A New York prosecutor is seeking to dismiss 378 cases related to more than a dozen corrupt New York Police Department officers.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez will ask a judge to overturn 47 felony convictions and 331 misdemeanor convictions stemming from the work or testimony of 13 NYPD officers.
The move is part of a broader effort by local prosecutors to review cases related to officers abusing their power. Gonzalez’s office said the district attorney had “lost faith” in cases where convicted NYPD officers served as witnesses or arrests.
“These former police officers have been found to have committed serious misconduct directly related to their official duties, calling into question the integrity of every arrest they made,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
Gonzalez’s Conviction Review Unit identified instances where officers’ testimony “was essential to proving guilt.” It’s the sixth-largest mass layoff in U.S. history, according to the National Registry of Exemption. Most of the cases are possession of a controlled substance and other drug offenses, followed by traffic and vehicle violations. The convictions come from arrests between 1999 and 2017, but no one is currently incarcerated as a result.
The Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit representing 11 of the people whose convictions Gonzalez plans to overturn, applauded the district attorney’s efforts and urged prosecutors to conduct the reviews on an ongoing basis and not just in the face of the public pressure.
“Those prosecuted in these cases have been forced to endure hardships that should never have happened in the first place,” Elizabeth Felber, director of the society’s wrongful convictions unit, said Wednesday. “Some people have lost years of their lives serving prison sentences and many have suffered collateral damage, including housing instability, job loss and cut off access to essential services, all because of words of these corrupt policemen”.
The district attorney’s office said most of the officers had been convicted of crimes in other counties or in federal courts. The district attorney said the unit’s review of cases was the result of the bureau’s decision in April 2021 to dismiss 90 convictions based on the work of a former detective, Joseph Franco, who was charged with multiple perjury.
About half of the arrests were made by four officers involved in a drug-for-information scandal in Brooklyn more than a decade ago. Sixty-eight were linked to two narcotics officers, Richard Hall and Eddie Martins, who pleaded guilty to charges related to receiving a bribe in the form of sex acts from an inmate in 2019.
Former New York City detective Oscar Sandino pleaded guilty in 2010 to deprivation of civil rights for forcing a woman he arrested to perform oral sex in a Queens police station bathroom in 2008, and was linked to 43 of the convictions Gonzalez wants to throw out. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting an off-duty court officer who was in police custody.
Also on the list is Jerry Bowens, who pleaded guilty to murder and falsifying business records. The district attorney’s office said he provided drugs to an informant in exchange for information, and while his criminal case was pending, in 2009 he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend. Bowens, who was also part of the Brooklyn South Narcotics Division, is linked to 134 convictions on Gonzalez’s list.
Gonzalez on Wednesday (Sept. 7) asked Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic to begin overturning felony convictions.