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  1. Kimberly Thomas was arrested on gun charges in the Bronx that were later dropped. “For 396 days I have been fighting for my life, my freedom and my sanity,” she said. CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times ‘Testilying’ by Police: A Stubborn Problem Police lying persists, even amid an explosion of video evidence that has allowed the public to test officers’ credibility. By JOSEPH GOLDSTEINMARCH 18, 2018 Officer Nector Martinez took the witness stand in a Bronx courtroom on Oct. 10, 2017, and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. There had been a shooting, Officer Martinez testified, and he wanted to search a nearby apartment for evidence. A woman stood in the doorway, carrying a laundry bag. Officer Martinez said she set the bag down “in the middle of the doorway” — directly in his path. “I picked it up to move it out of the way so we could get in.” Blue Lies A series of stories examining the entrenched culture of 'testilying' in the New York Police Department. The laundry bag felt heavy. When he put it down, he said, he heard a “clunk, a thud.” What might be inside? Officer Martinez tapped the bag with his foot and felt something hard, he testified. He opened the bag, leading to the discovery of a Ruger 9-millimeter handgun and the arrest of the woman. But a hallway surveillance camera captured the true story: There’s no laundry bag or gun in sight as Officer Martinez and other investigators question the woman in the doorway and then stride into the apartment. Inside, they did find a gun, but little to link it to the woman, Kimberly Thomas. Still, had the camera not captured the hallway scene, Officer Martinez’s testimony might well have sent her to prison. Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo When Ms. Thomas’s lawyer sought to play the video in court, prosecutors in the Bronx dropped the case. Then the court sealed the case file, hiding from view a problem so old and persistent that the criminal justice system sometimes responds with little more than a shrug: false testimony by the police. “Behind closed doors, we call it testilying,” a New York City police officer, Pedro Serrano, said in a recent interview, echoing a word that officers coined at least 25 years ago. “You take the truth and stretch it out a little bit.” An investigation by The New York Times has found that on more than 25 occasions since January 2015, judges or prosecutors determined that a key aspect of a New York City police officer’s testimony was probably untrue. The Times identified these cases — many of which are sealed — through interviews with lawyers, police officers and current and former judges. [ALSO READ: He Excelled as a Detective, Until Prosecutors Stopped Believing Him] In these cases, officers have lied about the whereabouts of guns, putting them in suspects’ hands or waistbands when they were actually hidden out of sight. They have barged into apartments and conducted searches, only to testify otherwise later. Under oath, they have given firsthand accounts of crimes or arrests that they did not in fact witness. They have falsely claimed to have watched drug deals happen, only to later recant or be shown to have lied. No detail, seemingly, is too minor to embellish. “Clenched fists” is how one Brooklyn officer described the hands of a man he claimed had angrily approached him and started screaming and yelling — an encounter that prosecutors later determined never occurred. Another officer, during a Bronx trial, accused a driver of recklessly crossing the double-yellow line — on a stretch of road that had no double-yellow line. In many instances, the motive for lying was readily apparent: to skirt constitutional restrictions against unreasonable searches and stops. In other cases, the falsehoods appear aimed at convicting people — who may or may not have committed a crime — with trumped-up evidence. In still others, the motive is not easy to discern. In October 2016, for example, a plainclothes Brooklyn officer gave a grand jury a first-person account of a gun arrest. Putting herself in the center of the action, the officer, Dornezia Agard, testified that as she approached a man to confront him for littering, he suddenly crouched behind a van, pulled from his waistband a dark object — later identified as a gun — and threw it on the ground. “P.O. Agard testified that she heard a hard metal object hit the ground,” according to a letter the Brooklyn district attorney’s office wrote summarizing her testimony. But prosecutors lost faith in her account in July 2017, after learning from other officers that she was not among the first officers on the scene. Officer Agard had arrived later as backup, according to the letter, which noted that the gun charges against the man were later dismissed. The prosecutors did not address why Officer Agard claimed to be a witness, or why the other officers present seem to have allowed her to process the arrest. Police lying raises the likelihood that the innocent end up in jail — and that as juries and judges come to regard the police as less credible, or as cases are dismissed when the lies are discovered, the guilty will go free. Police falsehoods also impede judges’ efforts to enforce constitutional limits on police searches and seizures. “We have 36,000 officers with law enforcement power, and there are a small handful of these cases every year,” said J. Peter Donald, a spokesman for the Police Department, the nation’s largest municipal force. “That doesn’t make any of these cases any less troubling. Our goal is always, always zero. One is too many, but we have taken significant steps to combat this issue.” Shrouded, but Persistent The 25 cases identified by The Times are almost certainly only a fraction of those in which officers have come under suspicion for lying in the past three years. That’s because a vast majority of cases end in plea deals before an officer is ever required to take the witness