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Lying NYPD Narcotics Detective Just Cost Prosecutors Nearly 100 Convictions

from the War-on-Drugs-can't-be-slowed-down-by-facts dept

Welcome once again to America’s War on Drugs, already in progress.

In the name of “protecting” us from the overstated ravages of drug addiction, the government engages in violence, rights violations, overzealous prosecutions, millions of interactions with the criminal justice system, and periodic bouts of performative lawmaking.

And what have we gotten in return? Drug users are the real winners here. The more money we throw at the Drug War, the more easily accessible and cheap drugs are. While politicians and government agencies claim they want to save people from violence and corruption, violent and corrupt law enforcement officers are doing all they can to be worse than the problem they’re supposed to be solving.

When there’s not enough drug activity to sustain local Drug Wars, the cops will create it. We saw this happen in Houston, Texas, where a botched drug raid, predicated on multiple levels of bullshit, resulted in cops killing two residents who had never engaged in the drug sales activity cited on the warrant request. Houston cops are, fortunately, feeling the pain. They may still be alive but they’re facing a host of criminal charges.

If there aren’t enough drug war combatants to engage with, cops on drug task forces aren’t above creating their own. The botched raid in Houston was predicated on a statement from a nonexistent informant and drugs pulled from a cop’s cruiser.

In New York City, it’s more of the same. And it’s going to cost city residents millions of dollars before this is all sorted out.

Over nearly two decades as a police officer and narcotics detective, Joseph E. Franco made thousands of arrests, many for the possession and sale of drugs. Mr. Franco often worked undercover, and his testimony secured convictions for prosecutors around the city.

But officials who once relied on Mr. Franco are questioning his accounts. After he was accused of lying about drug sales that videos showed never happened, Mr. Franco was charged with perjury in Manhattan in 2019.

Now, the fallout over Mr. Franco’s police work is spreading: As many as 90 convictions that he helped secure in Brooklyn will be thrown out, prosecutors plan to announce Wednesday. Many more cases in other boroughs could follow — a reckoning that lawyers said appears larger than any in the city’s legal system in recent history.

Cops lie. And their lies are swallowed by those who are supposed to be overseeing them. Turning drugs (and dealers) into cartoonish supervillains has paid off for law enforcement agencies. Billions of tax dollars finance efforts that have done nothing but ensure Americans can buy purer drugs at lower prices. When it’s a cop’s word against some drug fiend/dealer, everyone always believes the cop. Right up until they can’t. Then the fallout begins.

Problems that could have been caught months or years ago seem to only be addressed once they become too big to ignore. Detective Franco worked for the NYPD for nearly 20 years before being rung up on criminal charges. This says nothing good about the NYPD’s internal oversight or internal culture that this went on for this long before it was discovered and addressed.

Welcome to the criminal justice system, Detective Liar:

Mr. Franco was charged in 2019 with 26 criminal counts, including perjury and official misconduct, after investigators in the Manhattan district attorney’s office said that he had testified to witnessing several drug buys that video footage showed did not happen or that he could not have seen.

A whole bunch of “wins” for local prosecutors are now vanishing. And, if what we’ve seen elsewhere in the country is any indication, this will likely end up affecting far more than the ~90 convictions identified by prosecutors. Detective Franco has tainted the entire Narcotics Division. Any involvement of his is now presumably suspect.

Blame the deference given to cops by everyone from prosecutors to courts to the press. Without this reputational free pass, stuff like this would have been spotted prior to it becoming a potentially 20-year problem.

In one episode on the Lower East Side, a man was arrested in February 2017 after Mr. Franco said he witnessed the man selling drugs inside the lobby of a building. But prosecutors said security video showed the transaction never took place — and Mr. Franco had never even entered the building.

In a similar arrest four months later, Mr. Franco said he saw a woman selling drugs in a building’s vestibule on Madison Street. He had not gone into the vestibule, however, and was too far from the woman to observe any sale, prosecutors said after reviewing security footage.

If a detective is this comfortable lying, it’s because they’ve had years of practice and zero pushback from supervisors or other officers on the scene. This is the sort of thing that happens when accountability is nearly nonexistent. Better late than never, for sure. But if the nation’s law enforcement agencies want to win back the public’s trust, they need to address the internal rot they’ve ignored or tolerated for years.

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Comments on “Lying NYPD Narcotics Detective Just Cost Prosecutors Nearly 100 Convictions”

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32 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
jimb (profile) says:

clawback...

To send the message to police that they need to be honest in court, the city of New York should clawback the salary this detective "earned" while he was lying to win convictions. If I did my job dishonestly, I would be fired for it… so this bad cop should be too, and lose his pension. His lies ruined the cases, so why should he benefit from his dishonesty? That’s what we have police to prevent – profiting from dishonesty.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: clawback...

