Manhattan D.A. Tosses Nearly 200 Convictions Tied to Discredited Officers
The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Thursday sought the dismissal of 188 convictions, going as far back as 2001, that were tied to the work of eightNew York Police Department officers, sergeants and detectives who have since been discredited.
The move follows similar actions by prosecutors across the city in a sweeping effort to review cases that relied on police officers who were convicted of official misconduct and other crimes related to their work. In September, the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office announced that it was seeking to dismiss 378 low-level criminal convictions that relied on 13 former police officers who were convicted of crimes. Last year, the Bronx district attorney vacated 250 convictions that relied on a single officer who had been accused of lying in other cases. And that same year, the Queens district attorney dismissed 60 such cases.
The reviews in Manhattan — which came after public defenders and advocacy groups sent letters to the city’s five district attorneys last year — scrutinized police testimony and investigations in cases going back decades. The letters identified 20 former police officers who have been convicted of crimes and two who engaged in work-related misconduct. In Manhattan, the prosecutor’s office is reviewing over 1,100 convictions connected to the officers.
The eight officers connected to the vacated cases on Thursday “abused their positions of power,” Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement.
The former officers were convicted on an array of charges, including perjury, selling a controlled substance and official misconduct, such as performing unlawful searches. They received sentences ranging from community service to prison time of up to 15 and a half years.
“New Yorkers must know that everyone is acting with the utmost integrity in the pursuit of equal justice under the law,” Mr. Bragg said. “We cannot allow unconstitutional convictions to continue to hinder the lives of New Yorkers.”
Over half of the cases dismissed in Manhattan, in which the arrests occurred between 2001 and 2016, resulted in fines or incarcerations. And the most common charges were for possession or sale of a controlled substance, including marijuana, and driving-related offenses — such as operating a motor vehicle while impaired or without a license, according to the prosecutor’s office.
In the statement, Mr. Bragg acknowledged that the consequences for the convictions were significant, saying “the stigma lasts a lifetime and prevents people from finding a job, going back to school or securing housing.” While no one is currently incarcerated or still on probation based on these convictions, according to the prosecutor’s office, a majority of the cases involved young Black men. About 94 percent of those convicted were men, roughly 63 percent were 35 or younger, and 53 percent were Black.
For those whose cases were cleared on Thursday, the hardships they endured — including incarceration, hefty legal fees and severed access to critical benefits — should have never been allowed to happen, said Elizabeth Felber, director of the Wrongful Conviction Unit at the Legal Aid Society.
Cases that relied on discredited officers should be reviewed on a regular basis to minimize these impacts, Ms. Felber said.
“The mandate to do justice must include evaluating criminal conduct by law enforcement with the same lens that is used with every other New Yorker,” she added.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it vacated the convictions this week after its investigations found that the discredited officers played a “substantial role” in all of the convictions.
One detective, Richard Hall, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to charges related to releasing an 18-year-old woman from custody in exchange for sexual favors, was involved in 31 of the cases dismissed on Thursday, as well as dozens of cases listed for dismissal by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office in the fall.
Mr. Hall, along with another detective, Edward Martins, faced more than 40 sexual abuse charges and 25 years in prison. After pleading guilty to bribery and official misconduct charges in a deal, they were sentenced to five years of probation and no jail time.
Another detective, Michael Foder, who was tied to one of the cases vacated this week, was arrested in 2018 for federal perjury charges after prosecutors said he had doctored a photo lineup in a carjacking case.
Another nine cases on the prosecutor’s list were tied to Nicholas Mina, a former police officer who was arrested in 2012 for stealing guns from his colleagues’ precinct lockers and selling them, as well as other charges. He was sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison.
Last year, the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office began reviewing cases that relied on a former narcotics detective, Joseph E. Franco, who was charged with several offenses in connection to his nearly two decades of undercover work, including perjury, after he was accused of lying about drug sales that videos showed did not happen.
The Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, then asked the court to dismiss 90 convictions that involved Mr. Franco. Mr. Gonzalez said at the time that his office could no longer stand behind convictions that relied on Mr. Franco’s testimony.