New York Times
The detective was accused of lying. Currently, 90 convictions may be erased.
New York — For nearly 20 years as a police officer and drug detective, Joseph Franco has arrested thousands. Most of them were possession and sale of drugs. Franco often worked in secret, and his testimony confirmed the conviction of prosecutors throughout the city. But officials who once relied on Franco have questioned his explanation. Franco was charged with perjury in 2019 in Manhattan after being accused of lying about drug sales, which showed that the video never happened. The prosecution will announce it on Wednesday. More cases may continue in other provinces — the calculations the lawyer said appear to be larger than any of the city’s legal systems in recent history. On Wednesday, signing up for a morning newsletter from the New York Times, Brooklyn District Attorney Erik Gonzalez asks the judge to dismiss the drug case years ago when Franco served as an important witness. The office did not reveal new evidence of possible fraud — and none of the people involved remained behind the bar. But Gonzales said he had lost confidence in Franco’s credibility. “It’s the moment we’re talking about criminal justice reform,” Gonzales said in an interview this week. “It’s clear that he couldn’t responsibly rely on his testimony to support these beliefs.” The move dismissed the state’s largest conviction over concerns about official misconduct. One is that it happens in the face of growing national conversations about holding police accountable and curbing abuse among police officers. New York City has recently made it easier for legislators to sue officers for illegal searches or excessive force. Franco was charged with 26 criminal proceedings, including perjury and official misconduct, after an investigator at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office testified that he had witnessed several drug purchases shown in the video footage. He pleaded not guilty to the accusation against him. Franco’s lawyer, Howard Tanner, said his client was presumed to be innocent and “actively defended” the proceedings in Manhattan. “Therefore, I would like to ask the public to refrain from making judgments until all the facts are heard,” Tanner added. Almost all convicted people that Gonzales is trying to dismiss have been charged with drug-related crimes, including many of the low-level possession crimes. This group (mainly men arrested between 2004 and 2011) has crossed generations. At the time of arrest, some were under the age of 20, and dozens were over the age of 40. The Gonzales office wasn’t convinced of the racial breakdown, but many were black, Latin Americans, and a group representing an disproportionate share of drug prices in the city. Most of the people who faced more serious crimes in drug sales (27 in total) spent six months to a year behind the bar. District attorneys and public defenders said it was unknown how often crimes represented their first or only conviction. Even those who haven’t made long decisions have criminal records left behind, which can have long-term implications for housing and work prospects. In recent years, there has been increasing attention to these lasting effects. In New York and elsewhere, some minor conviction records have been erased. This is an attempt to correct what was previously considered an overly aggressive crackdown on drug crime. However, public defenders say that records can only be erased so far. “The damage happens when you are arrested,” said Tina Luongo, a lawyer who leads the criminal defense practice of the Legal Assistance Association. “They were probably bailed, spent on Rikers Island, lost their jobs and separated from their families. No matter what happened, those harms were done.” According to lawyers, Franco was given three times. One man arrested will dismiss each case. A man who spoke on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns said he had been charged with several low-level drug crimes he had not committed. Faced with the prospect of police testimony, he pleaded guilty. He said the man had just graduated from high school and had a young son and a second child on the way when he was arrested in 2005. He spent several years behind the bar. The 35-year-old man said the move to home was rocky and the arrests continued to affect him. “I got a call that this was happening, and that should have been good news,” he said. “But honestly, I don’t know how I feel better. It influenced my whole mindset. That kind of thing changes you.” Gonzales said his office was 90. He said many of the cases could not be completely re-examined. Video evidence was often lost for a long time, making it impossible to track potential witnesses more than a decade ago. It wasn’t immediately clear that the detective also worked in Brooklyn after being charged with Franco in Manhattan, Gonzales said. He said the office eventually compiled a list of cases involving Franco and flagged cases that could not be prosecuted without his account. Concerns about police officers who make false or misleading statements about crime are not new. Between January 2015 and March 2018, a New York Times investigation found more than 25 cases in which a judge or prosecutor determined that a central aspect of New York City Police Department testimony was not true. I did. The fallout was investigated by the Brooklyn law firm in dozens of cases investigated by former murder detective Luis Skalcera, who handled some of the most notorious crimes in the autonomous region after one of his investigations was unraveled. It reflects the reassessment of the murder case. However, in that case, the office abandoned only a handful of cases and said in 2017 Scarcella did not violate the law. In recent years, other states have faced similar problems. For example, in Massachusetts, thousands of low levels in 2017 after prosecutors said prosecutors mishandled drug samples by state chemists and returned positive results with untested ones. Drug case was withdrawn. Christopher Slobogin, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Vanderbilt Law School, who studied false testimony by police, said the issue was most common in low-level drug cases. Police fired 48-year-old Franco last April. But discipline is often rare. District Attorney spokesman Danny Frost began reviewing Franco’s in New York in the summer of 2018 after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office found a contradiction between Franco’s statement and evidence in certain cases. He said the record first raised a big question. In an episode on the Lower East Side, a man was arrested in February 2017 after Franco stated he had witnessed a man selling drugs in the lobby of a building. But the prosecutor said the security video showed that the deal never took place — and Franco had never even entered the building. In a similar arrest four months later, Franco said he saw a woman selling drugs in the entrance hall of a building on Madison Street. However, he wasn’t in the front yard and was too far from the woman to observe the sale, the prosecutor said after reviewing security footage. Both people were sentenced to crime in state prisons when new evidence was discovered — and both convictions were abandoned by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In the third case, Franco said he witnessed a man selling cocaine to another woman. Prosecutors said the new video evidence showed that the man, who was not in prison at the time but was also dismissed in the case, only opened the door for her. Each of the three pleaded guilty. Prosecutors later identified another case involving the arrest of two people, who said evidence showed that Franco had made a false statement. In Brooklyn, Franco also conducted an undercover investigation of drugs, arresting people who bought and sold them. All but one out of 90 entered guilty convictions. The district attorney’s office found no evidence of innocence in a limited investigation, but Gonzales and the public defender said the uncondemned defendant could be found guilty for many reasons. “People understand that the system isn’t designed to give them suspicious interests if it goes against the words of the executives,” said Brooklyn Defender Services’ senior policy on behalf of some cases. The adviser, Marianne Kaician, said. “Many will find it worthless to them.” The Brooklyn District Attorney’s actions are pressing district attorneys in other districts to revisit Franco’s case. Immediately after joining the division in 2000, Franco served on the board for several years at Bronx. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office has investigated about 150 cases in the autonomous region that Franco was involved in between 2011 and 2015 to determine if the conviction remains credible, a spokesman for the agency said. Patrice O’Shaughnessy said on Tuesday. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company