stand in open court, meaning the possibility that an officer lied is seldom aired in public. And in the rare cases when an officer does testify in court — and a judge finds the testimony suspicious, leading to the dismissal of the case — the proceedings are often sealed afterward. Still, the cases identified by The Times reveal an entrenched perjury problem several decades in the making that shows little sign of fading. So far in 2018, a Queens detective has been convicted of lying in a drug case and a Brooklyn detective has been arrested amid accusations that he fabricated the results of a photo lineup. These cases returned the phenomenon of police lying to the public eye, leaving police officials to defend the integrity of honest officers. Kevin Richardson, the Police Department’s top internal prosecutor, said he believed so-called testilying was nearing its end. “I think it’s a problem that’s very much largely on its way out,” he said. Indeed, it’s tempting to think about police lying as a bygone of past eras: a form of misconduct that ran unchecked as soaring street violence left the police overwhelmed during the 1980s and early 1990s and that re-emerged as police embraced stop-and-frisk tactics and covered up constitutional violations with lies. But false testimony by the police persists even as crime has drastically receded across the city and as the Police Department has renounced the excesses of the stop-and-frisk years. Some policing experts anticipate that the ubiquity of cameras — whether on cellphones, affixed to buildings or worn by officers — will greatly reduce police lying. For the moment, however, video seems more capable of exposing lies than vanquishing them. Memory and Manipulation In two recent cases, The Times found, officers appear to have given false accounts about witness identifications. These cases are particularly troubling because erroneous identifications by witnesses have been a leading cause of wrongful convictions. After a 2016 mugging near a Brooklyn subway station, the police arrested a group of four people, one of whom was found to be in possession of the victim’s wallet. In preparing the case, prosecutors sought to pin down a few basic facts. Had the police brought the victim, who was punched and had his wallet taken, to positively identify the four suspects after they were taken into custody? If so, what had the victim said? Getting a straight answer from the arresting officer, Chedanan Naurang, proved nearly impossible. It had been Officer Naurang’s quick thinking that had made the arrest possible: Having lost the suspects at one subway station, he followed a hunch and drove one stop down the line, where he caught up with the four men after they got off the train. But certain details Officer Naurang gave prosecutors kept shifting over the next year, according to a February 2017 letter that prosecutors wrote in which they summarized his fluid story. Officer Naurang said at one point that the identification had occurred inside a police station when the victim passed by the holding cells, saw the men and confirmed their involvement in the crime. [ALSO READ: Two NYPD Officers Are Charged With Lying About Suspect] A few weeks later, he backtracked. No, the victim had actually never gotten to see the suspects at the police station, Officer Naurang explained. Instead, the victim had gotten a chance to view them on the street, shortly after their arrest. That’s when the victim got out of the police vehicle in which he had been waiting, Officer Naurang said, and pointed to one of the four men, identifying him as an attacker. This version of events, however, was at odds with the recollection of the police officer who had driven the victim to the scene of the arrest. That officer, Christopher McDonald, told prosecutors that the victim had remained in the back seat while viewing the four suspects. And Officer McDonald said that the victim couldn’t say whether they were his assailants. He thought he recognized their clothing, but wasn’t sure. Because of Officer Naurang’s changing story, prosecutors dropped the case against the men as part of a deal in which all four pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a second mugging they were accused of the same night. Continue reading the main story Photo Detective Michael Foder, right, walked out of Federal District Court in Brooklyn accompanied by his lawyer, James Moschella, after his February arraignment on perjury charges. CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times Another case in which the police gave false information about a witness identification came after a carjacking in Brooklyn in 2015. In that case, the police began to focus on two suspects based on an anonymous tip and a fingerprint. A detective, Michael Foder, testified that he had then prepared two photo lineups — one for each suspect. Each consisted of the suspect’s photograph printed on a sheet of paper, alongside the photos of “fillers” — people of vaguely similar appearance with no connection to the crime. The hope was that the victim, a livery cabdriver, might recognize the suspect’s photo and pick him out — an outcome that prosecutors regard as a strong indicator of a suspect’s guilt. That’s what happened, Detective Foder testified, when the victim came to the precinct to view the photo lineup for one suspect in November 2015 and returned in February 2016 to view one for the second suspect. But the photo lineups that Detective Foder had prepared — and were submitted as evidence in federal court — were fabrications. It was a federal prosecutor who first realized that many of the photos used in the lineups were not yet available at the time Detective Foder claimed to have shown them to the victim. The reason? The photos of some of the fillers had yet to be taken. The lineup that was said to be from November 2015 included filler photographs that were not taken until December. And the one he claimed to have administered in February featured photos that were