"certainly one could make the argument that the majority of his career was theft of time…"

Worse. Pushing untrue testimony and manufactured evidence has tied up prosecutors, courts and administration. Considering the invented crimes are of a high priority it’s likely that a lot of real grievances have remained unaddressed, fucking up investigation of serious offenses such as assault, murder, rape, or real drug-related crimes.

Not to mention that every task force meant to go after big cartels and gangs have had their whole well of evidence poisoned when they tried to fit the smoke blown up their asses by officer Franco into the big picture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: clawback...

True, he literally did an anti-job by most definitions (other than, say, a PD definition), and harmed people, the public, and violated laws.

‘Clawback’ is merely about wages. I am fully on board with seeing real justice done on all acounts. Your assessment is pretty accurate, as usual.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 clawback...

"’Clawback’ is merely about wages. I am fully on board with seeing real justice done on all acounts. "

This is one of those things I usually look for – money is usually merely that – money. From a government perspective you can waste almost as much as you like but still make shit work.

But there’s going to be X number of people who have Y number of working hours each at their disposal, and those working hours are hard caps. Resources spent from that pool means something else won’t get done, no matter how important it is.

What officer Franco did guarantees that no matter how authorities try to compensate, justice will have been delayed and denied because him inventing cases means years worth of investigation of drug rings by everyone from the local PD to the FBI is now worthless. Both from an investigative pov and in court;

"Your honor, the case against my client rests on "evidence" which includes fictious information provided by Officer Franco. Defense moves to dismiss"

  • Every lawyer defending a drug dealer, for years to come.

"<sigh>. Motion granted. Case dismissed"

  • a lot of judges, for years to come.

It’s hilarious. That one bad cop all on his own may have done far more harm in his time than his entire police precinct has done good since its inception.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: clawback...

To send the message to police that they need to be honest in court, the city of New York should clawback the salary this detective "earned" while he was lying to win convictions.

The problem is that police unions generally resist this. They even resist modest discipline for things that would get non-members of their union substantial time in prison. The normal method of avoiding accountability is the arbitration'' provision in the contract. If the officer dislikes the planned discipline, the union takes it to arbitration. Asfrequent flyers” with the arbitrators, police unions normally achieve the desired results: eliminated or greatly reduced discipline.

Two years ago, a cop here in the City beat up a citizen. It was recorded on video. The chief looked at the video and sacked the cop, but the arbitrator said that, while the cop should have been sacked, the chief did it wrong so the cop gets his tax-funded job back.

Also, evidently, you cannot sack a cop for being the kind of person who would do such a thing.

So, remember, when you see “serve and protect”, remember that it refers to the police union, and that they are serving and protecting against those pesky citizens. And, whenever you see an arbitration clause, remember that it is intended to select a decision-maker who is beholden to whoever put in that arbitration clause.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
crazy_diamond (profile) says:

Please don’t forget the culpability of certain members general public who are empaneled as jurors in cases where cops are defendants. One of the Big Myths we’re taught about this country is that those who work in law infliction are above reproach without overwhelming evidence to the contrary — they are really the only ones accorded the assumptions of innocence and honesty. When cops are actually charged with a crime, there’s always a "person of faith" on the jury whose faith in the cops puts them above reproach, lest the cognitive dissonance become too great.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When cops are actually charged with a crime, there’s always a "person of faith" on the jury whose faith in the cops puts them above reproach, lest the cognitive dissonance become too great.

This is often the case, and probably will continue to occur at least some of the time because some people just refuse to accept the reality that cops are serial liars. This we will all have to deal with.

But there are greater systemic issues that we should most certainly not have to deal with: judges who accept a cop’s known "testilying" as truthful, judges who don’t allow a cop’s past lies to be introduced as evidence to impeach that cop’s "testilying," prosecutors who intentionally put known lying cops on the witness stand, an opaque system that hides a cop’s history of lying from everyone, including defense attorneys and the public.

Not only should lying cops be be held criminally accountable for the damage they cause, but their enablers (judges, prosecutors, police supervisors, captains, chiefs, etc) should also be held criminally accountable, as well.

Jeroen Hellingman (profile) says:

I wouldn’t agree with the statement that drugs are cheaper because of the huge amounts of money wasted on criminalizing and prosecuting it. It is more expensive because of it, and drug lords know that: they love the fact that it is illegal, because it increases the profit margins more than a hundred-fold. That is the lesson they learned in the Prohibition Era, and never forgot. Most common drugs cost next to nothing to produce, and, if it weren’t for the artificial scarcity, combined with constant advertising accompanying enforcement of crazy laws, the stuff would be available for a few cents per dose, and probably less people would use it. The solution to the drugs-issue has the following ingredients: 1. decriminalize, and 2. de-commercialize: allow sale, but not advertising or profits (note how this is going wrong with the legalization of marijuana). Provide it at cost to those who want it. 3. Resolve the underlying social and psychological issues, this is the hardest part, but probably far cheaper than continuing on the senseless road we’re on now.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Correcting this bit here...

