Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bronx Juries Hate White Cops, and Love Colored Criminals

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Len Levitt wrote the column One Police Plaza, first for New York Newsday and, after it folded in June 1995, for its much older, Long Island sister paper, Newsday, until his retirement. (One Police Plaza is the address of NYPD headquarters.) Although Levitt is as old as dirt, he’s still reporting on policing at his blog, NYPD Confidential.

Old-school, white cops, even liberals, hate Levitt, whom they consider a cop-hater. This shouldn’t be such a problem today, as so many white cops presently on the job, have gone over to the dark side, or were always there.

Be that as it may, I owe a tremendous debt to Levitt. Back in late January 1996, he wrote a column that has influenced me more than any other article on policing. He wrote of four incidents that had all been disappeared by Police Commissioner William Bratton’s NYPD.

One incident involved the forcible rape (first degree) of a mother and daughter. The second involved a homicide (murder). The third also involved a homicide, but it’s a safe bet that it was never classified a murder.

Levitt learned of the incidents via the rape survivors and the families of the homicide victims. The NYPD brass told the ridiculously transparent lie, whereby some unnamed and unknown reporter had stolen the NYPD press releases from the Department propaganda chief, the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) on the cases in question from the HQ press room.

They never did find that larcenous reporter.

I recently contacted Levitt to ask him if he knew the names of the two homicide decedents, but he couldn’t remember them.

At that point, I was halfway through a one-year investigation of New York City policing for Chronicles magazine, which would be published as “Crime Stories” in the August, 1996 issue (not online). It was to be my first major expos√© of the NYPD’s practice of “disappearing” urban crime, which I have since re-christened, “Fakestat.”

Bronx Juries: More Woe for the NYPD
6/06/2011 1:20 p.m. EDT
By Len Levitt
Levitt’s Blog: NYPD Confidential
Updated: 8/06/2011 5:12 a.m. EDT
Huffington Post

Long the bane of the NYPD, a Bronx jury spoke last week, raising the bourgeoning Ticketgate police scandal to a new level.

The jury acquitted Bronx attorney Stephen LoPresti of drunken-driving charges -- a guy with three prior drunk-driving convictions -- because jurors did not believe the two arresting officers, who admitted fixing tickets in unrelated cases.

Officer Harrington Marshall testified that he had asked a police union official to make two tickets of family members vanish.

Officer Julissa Goris testified that she had asked her police union delegate to kill a ticket issued to her boyfriend's cousin. Also, when her mother received a ticket, Goris accompanied her to court, spoke to a sergeant, and her mother did not have to pay the fine.

"The message is clear," said Adam D. Perlmutter, one LoPresti's defense lawyers. "Corruption won't be tolerated in the Bronx or anywhere."

A defense attorney's natural bombast notwithstanding, in this instance Perlmutter seems to have gotten it right -- at least when it comes to fixing tickets.

News reports say that up to 300 cops may be involved, including Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegates and a trustee acting as middlemen. In addition, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association says fixing tickets is a wide-ranging and long-standing police courtesy and unstated job benefit.

Nobody -- not Mayor Bloomberg who has called the scandal a "black eye" for the police department; not Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has said virtually nothing; maybe not even Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, whose grand jury reportedly has been hearing testimony about ticket-fixing for more than a year -- knows where this is going and what will come out.

Some have even suggested, perhaps over-dramatically, that Ticketgate approaches pre-Knapp Commission-era corruption and may warrant an independent commission.

Ticketgate's main stage is the Bronx, where more than in any other borough, juries don't trust cops.

And cops don't trust Bronx juries.

For years, PBA attorneys have opted to have their cases heard by Bronx judges instead of Bronx juries.

Most of these judges have been older white men, more sympathetic to cops than most Bronx citizens.

Just such a judge acquitted police officer Stephen Sullivan for fatally shooting Eleanor Bumpers during an eviction in 1984.

Such a judge acquitted off-duty officer Michael Meyer for fatally shooting an unarmed squeegee man who was soaping up his windshield in 1998.

Such a judge acquitted Francis X. Livoti, accused of using a department-banned choke hold that led to the death of asthmatic Anthony Baez in 1994.

Then there was the infamous shooting of unarmed Amadou Diallo, killed in a hail of 41 bullets, fired by four officers in 1999.

