Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chicago DUI lawyer wonders why video isn't standard in police arrests

I have yet to met a DUI lawyer who doesn't prefer video of the events leading up to an arrest. Video is often the only tool to exonerate a defendant who tells his/her lawyer, employer, family and friends, as well as the court that the accused is not guilty. Frequently, when the only parties present are the accused and the arresting officer, the officer is deemed more credible. We must always keep in mind that police officers are human beings first and that credibility is a two way street.

Two undercover narcotics officers have been charged with lying about a sting operation in Queens after one of the men they accused of selling drugs produced video evidence showing the officers had had no contact with him or three other men they arrested.

According to the indictment, Detective Anderson told his supervisor and said in police paperwork that he bought a Ziploc bag of cocaine for $40 from two men: Gabriel Lira and Julian Martinez. Instead, Detective Anderson had bought three bags of cocaine for $60 from the two men, the statement said.

Officer Tavarez said he bought two bags of cocaine for $100 from four men: Jose Colon, 24; his brother Maximo Colon, 27; Raul Duchimasa; and Luis Rodriguez. But the indictment says Officer Tavarez did not buy cocaine from them, and instead used the cocaine from Detective Anderson as evidence for his own case.

Detective Anderson also later told Officer Tavarez to claim that he had forgotten the details of the arrest of the four men, said the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown.

Five of the men were released without bail the day they were arrested; Maximo Colon was released three days later after posting $2,500 bail. Jose Colon went back to the club and made a copy of the security video showing that the officers did not have any contact with the Colons, Mr. Duchimasa and Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Brown’s statement said. The charges against the four were later dismissed.

From Huffington Post, June 13th

The brothers' evening started much like any other.

Max's friend worked at a bodega down the street from Delicias de Mi Tierra, where they'd sometimes drink and play pool in the evenings. This night, the pool table was closed. They instead sat at the bar. Security cameras ended up filming their every move.

The brothers barely moved from the same spot for about 90 minutes as the undercovers entered the bar and mixed with the crowd. Moments after the officers left, a backup team barged in and grabbed six men, including the brothers.

Paperwork signed by "UC 13200" _ Officer Henry Tavarez _ claimed that he told a patron he wanted to buy cocaine. By his account, that man responded by approaching the 28-year-old Max, who then went over to the undercover and demanded to pat him down to make sure he wasn't wearing a wire.

Max collected $100 from Tavarez, the report said. The officer claimed to see two bags of cocaine pass through the hands of three men, including Jose, before they were given to him.

Jose was released after a court appearance. His brother was shipped off to Riker's Island until he could make bail.

"I was scared," Max said of his time at Rikers. "I don't get into trouble, and here I am with real criminals."

Jose quickly got the tape to defense attorney Rochelle Berliner, a former narcotics prosecutor. She couldn't believe what she was seeing.

"I almost threw up," she said. "Because I must've prosecuted 1,500, 2,000 drug cases ... and all felonies. And I think back, Oh my God, I believed everything everyone told me. Maybe a handful of times did something not sound right to me. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic but I was like, sick."

What the tape doesn't show is striking: At no point did the officers interact with the undercovers, nor did the brothers appear to be involved in a drug deal with anyone else. Adding insult to injury, an outside camera taped the undercovers literally dancing down the street.

Berliner handed the tape over to the District Attorney's integrity unit. It reviewed the images more than 100 times to make sure it wasn't doctored by the defense before deciding to drop all charges against the brothers in June.

The misconduct "strikes at the very heart of our system of justice and erodes public confidence in our courts," said Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

I believe Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has said it all.


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Comments are welcome but please do not leave personal information or specific legal questions in the comment field. If you need legal assistance, the best way to get in touch with me is to call my office at 312.944.3973

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome but please do not leave personal information or specific legal questions in the comment field. If you need legal assistance, the best way to get in touch with me is to call my office at 312.944.3973