Police Officer Is Charged With Lying About Finding a Gun

Police Officer Joseph Moloney, left, arrived at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to perjury charges. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
Police Officer Joseph Moloney, left, arrived at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to perjury charges.CreditCreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

By Joseph Goldstein, March 27, 2018

 

A New York police officer was arraigned on Tuesday on perjury charges after prosecutors said he repeatedly lied about how the police found a gun in a Brooklyn apartment.

The officer, Joseph Moloney, 27, is accused of providing several false stories, under oath, about how the police discovered a gun in an apartment in the Red Hook Houses complex in South Brooklyn in 2016. Officer Moloney initially claimed that he had found the gun when it was another officer — a sergeant — who had discovered it, prosecutors said. Ultimately, he came clean, but that did not help him. Prosecutors charged him in a 24-count indictment that includes perjury in the first degree and official misconduct.

He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges before Justice Danny K. Chun in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Officer Moloney’s lawyer, John Tynan, declined to comment on the charges.

“Our police officers are expected to be truthful and honest at all times because people’s fates and the integrity of the justice system depend on that,” said Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney. “We allege that the officer in this case failed to do that and instead repeatedly gave false testimony under oath. Such conduct diminishes public trust and is, in fact, criminal. We intend to now hold the defendant accountable.”

Last week, The New York Times published an investigation into police perjury within the New York Police Department that found that false testimony by the police, known as “testilying,” remains a problem. This year, a Queens detective, Kevin Desormeau, has been convicted of perjury and a Brooklyn detective has been charged with fabricating a photo lineup.

Even as Officer Moloney was arraigned, prosecutors offered little explanation about why they believe he lied. They also did not say if they suspect it had been his idea to lie or if he been instructed to lie by superiors. At the time of the gun arrest, Officer Moloney had been a police officer for three years. As contradictions in his account were exposed, Officer Moloney cited his inexperience as the reason for the error, prosecutors said.

The charges against Officer Moloney stem from an arrest he and other officers made on May 6, 2016, in the public housing apartment building where they had been seeking to arrest a man on a warrant for low-level charges. The officers knocked on the door of an apartment and arrested the man when he answered the door, prosecutors said.

Because it was early in the morning, the man was not properly dressed. The officers followed him into a bedroom to allow him to put on clothes. Officer Moloney and a second officer left with the man to process the arrest, prosecutors said, but about 15 minutes later a sergeant who had stayed behind told the officers to come back.

Inside the apartment was an open black box containing a gun as well as a few bags of marijuana, prosecutors said. At that point, the sergeant told Officer Moloney to go get a search warrant. But when Officer Moloney went to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to apply for the warrant, he claimed that he — not the sergeant — discovered the gun.

He also insinuated that the arrested man had tried to hide the gun.

“As I was assisting Mr. [redacted] to get dressed, Mr. [redacted] kicked a black plastic box under the bed where the baby was sleeping. I then opened the black plastic box and observed a silver pistol inside the box,” Officer Moloney wrote in a search warrant affidavit, according to the indictment.

He repeated this account, with some variations, to a grand jury, and at court proceedings, prosecutors said.

His story came under scrutiny when photographs from the apartment showed that the bed was set on the floor. At that point, Officer Moloney said the suspect had been trying to push the box away from the bed — rather than toward it, prosecutors said.

“When we were getting him dressed we’re noticing he’s pushing the box away from the actual bed and we realize that it’s open a little and we see that there’s also a firearm in the box,” Officer Moloney testified on Feb. 1. in a family court hearing.

Asked about the discrepancy, Officer Moloney said it was an error based on a lack of experience. It was, he said in Supreme Court, a “mistake on my part, being my first search warrant that I’d sworn out alone, and just a rookie mistake.”

But in July 2017 Officer Moloney admitted that he had not been the one to open the black box, prosecutors said. He also said that he did not observe the moment that the box was being opened, prosecutors said.

“I want to come clean to you,” he told officials, according to the indictment. “I did not open the black plastic box. I did not see the box being opened by someone else. I wasn’t in the room.”

