Brooklyn prosecutors, complying with a Freedom of Information Law request from Gothamist/WNYC, have released the names of dozens of officers whose credibility has been called into question.
The release, embedded below, comes months after Gothamist/WNYC broke news that all five borough DAs, including Brooklyn, are building secret lists of officers accused of dishonesty. DAs maintain such records because they are legally obligated to turn over information that may undermine police witnesses’ trustworthiness.
The list includes 53 cases, some of which are sealed, between 2008 and 2019 in which officers had their testimony discredited or called into question by state and federal judges.
In 2017, a federal judge called the testimony of Police Officer Brian Alexander not credible after Alexander explained why he stopped, chased and arrested a man for drug and gun possession. He accused Alexander and his partners of telling inconsistent stories. (Gothamist/WNYC attempted to reach Alexander, who is a Sergeant, through his union, but did not receive a response by publication time.)
In a separate federal gun possession case, a judge accused Police Officer Andrew Kamna of lying to justify stopping a man named Raymond Jones. The case against Jones was later dismissed. (Gothamist/WNYC attempted to reach Kamna through his union, but did not receive a response by publication time.)
After reviewing the records, Maryanne Kaishian, a staff attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, noted the release contained credibility findings about officers of which public defenders were previously unaware. She said the records should spark a review of past convictions involving officers with previously unknown credibility issues.
“People who didn’t have access to this type of information, even though it might have been known to other city entities, were robbed of justice,” she said. “Their attorneys didn’t get the chance to either question the officer on the stand or to make the point that there might be an issue with the evidence related to their arrest.”
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In a statement, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said the release should not be interpreted as an attack on officers. “This is not an indictment of the thousands of dedicated officers who work in our communities and with us in partnership every day to keep the people of Brooklyn safe,” he said. “That said, we take police credibility very seriously because inaccurate statements by members of law enforcement strike at the heart of our criminal justice system, cause significant harm to the public trust and may lead to wrongful convictions. Our job is to contend with this complex reality and to make the best determinations in every case.”
Ed Mullins, President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the DA's priorities are misplaced. “The Brooklyn DA has a long history of bad prosecutions,” Mullins said. “What are they going to do about that? It’s hypocritical.”
The Brooklyn DA also turned over a list of seven officers whose honesty has been called into question by Brooklyn prosecutors themselves. The Brooklyn DA did not respond to our request for clarification on how officers got onto this list, but noted in a statement that such officers would never be used “as the sole witness in a case.” According to the DA’s office, that internal list was created by a special committee, which was formed earlier this year, and is typically based on multiple credibility issues. (In September, Gothamist/WNYC reported on prosecutors’ failure to thoroughly collect internal indications of officer dishonesty.)
Police Officer Leonard Clarke is on the list of officers independently deemed not credible by the Brooklyn DA. He has a long history of being sued. In 2015, a man named Ronnie Sanders said Clark falsely arrested him, then lied in a sworn statement and said Sanders cursed at him and called him a pig. According to the lawsuit, video footage shows Sanders calmly watching as his friend got arrested.
Prior to that, Clarke was sued in 2014. At the time he was part of the NYPD’s Narcotics Bureau Brooklyn South. The lawsuit alleges that Clarke lied when he filled out arrest paperwork and claimed that he saw a man named Mark Moore take money and a bag with pills from another man. As a result, Moore was charged with two felony counts of selling a controlled substance. The case against him was ultimately dismissed.
(Gothamist/WNYC attempted to reach Clarke through his union, but did not receive a response as of publication time.)
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said, “It is clear that Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez has abandoned his prosecutorial role. He sides with the criminals, not crime victims. He knows that truthful police testimony gets thrown out every day in our courts, often based on a judge’s whims and biases. He knows that publicizing this information will destroy the careers of honest police officers and torpedo the cases against violent, gun-toting criminals — assuming his office bothers to prosecute them at all.”
The Brooklyn documents were secured thanks to a Freedom of Information Law appeal by attorney Gideon Oliver on behalf of Gothamist/WNYC. But the released records are only a small portion of the adverse credibility materials the DA has on police officers. Citing the controversial state statute 50-a, which shields police misconduct records, and a consultation with the city’s Law Department, the Brooklyn prosecutors declined to release another list, containing Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints, NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau records, and other credibility findings by judges and Brooklyn prosecutors themselves. The DA said that list includes “attorney notes” and other records it considers to be forms of work product.
Kaishian of Brooklyn Defender Services disagreed with the DA’s interpretation of 50-a and also argued that other records should be released, especially attorney notes from police officer interviews, which she claimed would not be covered by 50-a. The withholdings, she said, have a “very real cost” to the people accused of crimes by still unknown officers in the Brooklyn DA database.
“We’re talking about people’s liberties being taken away, being put in jail or prison,” said Kaishian. Those convictions, she continued, could be “based on the word of officers who have not only lied to the court, but then have had those records concealed.”
In a statement, the NYPD noted that the NYPD began soliciting adverse credibility findings from prosecutors in 2014 and uses such findings to consider possible investigation, discipline, training, or reassignment. The department pointed out, however, that such findings do not always stem from intentional lies.
“Often, these findings are the result of insufficient preparation for testimony of the officer or the judge substituting her perception of the facts for the officer’s firsthand knowledge,” said Sergeant Jessica McRorie, an NYPD spokesperson. “Additionally, there is no mechanism to appeal a finding of adverse credibility against one of our officers.”
The partial release makes Eric Gonzalez the second New York City DA to make such records available to the public. Last month, the Bronx DA released 11 heavily-redacted pages on officers with questionable credibility to Gothamist/WNYC.
Brooklyn’s release is the most extensive from any New York City DA thus far. The Bronx release redacted the names of officers whose credibility was questioned in adverse judicial findings, which were eventually sealed. Brooklyn’s list made such names available to the public.
Gothamist/WNYC is continuing to fight for the release of secret officer credibility records from all five borough prosecutors.
With additional reporting by Cindy Rodriguez
Update: This story has been updated to reflect a comment from the PBA President Lynch regarding Officer Clarke.
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