New York, NY – A Manhattan judge sentenced 37-year-old NYPD Sergeant Phillip Wong to probation and community service on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to punching suspects who had spit on him and called him Asian slurs.
“Due to the stresses of this job, I understand that he snapped,” Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Curtis Farber said when he sentenced the 16-year veteran of NYPD on March 2, the New York Post reported.
Prosecutors charged Sgt. Wong with assault on July 22, 2021 in connection with the two separate incidents.
The first incident occurred in October of 2019 when Sgt. Wong was escorting a prisoner to a holding cell in Harlem, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors said the 48-year-old suspect allegedly kicked a cell door and then started spitting at the officers escorting him.
Charging documents said that Sgt. Wong punched the prisoner in the face after he was spit at, resulting in a trip to the hospital for stitches on a laceration above the suspect’s eye.
Prosecutors said the second incident occurred at an Upper West Side subway station in April of 2020, NBC News reported.
On that occasion, Sgt. Wong was supervising as two officers arrested a 35-year-old man who had punched another passenger on the train.
As the man was being taken out of the 96th Street subway station, he kicked Sgt. Wong and yelled anti-Asian slurs at him, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors said Sgt. Wong responded by taking the suspect to the ground with the assistance of another officer and then kneeling on the man’s back.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that “the man continued to taunt Wong, and then shouted, ‘I can’t breathe,’” NBC News reported.
“Wong responded, ‘I don’t give a f-k if you can breathe or not,’ and punched the man in the side of the face,” Vance said.
He said officers transported the man to the hospital after the kerfuffle and medical staff determined the suspect had not sustained any injuries as a result of the encounter, NBC News reported.
Defense attorney Andrew Quinn said that in neither case did Sgt. Wong’s actions constitute criminal activity or warrant charges.
“When they see the video [of the incidents], they’ll be as surprised as we are that this case went to criminal court,” Quinn said, “I thought that this case should have been handled administratively within the NYPD.”
He said officers were facing particularly difficult working conditions under the current anti-police environment, NBC News reported.
“This is much more indicative of… the lack of respect for police officers citywide,” Quinn said.
“People say vile terrible things to police officers all the time and this is on a daily basis. I mean a cop can’t step out of a car anymore in this city without somebody shouting either an ethnic or racial slur… at the officer,” the defense attorney added.
Sgt. Wong was arrested and charged with third-degree misdemeanor assault and third-degree misdemeanor attempted assault and released later the same day on his own recognizance, NBC News reported.
On March 2, Sgt. Wong pleaded guilty to assault and attempted assault, the New York Post reported.
Prosecutors asked the judge to give Sgt. Wong at least 60 days behind bars, but Farber sympathized with the career law enforcement officer and cited his “unblemished” police record.
Sgt. Wong was sentenced to two years of probation, 70 hours of community service, and anger management counseling, the New York Post reported.
Farber said the sentence was “just” because the sergeant also “faces the loss of his career and potentially the loss of his pension.”
Sgt. Wong was initially suspended without pay after he was charged, pending the completion of his court case, but NYPD later put him on desk duty at NYPD’s fleet service, the New York Post reported.
His attorney said that Sgt. Wong expected he would be fired.
Then the sergeant will face an NYPD internal trial during which department brass will decide whether the 16-year veteran will be allowed to keep his pension, the New York Post reported.