Based on this, prosecutors dismissed the gun charges against the man, whom prosecutors did not identify. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office referred the matter to the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which led to perjury charges being filed against Officer Moloney.

Joseph Goldstein, March 27, 2018, NYTimes, Police Officer Is Charged With Lying About Finding a Gun”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/nyregion/police-officer-perjury-new-york.html

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Fellow officers testify as police brutality case continues

 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys dissected video footage taken outside bars on Chippewa Street during testimony on Tuesday in the alleged brutality case against a Buffalo police officer.

The focus on the second day of testimony in Corey R. Krug’s trial – in which two fellow officers took the witness stand – centered on the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day 2014, as what’s known as the biggest bar night of the year was winding down in downtown Buffalo.

The civil rights case against Krug centers on what happened on Chippewa more than four years ago, along with two other separate allegations that he used excessive force. Krug’s defense attorneys argue his force was justified.

Jurors on Tuesday repeatedly were shown footage taken by a WKBW-TV photographer before, during and after Krug allegedly pushed a man against a car, took him to the ground and repeatedly hit him with a nightstick.

Devin Ford, of Lackawanna, the man seen in the video with Krug, had just been ejected from a Chippewa bar, along with another man after the other man sucker punched Ford inside, according to the testimony of two men who were out with Ford that night.

After the parties exited the former Indulge Bar & Night Club sometime around 3 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2014, the two sides nearly got into another physical confrontation in the middle of Chippewa Street, but were dispersed after police officers used pepper spray.

Men on each side of the dispute, despite the urging of officers to leave the area, seemed to be close to fighting again when officers intervened near the corner of Chippewa and Pearl streets, witnesses testified.

Officer Anniel Vidal, who was Krug’s partner that night working a special police detail in the Chippewa area, testified the apparent dispute that started inside Indulge lingered out on the street.

Police intervened because it appeared the men were going to start fighting again, Vidal told the court.

“All I saw was Officer Krug standing and I saw the guy on the ground,” Vidal testified. As he approached, Vidal said he ordered Ford – who was on his back – to get onto his stomach because he thought he was going to be arrested.

But Ford was not arrested and was allowed to walk away.

Officer Maurice Foster, who was stationed at the corner of Chippewa and Pearl that night, said he first noticed the WKBW cameraman walking down Chippewa. When Foster noticed the videographer was following Krug, he said he approached Krug to tell him the cameraman was following him.

Foster, who testified he had just separated two men involved in the dispute from inside the bar who had thrown punches, said he wasn’t telling his fellow officer because he felt Krug was doing anything wrong, but he wasn’t sure if Krug had heard him.

Krug’s defense attorneys grilled the day’s two other witnesses: Ford’s best friend, Sean M. Dechent, and his older brother, Justin Dechent, both of whom had accompanied Ford to a bar in Lackawanna before the trio came to Chippewa and visited two bars.

Ford’s injuries, including cuts and bruises on his legs, made him decide to sit out an annual football game played among friends later on Thanksgiving morning, Sean Dechent testified.

Ford, now 26, testified Monday about his encounter with Krug. “I just remember being on my back, saying ‘I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything,’ ” he said in court.

After video footage of their encounter first became public, the FBI investigated and found evidence of two other alleged incidents of brutality, both of them documented in earlier civil suits against the officer.

Krug, a Buffalo officer since 2000, was charged in August 2015 with deprivation of rights under color of law and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara at several points during Tuesday’s testimony found problematic some defense attorneys’ questions of witnesses about what was seen in the footage.

“The video speaks for itself,” the judge said at one point.

Defense attorneys argued Ford was lying in his accusations in order to bolster his pending lawsuit against Krug, the Buffalo Police Department and the City of Buffalo. The defense is also expected to introduce evidence of Krug’s record, including having made more than 1,000 arrests and his reputation for working in the city’s toughest neighborhoods and the everyday risks that go along with the job.