"And what have we gotten in return? Drug users are the real winners here. The more money we throw at the Drug War, the more easily accessible and cheap drugs are."

Well, no, actually the real winners would be the drug pushers. Much as with prohibition the real effect of the war on drugs is a burgeoning industry of illegal drug manufacture and sale.

Legalization would render some 90% of organized crime bereft of its main revenue stream within weeks. It’s to the point where I’d have to ask how much money latin american cartels are funneling into lobbying efforts to extend and expand the drug war.

Anonymous Coward says:

Root cause

The root cause of the problem is how the law enforcement and judicial system employees are evaluated on their job effectiveness. Cops are rated by the number of "criminals" arrested. Lawyers and DAs on the number of cases "won", etc. And since the cost of being wrong or even lying is usually paid by someone else (it’s an external cost), they don’t care about that cost in ruined lives, or dead bodies. Just in how often they "win." We need to move those external costs into personal liability for the cops, lawyers, etc. If they purposefully act wrongly, they need to pay the price in the form of fines, jail time, or loss of employment.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And the very sad point lost in all of this…
No one cared until it hurt their record.

Suddenly they lose a bunch of slam dunk cases & they are upset.
If they cared about the law & justice they could have made sure this guy wasn’t a lying asshole, looking back on the cases now its really clear he was lying to them but they never bothered to check.

Now they throw the book at the cop but the number of charges he is facing isn’t high enough to account for his history.
They are all for stacking charges on citizens to overwhelm them, but are slowly reviewing this guys cases meanwhile people who were actually innocent of what they were charged with sit waiting for the system to get around to notice that the cop who testified against them lied in court alot.

But hey I’m sure he’ll still have his pension & vacation days protected by contracts that forgive so many sins that would put the rest of us under the jail.

And while the refrain of its only a few bad apples, no one has the will to check the other apples to avoid hurting their record, truth & justice be damned… those people we convicted were bad and deserved it, even if we needed a liar to convict them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We have an ongoing similar issue in Massachusetts with the Annie Dookhan / dry-labbing (just a different kind of testilying). She was falsifying lab reports about drugs for almost a decade before being caught and it took almost another decade for a DA to decide that all of the cases that were plead or convicted due to that lab’s evidence were to be thrown out because it was impossible to tell the fact from the fiction. Also, talk about bad apples in the barrel — looks like there are even more people from that lab and a related lab being investigated. It’s almost like people don’t do things in bubbles and people around them could/should/do notice. Now if only some of the people who noticed these people were full of shit and called them on it early, oh the number of lives ruined that could have been spared.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Ahh,... Life Imitating Art/Literature?

This article beautify embossed the fact of "that which is done in secret, WILL come to light.

Yes, but remember that it came to light years later. In the mean time, many people languished in durance vile, made unemployable by felony convictions, or killed by drug-enforcement-crazed cops.

At least Job got his stuff back. Those imprisioned by the lies of New York’s Finest will have neither their missed earnings nor their lost time. There is no way the city can restore the years of their children growing, their parents’s funerals, or their opportunities to make something of themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not much point in being nit-picky about the nut-and-bolts of articles written by hardworking journalists, many of whom do their own research, writing, formatting, editing, proofreading, etc. These folks are not like the talking heads on TV who frequently just read prepared and polished scripts on teleprompters. Better to pay attention to the substance of the articles.

Also, repetition is a common technique when trying to get the point across.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the DEA wasn’t the largest drug supplier on Earth (confiscated drugs are "disposed of" – which translates to resold, cash going directly into DEA officers pockets) maybe I wouldn’t laugh.

Then again the UK Met Police are the 3rd largest drug reseller. they’ve managed to lose over EIGHTY METRIC TONS of heroin alone from evidence storage 2010-2020…..

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

ECA (profile) says:

What to do,

When the job gets boring?
When there ISNT enough crime?
When the common person ISNT evil enough?
Lets find another Goose to cook! ITS THE MEXICAN CARTELS.

Just a basic concept.
If they want to use drugs let them.
If they want OUT of drugs, wouldnt it be cheaper to have Basic facilities for that? Rather Then paying $50k per year just to jail them? How many people can a Psychoanalyst, handle at $10-20 per hour?
AS long as persons are not hurting others, Why put them in jails? Let them Rot from the inside out, IF they want that.

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