taken in March. Last month, Detective Foder was indicted on federal perjury charges. The indictment accuses him of lying to “conceal the fact that he had falsified documentation” related to the photo lineups. Detective Foder’s lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on the detective’s behalf. Photo A prosecutor discovered that many of the photos in the array Detective Foder said he had shown the victim Feb. 14, 2016, were not even taken until after that date. Justifying a Search Detective Foder’s actions appear to be aimed at tilting the scales toward guilt. But more often, The Times found, false statements by the police seem intended to hide illegal searches and seizures, such as questionable car stops or entries into apartments that result in officers finding guns or drugs. If the truth were to emerge that the case began with an illegal police search, the evidence would quite likely be thrown out and the case dismissed. The story that Christopher Thomas, a plainclothes police officer, told a grand jury in December 2014 sounded plausible enough. As he approached a parked car with a flashlight in hand, he said, he saw a man in the driver’s seat pull a firearm out of his waistband and stick it between the car’s center console and the front seat. The driver was indicted on gun-possession charges. But by July 2015, as video of the encounter was about to emerge, Officer Thomas started backtracking. In conversations with the assistant district attorney on the case, Officer Thomas acknowledged that he had not seen the driver pull the gun from his waistband. In fact, he said, he had never seen the driver with his hand on the gun. “He stated to the A.D.A. that he did not know why he had testified to those facts before the grand jury,” according to an email prosecutors later sent to a defense lawyer. This email, as well as several similar letters that prosecutors sent in other cases, were provided to The Times by Cynthia Conti-Cook, a Legal Aid Society lawyer who has been compiling a database of police misconduct allegations. The video undermined Officer Thomas’s original claim of having seen the gun at the outset. It shows Officer Thomas and his partner approach the car and shine their flashlights inside. Their demeanor on the video suggests that they had seen nothing so far to cause alarm. One of the two officers — either Officer Thomas or his partner — is so unconcerned that he bends down for about seven seconds, and appears to tie his shoe. Video emerged that undermined Officer Christopher Thomas’s original claim of having immediately spotted a gun in the car. Brooklyn prosecutors dismissed the gun case and, according to the prosecutors’ email, informed the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau about the problems with Officer Thomas’s account. An internal police disciplinary process led to Officer Thomas losing 30 vacation days and being placed on dismissal probation for a year, according to a person familiar with the case. He is now a sergeant in a narcotics unit. Officer Thomas is not the only officer to have tried to withdraw earlier testimony as soon as video of an encounter emerged, or was about to. “I misspoke when I was in grand jury,” Sean Kinane, an officer with the 52nd Precinct in the Bronx, testified in federal court in 2016. That was all the explanation he gave, or was asked to give, for why he was recanting his earlier testimony about witnessing what appeared to be narcotics transactions in the moments before he stopped a heroin dealer in the street. That claim, if true, would have given the police justification to stop the man, who was discovered to be carrying 153 glassine envelopes of heroin and eight bags of crack cocaine. But after the drug dealer managed to get a video recording of the encounter, Officer Kinane’s story changed. He had misspoken. Reached by telephone for comment, Detective Kinane — he was promoted in 2017 — hung up. ‘No Fear of Being Caught’ Many police officials and experts express optimism that the prevalence of cameras will reduce police lying. As officers begin to accept that digital evidence of an encounter will emerge, lying will be perceived as too risky — or so the thinking goes. “Basically it’s harder for a cop to lie today,” the Police Department’s top legal official, Lawrence Byrne, said last year at a New York City Bar Association event, noting that there were millions of cellphones on the streets of New York, each with a camera. “There is virtually no enforcement encounter where there isn’t immediate video of what the officers are doing.” As more police encounters are recorded — whether on the cellphones of bystanders or the body-worn cameras of officers — false police testimony is being exposed in cases where the officer’s word might once have carried the day. That is true for run-of-the-mill drug cases as well as for police shootings so notorious that they are seared into the national consciousness. Yet interviews with officers suggest the prevalence of cameras alone won’t end police lying. That’s because even with cameras present, some officers still figure — with good reason — that a lie is unlikely to be exposed. Because plea deals are a typical outcome, it’s rare for a case to develop to the point where the defendant can question an officer’s version of events at a hearing. [ALSO READ: New York Detective Charged With Faking Lineup Results] “There’s no fear of being caught,” said one Brooklyn officer who has been on the force for roughly a decade. “You’re not going to go to trial and nobody is going to be cross-examined.” The percentage of cases that progress to the point where an officer is cross-examined is tiny. In 2016, for instance, there were slightly more than 185 guilty pleas, dismissals or other non-trial outcomes for each criminal case in New York City that went to trial and reached a verdict. There were 1,460 trial verdicts in criminal cases that year, while 270,304 criminal cases were resolved without a trial. To be sure, officers are