Krug’s trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to be called about an August 2010 incident in which Krug was accused of hitting a man with a metal flashlight during an alleged confrontation at the man’s Langmeyer Street home.

|Published |, Buffalo News, “Fellow officers testify as police brutality case continues”, https://buffalonews.com/2019/02/05/fellow-officers-testify-as-police-brutality-case-continues/

Jury awards $1 to man in wheelchair who sued Rochester police for excessive force

Gary Craig and David Andreatta, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 10:11 p.m. ET Feb. 4, 2019 | Updated 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 5, 2019

A federal jury on Monday mostly exonerated three Rochester police officers involved in a highly publicized arrest six years ago of a man in a wheelchair.

Jurors found that the man, Benny Warr, was not wrongfully arrested and that two of the officers — Joseph Ferrigno and Mitchell Stewart — did not use excessive force.

The jury did conclude that the third officer, Anthony Liberatore, used excessive force in arresting Warr, but awarded Warr just $1 in what are known as nominal damages.

The phrase means jurors felt a legal wrong occurred but found no harm was done.

At the same time, the jury declined to award compensatory damages but voted to award punitive damages in the amount of $0.

Liberatore was accused of shoving Warr from his wheelchair and also used an “elbow strike” — properly used, police said — to Warr’s head when Warr was on the ground.

Warr’s attorney, Charles Burkwit, called the outcome “an inconsistent verdict.”

“Obviously we were all in shock,” Burkwit said. “What’s the point of a making a punitive damages finding if you’re not going to award any money?”

Warr brought his lawsuit against the officers, the city of Rochester and former Police Chief James Sheppard in 2013, about four months after his arrest. The allegations that Sheppard improperly supervised officers were dismissed at trial.

Police officers contended that Warr punched and fought them as they tried to arrest him for allegedly causing a scene by shouting profanities. Warr maintained that he did not resist, that he was quietly waiting for a bus when arrested, and that he was in a fetal position when allegedly beaten.

“While, the city agrees with this decision, I cannot comment further on this matter in the interest of protecting our taxpayers in the event of potential appeals,”  Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin said in a statement in which he also thanked the jury and city’s legal team.

Burkwit said Tuesday that the jury seemed to ignore evidence that Warr suffered from post-traumatic stress after the incident. He also contended that “inflammatory” statements from the city’s legal team, including mentioning that Warr had once been jailed despite a judge’s ruling that the information not be mentioned at trial, may have influenced the jury.

“There was a lot of prejudicial and inflammatory information, which I think as a whole prejudiced Mr. Warr,” Burkwit said.

Testimony at trial showed that Warr had previously suffered from chronic pain, and had also battled drug addiction, though, records indicated, he has been clean for years. He has worn a prosthesis on one leg since childhood.

Warr’s arrest and the events that preceded it were caught on cellphone cameras and widely shared on social media, but there were strikingly different interpretations of what the video showed. A city Blue Light camera also captured some of the confrontation.

More:Jury to decide police brutality, wrongful arrest allegations from Benny Warr

2017:Lawsuit by wheelchair-bound man who alleged police abuse can go to trial

In his closing arguments last week, Burkwit said the video supported Warr’s story and proved that the police had lied in their claims about the incident.

Meanwhile, city attorney Spencer Ash told jurors, “This video footage is an ally of ours,” in his summation.

Warr resolved the criminal charges against him by agreeing to what is known as an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” which allows for charges to be dismissed after six months if there are no other charges during that stretch.

A police review board exonerated the officers of misconduct, a decision upheld at the time by Sheppard.

However, Burkwit said, the jury’s finding that Liberatore used excessive force showed the lapses in the city review, which determined just the opposite.

“There’s something to be said that the jury agreed … that the city brushed this under the rug,” he said.

The trial coincidentally came at the same time as the city is considering an overhaul of its police disciplinary process.

“The Mayor remains committed to a transparent police accountability process, which is why she introduced legislation for the creation of a Police Accountability Board with unprecedented investigative authority,” Curtin said in his statement, mentioning a recent proposal from Mayor Lovely Warren.

City Council, meanwhile, has proposed legislation that would allow the Police Accountability Board to decide discipline for police. Warren’s proposal would allow the board to recommend discipline, but the police chief would still have the final say.

Burkwit said he planned to ask the court to set aside the verdict.

“An appeal is always an option as well,” he said. “Due to the shocking nature of the award, at this point we need to let a little time go by and let the court address the verdict.”

