Brooklyn prosecutors are seeking to throw out 378 criminal convictions — mostly low-level drug and traffic offenses dating to 1999, reports The New York Times.
Each offense is related to 13 former New York Police Department officers who were later convicted of crimes related to their work.
The move is not only a part of an expansive effort by prosecutors to review cases that involved discredited police officers but to also recognize of the catastrophic effects that even misdemeanor convictions can have on people. This push would be among the largest mass dismissal of convictions in the country, according to data collected by the National Registry of Exonerations.
On Wednesday, Eric Gonzalez, the district attorney in Brooklyn, asked a state judge to vacate 15 convictions, all of which involved felonies and several of which resulted in prison time, according to the prosecutor’s office and the Legal Aid Society. Mr. Gonzalez’s office will seek to dismiss the remaining cases over the next few weeks.
“These convictions continue to hang around people and impact them in all kinds of ways,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Had we known about these officers, we would never have brought these cases.”
The review by prosecution has been underway since last year and came after the office’s review of cases involving a former narcotics detective, Joseph E. Franco, who was charged with perjury and other offenses in connection with his undercover work and testimony for prosecutors.
The concerns over his cases sparked the broader review in Brooklyn, as prosecutors began to examine past cases handled by other officers “who were similarly charged and convicted of misconduct” that was directly related to their jobs. Currently, Mr. Franco, who was fired by the Police Department, is awaiting trial in Manhattan.
And similar to Gonzalez, several civil rights organizations are asking the city to erase convictions in which the corrupt officers played a role. 60 cases were just dismissed last fall by Melinda Katz, the Queens district attorney, based on the discovery of three former corrupt detectives. In addition to this, hundreds of convictions thrown out in the Bronx and Manhattan involved Mr. Franco.
The Brooklyn cases originated from arrests that took place between 1999 and 2017. Nobody is currently incarcerated as a result of these convictions, and none of the 13 officers involved in the cases remain on the force.
And of the Brooklyn cases, 331 were misdemeanor convictions and 47 were felonies. About half of them involved four officers who were involved in a corruption scandal that shook the police department’s narcotics operations in Brooklyn more than a decade ago. In that case, officers were found to have planted evidence, falsified records and rewarded informants with drugs.
“Quick hits with little oversight,” said Charles Linehan, a former Manhattan prosecutor who has run the Brooklyn district attorney’s conviction review unit since January. “They almost do more damage in terms of eroding people’s trust and confidence in the system.”