Rebecca J. Kavanagh @DrRJKavanagh New York City Public Defender, @theappeal Media Relations Director, Writer, @nyulaw, @sydneylawschool, @sydney_uni. Views my own. Nov. 19, 2018 2 min read

Today @nytimes published this story about our client, including police body cam footage, which shows how a cop planted weed in his car. Our client spent 2 weeks on Rikers Island, the cop lied on the stand, was never disciplined & still works for the NYPD.  https://nyti.ms/2zguYwe 

This case is not extraordinary in any way, except that the body cam footage provides compelling evidence against the police officer.

First, police use smelling the "odor of marijuana" as a pretext for vehicle stops & searches all the time. They can still do this now, even when they don't (or claim not to) prosecute marijuana offenses. This is why it is vitally important that marijuana is legalized.

Second, police claim to find items in plain view that by any stretch of the imagination could not be in plain view & prosecutors write them up in complaints w/o blinking an eye. Prosecutors need to scrutinize police officer accounts from the beginning much more closely.

Third, our client, a teenager, was held on Rikers Island for 2 weeks on bail he could not afford on a marijuana charge. He had no criminal record, yet a judge chose to set bail. Few cases could better illustrate the inequities of cash bail than this case, but it is not atypical.

Fourth, prior to the hearing, the prosecutor was seeking 2 months jail on this case. They thought that was an appropriate disposition for a misdemeanor marijuana charge. For a lit marijuana cigarette.

Fifth, when our client said the officer had planted something, obstructing governmental administration was added to his arrest charges. When we see this charge, we are pretty sure it is the result of someone asserting their rights. Also resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.

Sixth, the cop's body camera conveniently malfunctioned at the point when he planted the marijuana and he turned it back on just as he found it.

Seventh, quotas - "While searching the car, he expressed frustration and urgency. “We have to find something,” he said. “You know what I mean?”

Eighth, prosecutors, having all of this overwhelming evidence of police misconduct still decided to litigate the suppression of the marijuana cigarette.

Ninth, the cop perjured himself on the stand.

Tenth, the cop was not disciplined by the NYPD, not fired and is patrolling the streets of Staten Island.

The one part of this that is unusual is that the judge intervened in the hearing while the cop was testifying, just before our lawyer was about to cross-examine him. He told the DA he should get a lawyer, & the DA then dismissed & sealed the case.

In doing this the judge in effect protected the cop, because he shielded him from cross examination, further perjuring himself & also prevented us from determining what the evidence would have shown had we been able to cross examine him.

When our attorney complained he said, “This case is dismissed and sealed. What I’m not going to allow happen is my courtroom to become a political place where these things are brought up.”

Dismissing a case is not as powerful as adjudicating it. If only this judge instead of forewarning the prosecutor had the courage to decide this case and make a finding that both the police and prosecutor had acted in utter contempt of our client's basic constitutional rights.

Hopefully the public will see some of what our clients experience on a daily basis and demand this accountability nor just of police and prosecutors, but also of the judicial system.

PS. In the litany of things that are typical about this case, I neglected to mention, identifying our clients as gang affiliated without any basis. I am sure there are other things I also overlooked.


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