sometimes called to testify before trial at so-called suppression hearings in which the legality of police conduct is evaluated. But those are rare. In Manhattan, about 2.4 percent of felony criminal cases have a suppression hearing, according to data from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The rate for non-felony cases is slightly more than one-tenth of 1 percent. Continue reading the main story Photo Officer Pedro Serrano said he doesn’t engage in “testilying,” but he said it remains a problem in the New York City Police Department. “You take the truth and stretch it out a little bit.” CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times A Crucial Court Decision Several officers, all working in the Bronx and Brooklyn, candidly described in interviews how the practice of lying runs like a fault line through precincts. “You’re either a ‘lie guy’ or you’re not,” said the Brooklyn officer. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he described how he avoided certain officers and units in his precinct based on his discomfort with the arrests they made. Earlier in his career, he said, a supervisor and a detective had each encouraged him to lie about the circumstances of drug arrests. Another time, he said, he had worked with an officer who, after discovering drugs while searching a suspect without cause, turned to the other officers present with a question — “How did we find this?” — and sought their help devising a false story. Countless police officers have struggled with that question — “How did we find this?” — ever since 1961, when the Supreme Court ruled, in Mapp v. Ohio, that state judges must throw out evidence from illegal searches and seizures. Before this ruling, New York City officers could stop someone they thought might be dealing or using drugs, search their pockets and clothing, describe the encounter truthfully, and not worry that a court would throw out the drugs that they had discovered, even though the stop and search had been, strictly speaking, illegal. That changed with the Mapp decision, which greatly expanded the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Immediately after the Mapp case, police officers saw many narcotics cases be dismissed. Then they made what one judge called “the great discovery.” If they testified that the suspect had dropped a bag of drugs on the ground as the police approached, courts would generally deem those arrests legal. Within a year of the Mapp decision, courts in New York City were seeing a marked increase in what became known as “dropsy” testimony — in some units “dropsy” cases increased more than 70 percent, according to one 1968 study. There was little reason to think drug users had grown more skittish. Rather, the influx of these cases was understood to be a sign that police officers were lying in a substantial number of cases. Ever since, courts in New York have been plagued with officers lying about how they came to discover that a suspect was carrying drugs or guns. By 1994, a commission appointed to investigate police corruption noted that lying to make cases stick was common enough for “testilying” to become a well-known portmanteau. The report by the Mollen Commission noted a few established patterns of falsehoods. Officers who illegally searched a car might later say they discovered contraband in “plain view.” Or an officer who found a gun or drugs in someone’s clothing during an illegal search might falsely claim to have seen “a bulge in the person’s pocket.” Just like the dropsy testimony a few decades earlier, these stories of “plain view” and “suspicious bulges” became scripts that many police officers stuck to. They were rarely challenged, not even as officers in New York City began repeating them tens and then hundreds of thousands of times as police stops of mainly black and Latino men skyrocketed during the years Michael R. Bloomberg was mayor. Embellished Narratives In recent years, the number of times police stopped and frisked pedestrians has declined precipitously. But certain plainclothes units, such as the so-called anti-crime teams, still engage in an aggressive style of policing that relies heavily on stop-and-frisk tactics. These teams make a disproportionate number of gun arrests, but they are also responsible for a substantial number of dubious stops of pedestrians and drivers, police officers and legal experts said in interviews. Several uniformed patrol officers said they have long suspected that the track record of plainclothes anti-crime teams for making weapons and drug arrests was bolstered by illegal searches and a tolerance for lying about them. These officers described a familiar scene: a group of black men ordered out of a vehicle for little reason and made to sit on the curb or lean against the bumper, as officers search the vehicle for guns and drugs. “Certain car stops, certain cops will say there is odor of marijuana. And when I get to the scene, I immediately don’t smell anything,” said Officer Serrano, one of the few officers interviewed who was willing to speak on the record. “I can’t tell you what you smelled, but it’s obvious to me there is no smell of marijuana.” Mr. Serrano’s testimony about a secret station-house recording he made was crucial evidence in a landmark stop-and-frisk trial in 2013. He and nearly a dozen other current and former officers are suing the Police Department over what they describe as arrest quotas. Photo Edwin Raymond, a New York City police sergeant, said plainclothes officers working with so-called anti-crime teams bend the truth “to fit the narrative.” CreditChristopher Anderson/Magnum Photos “It’s the anti-crime teams, the plainclothes officers, everyone knows they will violate the law, get what they want and then write it to fit the narrative,” said Edwin Raymond, a police sergeant who is also a plaintiff in the arrest-quota case. “The narratives will be embellished to fit the parameters of probable cause, if need be.” ‘A Surreal Journey’ To be sure, there