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De Blasio Under Fire After Pastor Is Released From Police Custody

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Controversy has erupted for Mayor Bill de Blasio, after police confirmed he called them to check on the arrest of an important political ally.

As CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported, the story splashed across the headlines this week after the mayor called police brass about his friend and ally, Bishop Orlando Findlayter.

Findlayter, the senior pastor of the New Hope Christian Fellowship in Brooklyn, was taken into custody and brought to the 67th Precinct station Monday after a traffic stop. Police arrested him when they learned he had two outstanding warrants for failing to return to court after earlier arrests at immigration protests.

The New York Post and Daily News had a field day, riffing on de Blasio's campaign slogan decrying the current state of New York as a "tale of two cities," with the headline, "Bail of Two Cities" appearing on the front page of the Daily News Tuesday, and "Jail of Two Cities" splashed across the Post.

City Hall pushing back hard Wednesday on any suggestion the mayor called police to try to help his friend out of a jam.

A spokesman insisted the mayor was only seeking information in the call.

"The mayor reached out to Deputy Chief (Kim) Royster to get clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman," spokesman Phil Walzak said in a statement.

The NYPD said the precinct commander used his discretion to release Findlayter, with no suggestion or pressure from the mayor.

But some still had doubts about the case.

"The patrol guide states that you should not be letting someone go who's out on a warrant. And it's a pretty strict rule with that," said Molloy College Professor John Eterno, a retired NYPD captain. "Now, there is some discretion here, but normally, a person out on a warrant would not be released."
Eterno said the handling of the case raises eyebrows.

"It doesn't pass the smell test," he said. "This is something a mayor should not be getting involved in."

And on Facebook, community activist Jose LaSalle reacted by posting: "I am disgusted… (this Bishop was released) with warrants hanging over his head. This is a slap in the face to all the voters…. No one should be above the law."

Asked for comment on issue Wednesday after <a title="Universal Pre-K Funding Fight Overshadows New Mayor's First Budget" his budget address, the mayor said he will answer questions Thursday.

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