The PBA was so fearful that these four officers would be tried by a Bronx jury (or nearly as bad, by a younger black, female judge, who was supposedly selected at random) that the union pulled off a remarkable piece of legal legerdemain.

First, they arranged to move the trial to Albany. Then, the court's chief administrator, Jonathan Lippman -- now the state's chief judge -- handpicked a cop-friendly jurist to preside over the case. The officers were all acquitted.

In her salad days, the New York Times columnist Gail Collins coined the phrase, "The Bronx curse," meaning that when something bad happens, it's always worse in the Bronx.

Maybe that explains the phenomenon of Larry Davis. In 1986, the drug-dealing, 20-year-old Davis shot six cops, who police said had come to his sister's apartment to question him about the killing of four drug dealers.

Davis escaped and led police on a 17-day manhunt. When he gave himself up after cops had cornered him in a Bronx housing project, crowds applauded him.

When he pleaded self-defense, a Bronx jury acquitted him.

[Davis’ story was much interesting than that. He asserted, without any evidence that the cops he’d tried to murder were all crooks, and had all been his crime partners.]

District Attorney Johnson, too, is something of a uniquely Bronx product.

Elected in 1988, he is currently the state's only African-American district attorney. Like many of his constituents, he has had issues with the police.

Because he opposes the death penalty, some in law enforcement circles have viewed him as anti-cop.

After the fatal shooting of Bronx Street Crime cop Kevin Gillespie in 1996, Gov. George Pataki took the extraordinary step of removing the case from Johnson's jurisdiction and appointing a special prosecutor. (Although former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau also opposes the death penalty, Pataki never took a case from him.)

[The difference in Pataki’s conduct vis-√†-vis the two DAs is that Jonson had announced that he would never seek the death penalty, something that was not his prerogative, whereas Morgenthau said no such thing. In each death penalty-eligible case, Morgenthau would claim that he was giving the question as to whether to seek the ultimate sanction great consideration, before ultimately deciding against it in that particular case. Of course, he was lying. Morgenthau’s beliefs, such as they were, were identical to those of Johnson, but the former was devious about it, whereas the latter was open. And that’s why Pataki was able to remove Johnson from the case.]

The issue became moot when Gillespie's [Hispanic] alleged killer hanged himself in prison.

Two years later, Police Commissioner Howard Safir told the New York Times that he had "no respect" for Johnson. "No. Not at all," he said to the writer, Jeffrey Goldberg. Safir later said that he was misquoted.

More recently, to the horror of many in the department, Johnson prosecuted veteran detective Christopher Perino for perjury after a secretly recorded audio-tape caught him in a lie.

A Bronx jury convicted him in 2009 and he was sentenced to four months in prison.

All but forgotten is that after Bronx juries acquitted Larry Davis both of shooting the six cops and of killing the four drug dealers, Johnson continued to pursue him.

In 1991, his office convicted Davis, who had changed his name to Adam Abdul Hakeem, of murdering another drug dealer, Ramon Vizcaino.

The guilty verdict, said Johnson, "means that a very dangerous individual is going to be made to pay for his wanton acts... Because of the nature of his crime and the background of Adam Abdul Hakeem, the people intend to seek the maximum sentence."

Davis got the max -- 25 years to life. He died in prison in 2008.

[Actually, Davis was murdered in prison.]

At least for a moment, the Bronx curse was lifted.

WEINER: NO PUN INTENDED. Besides pointing out that there is obviously something wrong with Congressman Anthony Weiner's marriage, to say nothing of his brain, this column supports the conventional political wisdom that Weiner's chances of becoming mayor of New York City are fast fading.

And with Weiner's mentor, Senator Chuck Schumer, failing to foist Ray Kelly off on Washington as FBI Director, the limelight-loving police commissioner seems a stronger bet to run for mayor.

SECRETS. Georgina Bloomberg's roman a clef may reveal an intimate portrait of her rich and famous daddy under the guise of fiction. But what about his real life secrets? Who accompanies Mayor Mike on his weekend jaunts to Bermuda and what exactly goes on down there?


Anonymous said...

Davis killed at least five of his competitors and shot six cops. Then died [murdered] in prison. He must have had a lot of persons out to get him. What comes around goes around and all that.

Anonymous said...

Davis seems a (somewhat) rare case of someone of his type getting what they deserve.

David In TN