are other motives for lying, other than to cover up illegal searches. Some police officers have said they faced pressure from commanders to write more tickets or make more arrests. A decade ago, narcotics detectives were found to have falsely accused people of dealing drugs in order to meet arrest quotas. And there is pressure to solve — or at least close — cases. That may have motivated Officer Martinez’s gun-in-the-laundry-bag-in-the-doorway story. What appears to have actually happened is that Officer Martinez and other officers searched inside the apartment for evidence from a nearby shooting. They had good reason to focus on that apartment. The victim, after being shot, had rushed there, along with others. Crime-scene photos taken by the department’s Evidence Collection Team suggest that a gun was found inside the apartment, in or near a laundry bag on the floor. But whose gun was it? That was not clear. A number of people had been in the apartment in the preceding hours. And Ms. Thomas, who lived more than a mile away and arrived about an hour after the shooting, was one of the few people there when Officer Martinez showed up. There is little, if any, evidence tying Ms. Thomas to the gun other than Officer Martinez’s false testimony that placed her in the doorway with the laundry bag in her arms. Prosecutors acknowledged that DNA testing indicates that Ms. Thomas did not handle the gun. Moreover, court papers that prosecutors filed after the case fell apart noted that the police appear to have focused on Ms. Thomas while ignoring other potential suspects. Several other people had entered the apartment shortly before Ms. Thomas — “none of whom are questioned by the police,” the prosecutors’ papers noted. As for Officer Martinez’s false story of the laundry bag in the doorway, the prosecution’s legal papers noted only that “there are clear inconsistencies” between Officer Martinez’s “recollection of events and the video.” “At no time in this video is there a laundry bag in the defendant’s hands,” the prosecution’s legal papers noted. “Neither is there a bag in the doorway of the apartment, and at no time is the arresting officer observed moving a bag before entering the apartment.” 91COMMENTS By the time prosecutors officially dropped the case in November 2017, Ms. Thomas had already appeared in court 16 times, according to a tally of appearances kept by one of her lawyers, Alexandra Conlon, of the Bronx Defenders. On the last appearance, Ms. Thomas, 39, asked to address the court. “For 396 days I have been fighting for my life, my freedom and my sanity,” she said. “This has been such a surreal journey that I don’t wish on anyone.” Officer Martinez remains in good standing at the 41st Precinct. Shortly after the case was dismissed, he was promoted to detective and given his gold shield. When a reporter tried to interview him in January about his testimony in the case, he declined to comment, saying, “That’s not something I can speak about directly with you.” Continue reading the main story Photo Ms. Thomas outside the Bronx apartment building where she was arrested on gun charges that were dismissed after a video contradicted the police officer’s account. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/nyregion/testilying-police-perjury-new-york.html There is a 2013 article on the same subject. Why Police Lie Under Oath By MICHELLE ALEXANDERFEB. 2, 2013 THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.” But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so. That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.” The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.” Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony. Continue reading the main story Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record. “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained. Photo CreditWesley Allsbrook All true, but there is more to the story than that. Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in. THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.” For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something. You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.” Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human. Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group. The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us. And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html
  2. In 2010, Michigan State Police returned the medical marijuana they seized from our client during a traffic stop. The cannabis was returned after we obtained a dismissal of all charges in a court order directing the arresting agency to return the medical marijuana to our client.
  3. Michael Komorn has worked tirelessly for his clients at Komorn Law PLLC to return property seized and forfeited to the police. The items and property seized often has absolutely no medical marijuana (or any crime at all) connection whatsoever. Just looking at the list of things seized, none of it makes sense. 4 wheeler? Gas generator? 401k retirement account? Cars purchased 20 years ago and restored. Ladders, children's birthday money taken out of their Hallmark birthday cards. iphones, ipads, computers, cash, gold rings, guns. The police will take anything of value that they can in any medical marijuana case. As an expert in civil asset forfeiture, Michael Komorn and Komorn Law PLLC attorney Jeff Frazier educate other lawyers on the steps and pitfalls of forfeiture cases on ICLE. Michael Komorn and Jeff Frazier discuss with Rachael Sedlacek about the procedural requirements in a civil asset forfeiture case. Criminal defense can often involve recovering property seized by the police. Civil asset forfeiture cases require navigation of unique procedural rules and complex negotiations. LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) - You have seen the movies. Police seize the stuff of crime bosses to stop a network of criminals, but could it happen to the average person? Could your stuff be