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New York officer charged with lying about photographer's arrest

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York police officer has been indicted on three felony counts of falsifying records to justify his arrest last year of a New York Times photographer, the Bronx district attorney said.

A Bronx grand jury indicted NYPD officer Michael Ackermann on Monday in a case stemming from his arrest in August 2012 of photographer Robert Stolarik, whom Ackermann said had interfered with the arrest of a teenage girl.

Ackermann, 30, said in a police report at the time that Stolarik had repeatedly set off the flash on his camera in his face - blinding and distracting him - during the arrest.

But Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said in a statement that an investigation determined that Stolarik's camera did not have a flash attached at the time of the arrest, which took place at 10:30 p.m. on August 4, 2012.

Ackerman was indicted on three felony counts and five misdemeanor counts of falsifying records and making false statements.

He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious felony, tampering with public records. Ackermann was released without bail on Monday following an arraignment in state court in the Bronx.

He has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of his criminal case, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John McCarthy said .

Ackermann's attorney, Michael Martinez, did not immediately return a call for comment.

All charges against Stolarik, a longtime freelance New York Times photographer, have been dismissed, Johnson's office said.

Stolarik was photographing the arrest of a teenage girl following a street fight when a police officer told him to stop taking pictures, according to an account of the incident published last year in the New York Times.

Stolarik said he identified himself as a Times photographer and continued to shoot pictures.

A second officer grabbed his camera and "slammed" it into his face, he told the newspaper. He said police took his cameras and roughed him up before arresting him on charges of obstructing government administration and resisting arrest.

Following the arrest, police officials said Stolarik and others had been repeatedly ordered to move back, but that Stolarik pressed forward and inadvertently struck an officer in the face with his camera. They said Stolarik "violently" resisted arrest, according to the New York Times.

Stolarik did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A New York Times spokeswoman, Abbe Serphos, said in a statement, "We are pleased that officials in the Bronx took a serious look at this case and brought an indictment after finding police misconduct."

(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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