Gary Craig and David Andreatta, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Feb. 4, 2019, “Jury awards $1 to man in wheelchair who sued Rochester police for excessive force”, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/02/04/benny-warr-rochester-police-brutality-verdict-federal-jury-wheelchair-dollar-james-sheppard/2769182002/

Accused Buffalo cop may face more brutality charges

Krug trial to begin Jan. 28
Posted: 3:52 PM, Jan 21, 2019
Updated: 8:22 AM, Jan 22, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As trial nears for accused Buffalo police officer Corey Krug, federal prosecutors are seeking to introduce more evidence of alleged excessive force by the officer.

The government, in recently filed court papers, plans to call witnesses who will speak about alleged “prior bad acts” by Krug from 2004, 2006 and 2007. The allegations were first reported by The Buffalo News .

The incidents involve an alleged 2004 assault on a handcuffed arrestee, when prosecutors say Krug stood on the suspect’s back, “jumped up and down,” then picked him up and slammed him against a van. Krug “later used an ice scraper” to scrape the suspect’s blood off the window of the van, prosecutors said.

The 2006 incident involved a domestic dispute in which Krug allegedly punched a handcuffed man in the jaw while he was already in a police car, prosecutors said.

In response, Krug — through court papers filed by defense attorneys Nicholas Romano and Terry Connors — called the new allegations “stale and unsubstantiated” and said the government is trying to “pile on” to beef up a “weak” case.

Krug “has worked the toughest beats and accepted all the rough assignments” for the police department, his lawyers wrote, adding that Krug made nearly 1,700 arrests in 20 years.

Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara will rule on whether the government will be allowed to introduce the new evidence.

Krug is already on trial for other incidents of alleged police brutality, including a 2014 incident caught on tape by a 7 Eyewitness News photographer on Chippewa Street early Thanksgiving morning.

The video of that incident shows Krug hitting a man with his baton and pushing him to a car and then to the ground.

The trial is set to begin Jan. 28.

Syracuse man to sue over anal probe by police, hospital: ‘I want accountability’

By Douglass Dowty

Syracuse, NY — A Syracuse man who was forcefully knocked out and probed anally for drugs in October 2017 plans to file a lawsuit against those responsible, he confirmed this morning.

Torrence Jackson, 42, told Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard he hadn’t originally planned to file a lawsuit because he was still traumatized by the Oct. 16, 2017 forced sigmoidoscopy at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center.

Based on the wishes of Syracuse police and the blessings of a judge, Jackson was knocked out and a colonoscope was inserted 8 inches up his rectum. No drugs were found. He suffered tears that caused him to return to an emergency room the following day for bleeding.

His case was resolved with a plea to a traffic ticket.

But the pain lingered for far longer. Jackson, who has a history of antagonism with police, said he was afraid what might happen to him next.

“I was scarred, mentally,” Jackson said today, pointing to his head. “I was messed up.”

Syracuse cops push St. Joe’s to probe man’s rectum for drugs; ‘What country are we living in?’

Syracuse cops push St. Joe’s to probe man’s rectum for drugs; ‘What country are we living in?’

A drug suspect was knocked out and underwent a forced sigmoidoscopy.

But his mother told him the only way he was going to stop police from doing something again was to file a lawsuit, Jackson said. His criminal lawyer, Charles Keller, referred him to a Manhattan police brutality lawyer.

That lawyer, Fred Lichtmacher, has won multiple large settlements for victims of police misconduct. He won a $235,000 settlement in the case of a 23-year-old man who was dragged across a chain-link fence and attacked by a police dog over charges that were latter dropped, according to media reports.

He won a $1 million settlement for a man walloped by a police baton, $535,000 for a female cop subjected to sexual harassment and $125,000 for a man falsely arrested in retaliation by the New York City police, according to media reports.

Closer to home, Lichtmacher has filed lawsuits against Syracuse police for the shooting of a woman during the infamous Father’s Day riot in 2016 (still pending), the death of an armed woman shot by cops in 2016 (dropped) and the alleged beating of a Liverpool man in 2014 (still pending).