seized even if you aren’t charged with a crime? Defense attorneys say it is happening all the time here in Michigan, especially to medical marijuana users.When police seize stuff they believe was bought or is money made from a crime, they start what is called a civil asset forfeiture process. Rep. Lucido says bill would prevent police from seizing innocent people's stuff Kim Russell 11:28 PM, Jan 30, 2018 LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) - You have seen the movies. Police seize the stuff of crime bosses to stop a network of criminals, but could it happen to the average person? Could your stuff be seized even if you aren’t charged with a crime? Defense attorneys say it is happening all the time here in Michigan, especially to medical marijuana users. When police seize stuff they believe was bought or is money made from a crime, they start what is called a civil asset forfeiture process. “It allows law enforcement and benefits everybody, to remove the profit motive from drug dealing,” said Robert Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. Police say they only seize stuff they truly believe is connected to crimes. Often people are never charged with a crime or their belongings are kept after charges are dropped. “I did not get bound over by the judge but they still have my stuff,” said Ginnifer Hency as she testified before state lawmakers in 2015. She said she has multiple sclerosis and is a medical marijuana patient. She said even after a judge cleared her of any crime, the prosecutor fought to keep her valuables. Lawmakers changed the law to raise the burden of proof, but people are still voicing complaints. “I felt robbed, like a highway robbery,” said John Hamann of what happened to him and his dad Ron Hamann. The Hamanns say they believe it is about making money for law enforcement. When medical marijuana became legal, they applied for cards to be caregivers and patients. “I thought everything was legal,” said Ron. “Everything you are supposed to do. I followed all the weights, all the counts and everything like that, but it doesn’t matter. They take everything and say gotcha,” said John. They say almost three years ago police seized all their valuables. They say about two years later, only when they came close to winning their belongings back, were they charged with manufacturing marijuana. To them, it felt like a shakedown. “WCPO’s longstanding office protocol is that any civil forfeiture case and the associated criminal cases are kept separate. In other words WCPO has a fire wall in place..The civil and criminal cases are completely independent from one another,” said Maria Miller of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in a statement. The prosecutor’s office says the Hamann's face the charges because it is alleged that they had over 20 pounds of marijuana and 69 marijuana plants. Komorn, their attorney says that doesn’t make sense as a legal allegation. Ron had a patient card and proof he was a caregiver for two patients. He was allowed to possess 36 plants. John had a patient card and was a caregiver for 4 patients. He was allowed to possess 60 plants. As for the weight, Komorn says pictures submitted as evidence show the marijuana weighed was unusable in that it was wet and included stalks thrown in the garbage. Komorn says only usable marijuana is supposed to count in weight limitations. The Hamanns say what was seized has nothing to do with marijuana. They say police seized their 401Ks, which they contributed to through their jobs at a home remodeling company. Police told them they could because the money was from drugs. “I don’t understand it at all. It is on my paystub. It shows where my money comes from. It is all legal,” said John Hamann. “All the money is traceable from his job into his 401k,” said Rep. Peter Lucido (R-36th District). “There is no logic or reason for the police to do what they are doing. But they have the right to do it under state law.” Representative Peter Lucido has introduced House Bill 4158. He says police all too often seize property from the innocent.Taking a look at the numbers. The state’s asset forfeiture report says in 2016 police seized more than 15 million dollars in property. In about ten percent of those cases no one was charged. He wants the law changed, so that police would only be able to keep your stuff if there is a conviction, forcing police to at least charge people in order to keep their belongings. “They have a right to seize it and put it into an evidence locker, but if they don’t charge the person, what did the person do wrong under the law?” asks Lucido. “It does put people in a tough spot. It puts a person in a tough spot if those proceeds are from illegal activity,” said Stevenson. Law enforcement leaders, like Stevenson, say If someone wants to get their stuff back, all they have to do is answer the questions investigators have. It has the potential to be a powerful tool in the fight against crime. “One of the things you have to do in a civil case, which you do not have to do in a criminal case, is you have to answer questions,” said Stevenson. Michael Komorn argues that it hurts justice. He says he takes on clients who can’t afford his services, because their assets are seized. “The idea that the government just takes it, and the idea that by possessing it it becomes theirs, and the burden shifts to the owner of it to prove that the property is not guilty or that they got it legally, goes against the grain of what people expect from our legal system,” said Komorn. John and Ron Hamman says they believe they will be found not guilty - but in the meantime are being punished. Rep. Lucido will have the chance to make his case that this law needs to be changed during a hearing in Lansing on February 6. https://www.wxyz.com/news/rep-lucido-says-bill-would-prevent-police-from-seizing-innocent-peoples-stuff http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/vibrator-taken-during-marijuana-police-raid-says-woman Read