Fact Check

Ramsey Orta Jailed for Filming Eric Garner's Death

Ramsey Orta was sentenced to four years in prison in October 2016, but the charges were not specifically related to his having filmed Eric Garner's officer-involved death.

Published Oct. 6, 2016

Updated July 16, 2019
Ramsey Orta went to jail for filming the fatal encounter between Eric Garner and New York City police officers.
What's True

Ramsey Orta and supporters across the country maintained that New York City police targeted him for harassment after he filmed the officer-involved death of Eric Garner in July 2014.

What's False

Orta was actually sentenced on gun and drug charges, not for filming Garner's death.

Ramsey Orta was unwittingly thrust into the national spotlight after filming galvanizing footage of the death of Eric Garner (who died after being restrained in a chokehold by New York City Police in Staten Island) in July 2014, and on 3 October 2016 Orta was sentenced to four years in prison for what many posited was the crime of filming alleged police misconduct.

Orta's experiences after he was credited with filming Garner's death drew scrutiny from many who suspected he was being targeted by police for harassment. Garner was killed on 17 July 2014, and Orta was arrested on unrelated gun charges within weeks of capturing Garner's death on camera. Orta was arrested a second time six months later for the alleged sale of drugs and then was initially blocked from posting bail via funds obtained through crowdsourcing.

During Orta's pretrial incarceration at Rikers' Island, he and more than a dozen other inmates sued, claiming their food was laced with rat poison. Between July 2014 and July 2016, Orta was arrested three times and moved due to what he maintained was a pattern of police harassment:

In the last year, Orta’s life has been upended. He has been arrested three times since August 2014. The first, for criminal possession of a handgun he allegedly tried to give a 17-year-old, came a day after Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner. In February [2015], he was arrested again on multiple charges of selling and possessing drugs. The third came on June 30 [2015] when he was accused of selling MDMA to an undercover cop. A lab test later showed that the alleged MDMA was fake and the charges were reduced. All told, Orta is facing more than 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

After entering a guilty plea in July 2016 on charges stemming from those arrests, Orta was sentenced to four years in prison on 3 October 2016 on charges relating to possession of a gun and a controlled substance:

In July [2016], Orta, 25, pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court, St. George, to third-degree criminal possession of a weapon stemming from an Aug. 2, 2014, arrest in St. George.

Orta admitted to possessing a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Authorities had accused him of stuffing the weapon down a 17-year-old woman's pants outside the Hotel Richmond on Central Avenue.

He also pleaded guilty then to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance to satisfy charges arising from a Jan. 3, 2015, incident in which he sold heroin to an undercover officer.

Although Orta's supporters maintained the charges were retaliatory in nature, Orta was neither charged nor convicted in relation to the act filming Eric Garner's death. Orta pled guilty to weapons and drug charges in July 2016 and was sentenced based on those pleas.


Donnelly, Frank.   "'No Justice, No Peace': Emotions Erupt As Man Who Filmed Eric Garner Is Sentenced."     Staten Island Advance.   3 October 2016.

Donnelly, Frank.   "Ramsey Orta, Man Who Filmed Garner Death, Admits Guilt in Drug, Weapons Cases."     Staten Island Advance.   12 July 2016.

Goodman, J. David.   "Man Who Filmed Fatal Police Chokehold Is Arrested on Weapons Charges."     The New York Times.   3 August 2014.

Grunlund, Maura.   "Ramsey Orta Says He Was Poisoned at Rikers in Lawsuit."    Staten Island Advance.   2 October 2015.

Michaels, Samantha.   "The Guy Who Filmed Eric Garner's Death Is Still Fighting to Get Out of Jail."     Mother Jones.   10 April 2015.

Sanburn, Josh.   "The Witness: One Year After Filming Eric Garner's Fatal Confrontation With Police, Ramsey Orta's Life Has Been Upended."     TIME.   16 July 2016.


The status of this page was modified to MIXTURE to better reflect the complexities of the case.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.