Lichtmacher confirmed that he was taking Jackson’s case in the forced drug search, but said he hadn’t yet reviewed the case file.

Jackson said he would not put a dollar figure on the amount he’s looking for. He said only he wants those responsible “to take care of me.” But he also said that cops should not overstep their bounds when doing proactive police work.

“I want accountability,” Jackson said. “Just because I had a record in the past didn’t give them the right to violate my rights now.”

Jackson was back in court this morning for a subsequent arrest in which he’s accused of stashing a gun and drugs at a South Side residence. Jackson says he didn’t even know the residence existed and vowed to fight the charges. He’s been freed on bail — his family put up their house as collateral — as that case continues, he said.

Neither Jackson nor Lichtmacher said who exactly they’re planning to sue or in which court the suit will be field. Syracuse.com | Post-Standard reported that actions by Syracuse police, City Court Judge Rory McMahon and St. Joe’s all contributed to the anal search.

The lawsuit could potentially be filed in state court — perhaps as a claim against the government, called an Article 78 — or in federal court as a violation of Jackson’s Constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure.

Jackson said he’s received a “heartfelt” response from those he knows after Syracuse.com’s story about his forced procedure. Before the story ran, he said, it was hard to tell anybody about the search because it was too embarrassing.

Douglass Dowty, , Syracuse.com, “Syracuse man to sue over anal probe by police, hospital: ‘I want accountability’”, https://www.syracuse.com/crime/2019/01/syracuse-man-to-sue-after-rectum-probed-for-drugs-i-want-accountability.html

Trial for Rochester police officer charged in brutality case to be held in March

Howard Thompson, Posted: Jan 15, 2019 01:42 PM ES

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The case against a Rochester police officer facing an assault charge in a reported case of police brutality will head to trial, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

A judge denied a motion Tuesday to dismiss charges against Officer Michael Sippel, who is accused of assault in the third degree in the attack of Christopher Pate.

The trial for Sippel is now set to start on March 25.

Pate says he was beat up by Officer Sippel and another Rochester officer after being mistaken for a wanted man during a traffic stop on Fulton Avenue last May. The police department said last year that, even after Pate provided documents to prove his identity, Sippel and the other officer persisted with the arrest, during which Pate was beaten and tased.

As a result of the incident, Pate suffered fractures to his jaw and skull.

Pate was initially charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. However, charges were later dropped by the district attorney’s office.

After the body camera footage of the incident was reviewed, the police department suspended both officers without pay. However, a grand jury only brought charges against Officer Sippel.

The brutality case became an impetus behind the push for a new police accountability board, which is now being considered by city leaders.

Howard Thompson, Jan 15, 2019, Rochesterfirst.com, “Trial for Rochester police officer charged in brutality case to be held in March”, https://www.rochesterfirst.com/news/local-news/trial-for-rochester-police-officer-charged-in-brutality-case-to-be-held-in-march/1703250995

Lawsuit: Rochester police officer attacked teen who called him a name

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 03:29 PM EST

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The Rochester Police Department is facing another lawsuit alleging police brutality after a 16-year-old claims he was attacked by an officer after he called the officer a name.

The lawsuit is being brought by the family of 16-year-old Yahmiek Maddox, who is being represented legally by Rochester school board president Van White, against the city, the Rochester Police Department and Officer Phillip Perelli.

According to the lawsuit, on May 25, Maddox was approached by officers who believed he was drinking alcohol. But, the lawsuit states, Maddox was only drinking a bottle of juice he bought from a store on his way home from school.

During the incident, Maddox says he was handcuffed, but later released. As he walked away, the lawsuit says he called on of the officers, Perelli, a name. The lawsuit doesn’t specify what exactly was said.

But, according to Maddox, the utterance led to Perelli slapping then grabbing Maddox around the neck.

At that point, the lawsuit alleges:

After violently attacking Mr. Maddox, several officers wrestled Mr. Maddox down to the ground. After these officers wrestled Mr. Maddox to the ground, Defendant Perelli began to punch Mr. Maddox repeatedly – who at that point was completely defenseless.