more about criminal asset forfeiture and civil asset forfeiture on my blog. http://komornlaw.com/does-freezing-defendants-untainted-assets-violate-right-to-counsel-of-choice/ http://komornlaw.com/how-a-sex-toy-put-spotlight-on-michigan-civil-asset-forfeiture-laws-targeted-for-reform/ http://komornlaw.com/civil-asset-forfeiture-guilty-until-proven-innocent/ http://komornlaw.com/editorial-court-puts-limit-on-police-stealing/ http://komornlaw.com/feds-using-forfeiture-to-their-advantage/ http://komornlaw.com/mich-cops-seized-24m-in-2014-in-drug-cases/ http://komornlaw.com/house-speaker-michigan-must-reform-asset-forfeiture/ http://komornlaw.com/court-pot-as-tip-no-reason-for-police-to-seize-car/ http://komornlaw.com/vibrator-taken-during-marijuana-police-raid-says-woman-fox-2/ http://komornlaw.com/police-ransack-charges-dropped/ http://komornlaw.com/2015-michigan-state-police-asset-forfeiture-report-final/ Meet Some Law Enforcement Officers Who Support Forfeiture Reform Michigan Legislature should strengthen property rights By JARRETT SKORUP | Feb. 14, 2018 | Follow Jarrett Skorup on Twitter While many interest groups representing law enforcement employees oppose reforming civil asset forfeiture to require a criminal conviction before the state can take ownership of a person’s property, some law enforcement officers support the changes. In the Traverse City Record-Eagle, reporter Kyle Kaminski gets comments from a variety of law enforcement officials about forfeiture generally and about a bill that would reform how it's used in Michigan. Here are the responses: “It would be easier for us and more fair to those who are having their property forfeited to have a criminal conviction,” said Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nate Alger. “Our system is based on being innocent until proven guilty.” … Attorney General Bill Schuette this week said conviction before [forfeiture] is a “good principle” to maintain. … County Prosecutor Bob Cooney noted most local forfeiture cases include a criminal conviction but said current laws force them to continue. “I wish the state would better fund narcotics teams and not incentivize them in any way to go after forfeiture dollars,” Cooney said. “At the same time, those laws were set up to take away profits from those selling illegal drugs. That’s the idea.” … “I’m a little concerned that by tying them to a criminal conviction, it’s going to bring me people who try to barter their way out of things,” Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault said. “I could also see the argument then that we’re only prosecuting people to take their stuff.” Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said “common sense” dictates police first need to prove someone guilty of a crime. “I know forfeiture is a huge asset, especially for drug enforcement teams. There’s never enough money to fund those things,” Schendel said. “But I like to err on the side of the people and the Constitution.” The law enforcement officials are joined by others in their field who support the conviction requirement. House Bill 4158 would do the following: Require a criminal conviction, or plea agreement, prior to any forfeiture taking place for assets under $50,000. Allow for exemptions for people who die, are deported or abandon their property. This properly balances protecting innocent people’s property rights with enabling law enforcement to forfeit property that was either obtained with proceeds from illegal activity or used for illegal purposes. http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/meet-some-law-enforcement-officers-who-support-forfeiture-reform
  4. Police in Washington divert efforts to other crimes due to marijuana law 03/20/14 09:26 PM —Updated 03/21/14 12:23 PM The number of misdemeanor charges against adults over the age of 21 for marijuana possession have severely dropped in Washington state after voters approved a ballot measure last election that legalized recreational marijuana use. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the new marijuana laws have allowed law enforcement officials to spend more time on other criminal offenses instead of marijuana charges. ACLU’s Washington state chapter found that in 2013, the number of filed misdemeanor marijuana possession charges were 120 cases, which is down from 5,531 cases in 2012. The state ballot initiative has freed up time for police officers, the ACLU says, and has re-focused the efforts that are typically exerted on misdemeanor marijuana offenses – including basic investigation, paperwork and court time – to other criminal cases per day. “The data strongly suggest that I-502 has achieved one of its primary goals - to free up limited police and prosecutorial resources,” state ACLU’s criminal justice policy counsel Mark Cooke said in a news release. “The hope is that could free up scarce limited public safety resources to focus on more pressing needs,” Cooke said. The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, 2/21/14, 10:53 AM ET Washington State slow to implement marijuana regulation There is still some concern about the ballot measure with police officers worrying about underage users potentially getting their hands on marijuana. Currently, Washington’s law prohibits people under 21 from possessing it, and adults 21 years or older may possess up to “one ounce of usable marijuana.” But numbers from Washington's Administrative Office of the Courts shows that misdemeanor possession charges have fallen in the past two years among people under 21. Last year, the number of marijuana charges was 1,963. In 2012, the number was 3,469 and in 2011, the number was 4,127. Cooke says that racial disparities still exist in the number of marijuana charges. Among the 120 possession charges last year, the data showed that black adults were three times more likely to have marijuana possession charges filed against them than white adults. This ratio also pertained to the data before the ballot measure was passed in 2012.
