advocating hatred or prejudice.”
Gamble concluded that Greco will likely “forever be compromised in the eyes of the public and his fellow police officers,” and that he was “guided by his own moral compass rather than the provisions of the Patrol Guide.” In recommending his termination, Gamble wrote that Greco’s continued service with the NYPD “would be corrosive to the mission and values” of the department.
Sewell agreed, and Greco was terminated on Aug. 4, 2022.
Regarding Stone, Greco claims to have been “very close friends” with him and “friends and family since 2018.” They communicated over Instagram and text message and met several times, including at the Capitol on Jan. 5-6, 2021. The judge on Tuesday noted Greco’s relationships with Stone and Davis fall “outside of the familial arena” and are not protected by the Constitution.