What to Know
A 20-year-old man says he was bullied by some cops in the 42nd precinct and by a Bronx prosecutor into falsely implicating people in crimes
He has filed a $20 million notice of claim against the city alleging a pattern of harassment and intimidation
Among the cases in which he allegedly lied: the 17-year-old who was at Rikers for a year because he wouldn't plead guilty to the shooting
A 20-year-old Bronx man claims he was a secret witness who was pressured by police officers to lie against multiple suspects, including 17-year-old Pedro Hernandez, whose case has generated national attention.
Hernandez is the teenager who refused to plead guilty to a shooting he says he didn’t do, and remained behind bars on Rikers for a year before the RFK Human Rights Organization posted the young man's bail in late July.
The man claiming to be the secret witness is William Stevens. Stevens' attorneys have filed a $20 million notice of claim against New York City, alleging a pattern of harassment and intimidation by certain officers in the 42nd Precinct and also by a Bronx prosecutor. Other young men have made similar claims of abuse.
Stevens, who was sent to state prison earlier this year on an attempted robbery charge, told the I-Team in an exclusive prison interview at Greene Correctional Facility that he was pressured to lie about Hernandez on three different occasions and sign a photo array.
“At first I told them no, and that’s when a lot of harassment started happening,” he said. “They would come to my house for no reason, take me out for stuff I didn’t do, follow me on the streets, pull my pants down.”
He said that he was beaten and punched during one instance in the back of a police vehicle.
Hernandez was criminally charged in all three cases Stevens mentioned. Two of the cases, involving a shooting and an alleged robbery, were dismissed when surveillance video and other alibi evidence showed Hernandez was elsewhere at the time of the reported crimes.
In July 2016, Hernandez was arrested in connection with another shooting, this one in front of a C-Town supermarket. The victim of that shooting told the I-Team that he was also pressured to lie about Hernandez's involvement. Other witnesses have given statements that the teenager wasn’t involved at all.
Stevens said in his court filing that the lead prosecutor in the Hernandez case threatened him into cooperating with police.
A private investigator hired by Hernandez's family, Manuel Gomez, said as he he found Stevens’ name in a court document as he looked to clear Hernandez's name, but it took months to discover where his family lived.
“I knocked on 250 doors in 10 months,” he said.
Hernandez’ trial in the supermarket shooting is scheduled to start Sept. 6. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark has declined to reveal the evidence against the teen. Clark told the I-Team she is not concerned about taking the Hernandez case -- or others out of the 42nd Precinct -- forward amid allegations of witness intimidation.
"I am ready for trial in this case," she said. "I’d just like to reiterate, the DA’s office is interested in speaking to any witnesses that have information.”
Stevens' attorney, John Scola, also represents 17-year-old Tyrese Revels, who filed a similar notice of claim against the city.
"The 42nd Precinct and the Bronx County DA’s office have colluded to physically and emotionally abuse our clients into lying about crimes they bore no witness to," he said.
The Bronx County DA's office said it can't comment on any of Stevens' specific allegations because of the pending litigation.