  5. JACKSON, MI – Jackson law enforcement and city officials have a plan to enforce a new marijuana ordinance that they believe falls within the spirit of the law. A law passed in November via a 2,242-1,434 vote decriminalizes up to an ounce of marijuana on private property for those age 21 and older within the city. Jackson Police Chief Matthew Heins said the city police department has advised its officers to follow the new law. "First and foremost, it was my objective to enforce what voters voted on," Heins said. "We struggled with some details in the law, but it's the law." Some of the subjects in the law Heins and others debated were what constitutes private property. "Target is private property, for example," Heins said. "But we don't think it was the public's intention to allow a 21-year-old to possess marijuana at your local Target." The proposal changed the city's code of ordinances to read "none of the provisions of this division shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property by a person who has attained the age of 21 years." Heins said it's unclear whether people will be allowed to sell marijuana on private property under the new law. "We haven't come up with all the answers," he said. Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka said his office will continue to prosecute state law violations as they always have. "If city police bring a warrant request over a state law we will review it," he said. "The reality is federal and state laws still supersede city ordinances." Heins said JPD officers will still be allowed to enforce state statutes regarding marijuana, but will have to justify their actions and "keep in mind the voice of the people." "If we have known drug dealer with multiple convictions who has one ounce or less, there's a chance we'll still enforce state law," Heins said. "There will always be extenuating circumstances." http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2013/12/jackson_police_officials_say_t.html
  6. Long Beach, CA Police Sued After Allegedly Using Excessive Force During MMJ Collective Crackdown Jul 05, 2012 In June, Long Beach, CA police raided THC Downtown Collective as a part of a city wide crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. A complaint has now been filed by the collective’s employees, which claims that over $10,000 in damage was committed, as well as destruction of evidence by police and police brutality toward employees. Surveillance videos from the day of the raid show a police officer stepping on the back and neck of Dorian Brooks, a volunteer at the collective, as he was taken into custody after surrendering to police. In addition, police are seen destroying surveillance cameras with a metal pole. According to NBC Los Angeles, however, the video was being recorded at an off-site location, so police only destroyed the camera, not the video footage that had been recorded up to that point. A police spokesperson has announced that, “A thorough review into what occurred during that operation will be conducted once all of the facts have been collected.” The incident is being referred to as a “personnel matter.” The collective was not considered to be one of the 18 exempt collectives in Long Beach which have permits from the city and are technically allowed to operate. However, the collective was operating in compliance with state law. Below is footage of the raid and the aftermath left behind: LEO CAUGHT ON CAMERA DURING THC CLINC RAID!! Trix
  7. Officials in Oregon Are Giving A Small Medical Marijuana Edibles Company A Hard Time Not all medical marijuana patients want to necessarily smoke their marijuana. Edible marijuana products are favorable to many patients, and a healthier alternative from smoking. However, getting their hands on these edibles can sometimes be difficult. In Oregon, Richard Nuckols, the owner of a new non-profit company called MaryJane’s Treats wants to change all of this. He has just applied for a business license in Medford, OR, to start a company that wants to make medical marijuana edibles such as granola bars, fudge, all-natural candies, gummy bears, cookies and brownies. So far however, MaryJane’s Treats is not being treated with a warm welcome by the city of Medford. Commenting on the company’s application for a business license, which he is denying, Medford Police Chief Tim George said, "I think the real issue is this is a violation of federal law… Strike two is that it's a violation of Oregon medical marijuana laws." City Finance Director Allison Chan is also denying the application. Nuckols however, seems to have a very solid legal plan for his company. His idea is to have medical marijuana patients bring in their own marijuana to his new kitchen. He would then have their treat of choice cooked and delivered to various medical marijuana centers. Since he is not actually providing the medical marijuana to patients, Nuckols insists he is not in violation of Oregon’s medical marijuana laws. "If the patients bring you the medication and you turn it into concentrate, and give it back to them, that's OK…. We have not (nor do we have any intention to be) engaged in unlawful activity," he said. Our fingers are crossed for MaryJane’s Treats! http://bigbudsmag.com/news/article/officials-oregon-are-giving-small-medical-marijuana-edibles-company-hard-time-july-2012 Trix
  8. AMHERST – A series of drug charges against an Athol man who says he’s exiled in Europe have been withdrawn. Rickey Logan Simpson, 62, was charged with the production of cannabis marijuana, possession of cannabis marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of cannabis marijuana and possession of cannabis resin following a raid of his Athol Road home in November 2009. Simpson was in Amsterdam, Holland accepting the Freedom Fighter of the Year Award at the annual Cannabis Cup when the raid occurred and it’s believe he has been in Europe since then. Crown attorney Doug Shatford said the court approved a forfeiture application against Simpson under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act last week. Once that occurred, he brought forward a motion to withdraw the charges against Simpson, who declared himself an exile in Europe after the 2009 raid. “The application was made to forfeit the items that were seized in the raid and upon completion of that the decision was made to withdraw the charges,” Shatford said Friday. Under the order, Simpson forfeits cannabis marijuana and resin seized in the raid along with growing equipment, marijuana plants and seeds, syringes, three crossbows and arrows, two pellet guns - including one with scope and suspected silencer, grow up materials, video equipment, books, documents and building materials. Shatford said one the issues facing the court was Simpson’s whereabouts. “We’re really not sure where he is. We believe he is somewhere in Europe. He had been in Holland, but we’re not sure if he’s still there or somewhere else in Europe,” Shatford said. Withdrawing the charges would appear to clear the way for Simpson to return to Canada. Shatford is not aware of any other outstanding charges against him. In December 2009, Simpson said via email he could not return to Canada because he would be put in jail “without jail or medicine.” He said he’s not afraid of jail, but could not go without his medicine. To him, returning to Canada “would be like committing suicide.” Simpson said he grew the marijuana plants, extracted the oil, and provided it free of charge. He said he has never hidden his activities from police. After he was convicted in 2007, he told the judge he would not stop. Source: cumberlandnewsnow.com
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