After putting handcuffs on Mr. Maddox for a second time, officers placed Mr. Maddox in the back of a police vehicle.  Once Mr. Maddox was secure in the vehicle, Defendant Perelli sprayed mace on Mr. Maddox as he sat a defenseless and handcuffed in the back of the police vehicle. With the vehicle windows and doors closed, Mr. Maddox could barely breath.

Maddox was charged with resisting arrest, harassment and a violation of the alcohol beverage and container law. The lawsuit says after the arrest, Maddox was taken to Monroe County Jail, but the charges against him were ultimately dropped by the district attorney’s office.

The lawsuit is now seeking damages for the attack and arrest.

During a news conference on Friday, White played a clip showing surveillance video of the altercation.

In a statement, the City of Rochester said, “Because this is now pending litigation and, in such matters, we are obligated to protect the interest of city taxpayers, we cannot offer additional details or comment at this time.”

BASQUAIT’S POLICE BRUTALITY WORK HEADED TO GUGGENHEIM

By Erin White, December 19, 2018

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 painting “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)” was inspired by an early-morning encounter that Michael Stewart, 25, had with NYPD. Stewart was accused of spraying graffiti at a First Avenue subway station in the East Village. It was here where Stewart was kicked and beaten by as many as 11 police officers. “About 45 minutes later he arrived bruised, bleeding and comatose at Bellevue Hospital. …He died 13 days later without regaining consciousness.”Six white cops were eventually charged for the violence. All six cops were acquitted.

Fast-forward 35 years and Basquiat’s interpretation of the brutality is at the center of the Guggenheim’s “Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story” (June 21-Nov. 6, 2019). “[It] will explore a formative chapter in the artist’s career through the lens of his identity and the role of cultural activism in New York City during the early 1980s” and “examine Basquiat’s exploration of Black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular aesthetic language of empowerment.”

According to CultureType, the painting (originally painted directly on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio) was never meant for public consumption and has rarely been exhibited, which makes its appearance at the Guggenheim, of all places, a bit ironic.

Erin White, December 19, 2018, afropunk.com, “BASQUAIT’S POLICE BRUTALITY WORK HEADED TO GUGGENHEIM”, https://afropunk.com/2018/12/basquaits-police-brutality-work-headed-to-guggenheim/

New York’s Top Court Shields Police Misconduct Records From Public View

It’s up to state lawmakers to defy the will of the unions to change the rules.

Eric Garner protestsBRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS/Newscom

New York’s top court on Tuesday blocked efforts to shine a light on the records of cops who misbehave on duty.

New York’s State Civil Rights Law has a section (50-a) that broadly seals the personnel records of police, corrections officers, and firefighters, even in cases of misconduct. As a result, whenever a police officer gets in trouble, citizens can’t know if he or she has been disciplined, and are unable to determine whether an officer has a history of bad behavior.

For the last six years, the New York Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for access to the records of officers brought before New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. Initially, the NYCLU won an order for the police to release the information in a redacted format. But it was overturned on an appeal that was upheld Tuesday.

The judge who wrote Tuesday’s decision, Michael Garcia, made very clear that the purpose of the law is to shield police from not just “harassment,” but embarrassment, and to make it harder to use an officer’s disciplinary record to undermine his or her testimony.

Garcia detailed several New York state precedents, one of which states the purpose of section 50-a is to protect police against those who would use their records “as a means for harassment and reprisals and for purposes of cross-examination by plaintiff’s counsel during litigation.” The law is designed not just to protect the police officer’s privacy, but also their reputation and to shield them from legal liability.

The law does have a mechanism by which this seal of privacy can be broken, but it requires a judge to review requests individually and to then determine that the records are “relevant” to a specific action.

We’ve seen the outcome of this practice in the case of Eric Garner, who died after a NYPD police officer saw Garner selling loose cigarettes and put him in a chokehold. The personnel records of the officer responsible, Daniel Pantaleo, were kept secret under this state law, but somebody leaked documents to the press that showed a history of problems, including four abuse complaints that were substantiated by the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Pantaleo will finally face an administrative trial next year. The Garner case, meanwhile, has become not just a symbol of police brutality, but a reminder of how little members of the public can know about the armed men and women who have the legal authority to kill them.

