Thursday, November 1, 2007 PATERSON -- The State of New Jersey v. Ewon Garnett, criminal complaint number 002350, is either a watershed case for racial harmony in Paterson or a legal proceeding subverted by city politics and political correctness. Garnett is a black man who was charged in March with disorderly conduct because he used the "N word" during a heated exchange with Paterson police involving a child custody case. The incident occurred one month after the City Council approved a symbolic resolution to stop people from using that word. On Wednesday afternoon, Garnett went before Municipal Judge Philip Fenster, after almost an hour of backroom negotiations between city Prosecutor Robert Brigliadoro and Garnett's attorney, Noah Burstein. Sitting in the courtroom gallery was 1st Ward Councilman Anthony Davis, who introduced the "N word" resolution during Black History Month in February. Legally, the "N word" resolution carries no weight in any courtroom, but Brigliadoro referenced its passage in his remarks to the judge, saying it is one the council "feels very strongly about." In the end, Garnett agreed to a plea deal in which he would apologize to the community and pay a $100 fine. The original charge could have resulted in jail time and up to a $1,000 fine. "I would like to apologize to the community at large for using that kind of language," Garnett said in front of Fenster and an empty courtroom. "I'm not the kind of man who uses that language, but I feel as if I was pushed in a corner." On March 18, Paterson police Officer Jaime Mejia was dispatched to Garnett's mother's house on East 42nd Street for a dispute over a child custody case between Garnett and his ex-wife. Mejia resolved the issue and left, but was then told to return by dispatch, according to the police report. When Mejia returned, he came with two other officers and was confronted by an angry Garnett, who had to be restrained by a neighbor, according to Mejia's report. At one point Garnett yelled: "I'm not one of those ******* that wears their pants down." After court on Wednesday, Garnett admitted to saying that, but said he did so only because Mejia questioned his manhood and his ability to raise his children. Garnett added that Mejia used the term "you folks," which Garnett found offensive. Mejia declined to comment Thursday, citing department policy that prevents officers from speaking to the media. Burstein, Garnett's attorney, said his client never called anyone else that name when he was caught in a highly emotional state. Burstein disagreed with the resolution adopted by the council but said this case involved his client's confronting a police officer and causing a scene. "I think with all due respect to the City Council, it's a matter of stretching political correctness beyond the proper boundary," Burstein said. Mejia, dressed in his uniform, had added an accessory Wednesday. On his black clip-on tie, Mejia wore a pin with the letter "N" crossed out, the same pin Davis wore on his suit lapel. Davis left the court before the disposition and the apology to the community but commented on the case Wednesday evening. "I really hope there was something learned during this process," Davis said.