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January 17, 2008
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500-pound NYPD officer loses pension bid

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — A retired 500-pound police officer cannot increase his pension check by blaming his disability on an accident, because a medical board had already found it was related to his obesity, a judge said.

Paul Soto, 40, had requested a larger retirement pension, claiming that a fall at an apartment while on duty injured his knee and prevented him from full performance as a police officer.

The Police Pension Fund medical board rejected the application, and in May 2006 it recommended that he be allowed to retire with an ordinary disability pension, which pays an officer a taxable pension of half his salary. An accidental disability retirement pays a nontaxable pension of three-fourths his salary.

The board said Soto had already been found disabled in August 2004 "because he was morbidly obese and had numerous other ailments which made it impossible for him to be a police officer, including high blood pressure and narcolepsy." He also had been placed on limited duty.

Soto joined the New York Police Department in August 1993, when he stood 5 feet 7 and weighed 250 pounds.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische, noting that Soto now weighs "in excess of 500 pounds," cited the board's remark that Soto "had not performed his full duties as a police officer since 2003." She said in her ruling last month that he had been on restricted duty for his own protection.

Soto's lawyer, Philip Seelig, said Wednesday he was disappointed by the judge's decision. He said he had not discussed with Soto whether to appeal.

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