Law enforcement unions are, of course, over the moon about the decision. Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told The New York Times the decision was “exhilarating, especially in this climate.” This “climate” is not actually any more prone to violent retaliation against police than it has been in the past. Of the 140 deaths of law enforcement officers reported this year, 49 were due to gunfire, three to assault, and seven to vehicular assault. All of 10 police officers have died in service in New York State this year, several of them as a result of 9/11-related illnesses.

Perhaps Palladino is referring to the “climate” in California, where lawmakers this year finally stripped law enforcement officers of similarly overbroad “protections” that prevented the public from knowing about officers’ past misconduct. Lawmakers in New York are hoping to follow in California’s footsteps and open up these records next year.

Read the ruling here.

Scott Shackford|, Reason.com, “New York’s Top Court Shields Police Misconduct Records From Public View”, https://reason.com/blog/2018/12/13/new-yorks-top-court-shields-police-misco

Teenager Claims Body-Cams Show the Police Framed Him. What Do You See

A traffic stop in New York led to a young black man being arrested for possession of marijuana. What happened? The New York Times obtained videos that offer a rare window into how far police may be willing to go to make an arrest.

By Joseph Goldstein,

Marijuana arrests are the latest battleground for critics of the police who are fighting to reverse years of racially imbalanced policing in New York. While the Police Department has sharply scaled back marijuana arrests recently, more than 6,000 people were arrested in the first six months of 2018 over small amounts of pot, most of them black or Hispanic.

Until recently, these arrests were rarely taped, but that has changed now that many police officers in New York wear body cameras.

The New York Times has obtained body-camera recordings that document one arrest earlier this year on Staten Island. The videos offer a rare look at a type of encounter the public seldom sees, and show how aggressively the police will pursue a minor marijuana case, in some circumstances, and the subtle social dynamics that shape policing in New York.

But the videos also raise questions about how far the police will go to make an arrest. Lawyers for the defendant, Lasou Kuyateh, argue that the recordings contain possible proof that one of the police officers planted a marijuana cigarette in Mr. Kuyateh’s car. The officer and the Police Department deny the allegation.

It is not unusual for defendants to accuse the police of planting drugs, but rarely does evidence exist to support the accusation. In this case, however, the footage provides ground for heightened suspicion.

Though not conclusive, the recordings were problematic enough that prosecutors abruptly dropped the marijuana charge while one of the officers was in the middle of testifying at a pretrial hearing. The judge expressed concern about the officer’s testimony. Prosecutors encouraged the officer to get a lawyer. An internal police investigation later found no evidence of misconduct.

Mr. Kuyateh maintains that he was framed. His case underscores how difficult it can be to find out what happens during police encounters, even when the officers are wearing cameras.

On Feb. 28, two officers from Staten Island’s 120th Precinct, Kyle Erickson and Elmer Pastran, stopped a BMW sedan. The officers said the windows were excessively tinted and the car had turned without signaling. Four young black men were inside.

It appeared that at least some of the young men in the car had been smoking marijuana, which they admitted during the stop. But the young men told the officers they had just finished smoking, and insisted there wasn’t any more marijuana in the car. “I don’t appreciate being lied to,” Officer Pastran responded. “I know there is weed in the car. I smell it.”

He and his partner searched the BMW. Officer Pastran searched the back-seat area and announced he had found nothing. Officer Erickson, whose camera turned off in the middle of the search, looked in the back seat and apparently found nothing.

After several minutes, Mr. Kuyateh, the driver, shouted that Officer Erickson had put something in his car. He was arrested on the charge of obstructing the police investigation.

Officer Erickson then said he had discovered a marijuana cigarette, which he claimed had been burning on the floor behind the driver’s seat. It was in the same general area Officer Pastran had already searched, leading him to declare, “looks pretty clear.” Officer Erickson’s camera turned back on just before he made the discovery.

Yes, in this case Mr. Kuyateh, the driver, was arrested and spent two weeks in jail, until he made bail.

The New York Police Department has historically aggressively enforced marijuana laws. Marijuana arrests soared to more than 50,000 a year under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when the police often stopped young men on questionable grounds and searched them for contraband, a practice a federal judge eventually found unconstitutional.

