After serving a majority of his four-year sentence, Ramsey Orta was released early from prison on May 28th, amid the COVID-19 crisis. He had been serving time since 2016 on alleged drugs and weapons charges, and was scheduled to be paroled July 11th, remaining on it until Jan. 2022. So far, 898 inmates have been released early due to the coronavirus concerns. He had previously video-recorded the July 17 2014 NYPD choke-hold killing of Eric Garner on Staten Island, which went viral.
While incarcerated, Orta, 28, said he believes he was targeted by the NYPD out on the streets for recording the assault committed against Garner, and inside prison by correction officers, for the same reason. In 2015 he filed a lawsuit claiming that prison officials laced his food with rat poison. It has caused him excess stress.
“It just put me in a messed-up predicament,” he told the media, adding that he has been consistently harassed by police ever since.
Orta’s video shows Garner being dragged to the ground while a Caucasian cop choked him from behind, as he repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe!” while being dragged down to the ground, until lapsing unto eternal unconsciousness. The negative publicity caused by Orta’s video set off mass protests. The cop, Daniel Pantaleo was found guilty of using the illegal chokehold during an NYPD disciplinary trial, then fired in August of 2019 without pension, reports stated. However, he never faced any criminal charges.
“I Can’t Breathe” became a popular phrase which became synonymous with police terrorism. Many public figures were soon seen with the words plastered on their shirts. During the recent police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he was also captured on video echoing Garner while gasping the same exact words, prior to expiring.
To be eligible for early release inmates must not have been convicted for sex crimes nor violent felonies, be within 90 days of release, and certain other criteria must be met.
Supporters established a GoFundMe campaign for Orta, following release.