Saturday, June 20, 2009

Take that, fuckers

Here's yet another case of police corruption, one which lead to two wholly innocent brothers being arrested under charges of dealing drugs – only they'd never sold drugs in their lives. And this time, the whole thing had been caught on security camera. Sweet, no?

NEW YORK (AP) -- When undercover detectives busted Jose and Maximo Colon last year for selling cocaine at a seedy club in Queens, there was a glaring problem: The brothers hadn't done anything wrong.

But proclaiming innocence wasn't going to be good enough. The Dominican immigrants needed proof.

''I sat in the jail and thought ... how could I prove this? What could I do?'' Jose, 24, recalled in Spanish during a recent interview.

As he glanced around a holding cell, the answer came to him: Security cameras. Since then, a vindicating video from the club's cameras has spared the brothers a possible prison term, resulted in two officers' arrest and become the basis for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

The officers, who are due back in court June 26, have pleaded not guilty, and New York Police Departmental Justice have downplayed their case.

Not guilty? Too bad they have clear camera footage that shows just how it all went down, completely exonerating the two accused brothers – and inculpating the corrupt assholes of the law. Below is a rendition from the brothers' own testimony as to how the stupid affair went down without them even knowing what was going on.

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.''

A disgusting affair, indeed. Thankfully, Jose had the good sense to procure himself the only evidence that would completely exonerate him and his brother.

The moment Jose walked out of the holding cell, he made a beeline for Delicias and asked for a copy of the security tapes from the night they were arrested, Jan. 4, 2008.

''I knew it would be the only way to defend myself, because I knew the police would not believe me,'' he said.

The owner of Delicias queued up the tapes and the two waded through an entire day's worth of surveillance -- until they found the two hours the men spent in the club that night -- supposedly selling drugs.

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.

A lot of turmoil and sick feelings, but at least now the truth is there for all to see – particularly the courts.

And you'll love what kind of stupidity the idiot cops' attorney came up with to try and defend them:

Six months later, Officer Tavarez and Detective Stephen Anderson pleaded not guilty to drug dealing and multiple other charges that their lawyers say were overblown.

Anderson's attorney has described him as a seasoned investigator who had no reason to make a false arrest. Tavarez, his attorney said, was a novice undercover merely along for the ride.

Um – there are never any reasons to make a false arrest. What a fundamentally stupid thing to say. It's just that – they happen. And when they do, the prosecuted party has every right in the world to want retribution for having had their lives turned to hell for the duration of the false charges and imprisonment. It's also interesting how they claim Tavarez was just a "novice undercover merely along for the ride". Perhaps I'm mistaken, but – wasn't that his fucking name signed on the report? Sounds like he was certainly more than just tagging along.

However, even though the two Colon brothers have finally been cleared of all charges and are even suing the department for $10 million (ouch ...), this messy affair has pretty much ruined their lives for now. Turns out it's never good for your reputation, or your business, to be charged with dealing drugs – whether they're false charges or not.

Life quickly deteriorated for Max and Jose after their arrest.

They owned a successful convenience store in Jackson Heights, but lost their license to sell tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets. The store closed a week before their case was dismissed.

''My life changed completely,'' Jose said. ''I had a life before, and I have a different existence now. ... Now, I'm not able to afford to live in my own house or care for my children.''

Jose has found construction work, while Max commutes two hours to Philadelphia to work at a relative's bodega. They stay away from the old neighborhood, where they say ugly rumors about them persist.

The brothers have filed a $10 million false arrest lawsuit against the police department, the officers involved and the city.

''I'm angry because, why'd it happen to me? I know a lot of people ... they don't go the right way and they can get away with it,'' Max said. ''I'm young and I try to go the right way and boom, this happened to me. So I'm angry with life, too.''

I hope it's not too redundant of me to say that, yes, you certainly have every fucking right in the world to be pissed. Sue the fuckers for all they have and ever will have.

The New York Times article also has some disturbing, but sadly not unexpected, revelations that show that this case is far from unique.

On May 13, another NYPD officer was arrested for plotting to invade a Manhattan apartment where he hoped to steal $900,000 in drug money. In another pending case, prosecutors in Brooklyn say officers were caught in a 2007 sting using seized drugs to reward a snitch for information. And in the Bronx, prosecutors have charged a detective with lying about a drug bust captured on a surveillance tape that contradicts her story.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia prosecutors dismissed more than a dozen drug and gun charges against a man last month when a narcotics officer was accused of making up information on search warrants.

The revelations in New York have triggered internal affairs inquiries, transfers of commanders and reviews of dozens of other arrests involving the accused officers. Many drug defendants' cases have been tossed out. Others have won favorable plea deals.

Let's all marvel at the wonders that are our law enforcement agencies, no? "To serve and to protect" ... any wonder I've never believed that bullshit?


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