In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio took office on a promise to roll back “stop-and-frisk.”

Yet marijuana arrests still remained an element of the department’s broken-windows policing strategy, which relies on aggressively cracking down on minor crimes and disorder. An average of 17,500 people have been arrested each year for marijuana possession since late 2014.

In June, Mayor de Blasio sought to further reduce marijuana arrests after an investigation by The Times examined the stark racial disparities of marijuana arrests.

Mr. Kuyateh, 19 at the time of the arrest, lived in Park Hill, a high-crime area in northeast Staten Island. Two years ago he pleaded guilty to an assault, according to the Staten Island Advance, though that case was sealed because he was a minor. His lawyers say he has no other criminal convictions.

Mr. Kuyateh said in an interview that he works two jobs. He recently bought the BMW used and was taking his friends for a drive on the day of the arrest.

Officer Pastran told his partner in one video that Mr. Kuyateh and his friends were “all OTA,” a local violent youth gang. But Mr. Kuyateh said in the interview this was false.

Officers Pastran and Erickson had been on the force for less than five years and appear to have unblemished records. Officer Erickson declined to comment, and Officer Pastran did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Officer Erickson comes from a family of police officers. In the videos, he appeared quieter and less gregarious than his partner. While searching the car, he expressed frustration and urgency. “We have to find something,” he said. “You know what I mean?”

Officer Elmer Pastran, a United States Air Force veteran, recognized the passengers from past interactions and kept a steady stream of banter with them, even as he searched them. The chatter seemed to work. The young men seemed more inclined to comply with his directions than his partner’s.

Officer Erickson testified over the summer at a pretrial hearing in Criminal Court in Staten Island that his camera turned off on its own, from some “technical difficulty.” This had happened on other occasions, too, he said.

Police officials suggested the camera may have deactivated when Officer Erickson leaned into the driver’s seat while searching the car, possibly sliding the main switch — on the camera’s front — into the “off” position.

Officer Erickson said he reactivated the camera — more than four minutes later — after he realized it was off, senior police officials said. The timing corresponded to the moment he was reaching for the marijuana cigarette.

“All right, this was in the back seat on the floor,” Officer Erickson narrates for the camera. “It’s a marijuana cigarette, it’s lit, just had to put it out.”

No. Mr. Kuyateh appeared in court at least 10 times to fight the charges and even rejected a plea offer that included no jail time.

The body-camera footage was entered into evidence at a pre-trial hearing. Officer Erickson testified that he “observed a brown lit marijuana cigarette on the floor behind the driver’s side.” He maintained that the marijuana cigarette was in plain view.

But in the middle of Officer Erickson’s testimony, something unusual happened. The judge, Christopher Robles, intervened, ordering the lawyers to meet with him in an off-the-record sidebar.

At the judge’s direction, the district attorney’s office informed the Police Department that Officer Erickson might need a lawyer, according to a court transcript and interviews. Officer Erickson did not finish his testimony. Instead prosecutors dismissed the charges against Mr. Kuyateh, citing the gap in Officer Erickson’s body-worn camera as the reason.

At a final court hearing last month, Mr. Kuyateh’s lawyer, C. Taylor Poor, of The Legal Aid Society, repeatedly tried to address what the evidence would have shown had she been able to finish questioning Officer Erickson about what happened during the search. But the judge cut her off.

“This case is dismissed and sealed,” Judge Robles said. “What I’m not going to allow happen is my courtroom to become a political place where these things are brought up.”

Yes. The video does not prove conclusively that Officer Erickson planted anything. But it does raise a troubling question: How did Officer Erickson find a lit marijuana cigarette in plain view on the rear floorboard just minutes after Officer Pastran searched the same area and found nothing?

Officer Erickson declined several requests to be interviewed for this article. Internal investigators at the New York Police Department reviewed the videos and found no misconduct.

“After a thorough investigation, the allegations were determined to be unfounded,” the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said in a statement.

Joseph Goldstein, , NYTimes, Teenager Claims Body-Cams Show the Police Framed Him. What Do You See“, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/19/nyregion/body-cameras-police-marijuana-arrest.html