Brooklyn DA Seeks to Vacate 378 Convictions Tied to Guilty Cops, One of Largest US Mass Exonerations

Wednesday's announcement marks one of the largest mass exonerations ever in the United States, according to the Brooklyn district attorney's office

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The Brooklyn district attorney's office is asking a court to vacate nearly 400 convictions, 12% of them felonies, that were directly based on the work of 13 former NYPD officers who were later found guilty of crimes committed while on duty, Eric Gonzalez's office announced Wednesday.

The push to dismiss the 378 convictions -- 47 felonies and 331 misdemeanors -- marks the sixth largest mass dismissal of convictions in U.S. history, according to data collected by the National Registry of Exonerations, Gonzalez said.

His office's Conviction Review Unit looked at all those cases and while it did not uncover misconduct, the district attorney has lost confidence in cases where these officers served as essential witnesses, meaning the cases couldn't have been prosecuted without their testimony, Gonzalez's office said.

His office plans to ask Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D'Emic to begin dismissing the felony convictions Wednesday afternoon. The process for misdemeanor convictions will begin in Brooklyn Criminal Court next month.

Defendants will not be entitled to refunds of fees or fines. Defense lawyers and the court system have been notified of the pending dismissals, Gonzalez said.

The review is an outgrowth of the district attorney’s April 2021 decision to dismiss 90 convictions that relied on the work of former Detective Joseph Franco, who has been indicted in Manhattan for multiple perjuries. That decision not only led other city district attorneys to follow suit but also sparked a review of past cases that were handled by other police officers who were similarly charged and convicted of misconduct that directly related to their job duties.

A total of 13 officers were identified in the review. The vast majority of the cases where they were deemed essential witnesses are misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and other drug offenses, with the second-largest category being vehicular and traffic law violations. The convictions stemmed from arrests that took place between 1999 and 2017. No one is currently incarcerated because of these convictions, Gonzalez's office said.

About half the arrests (191) were made by four officers who were implicated in the Brooklyn South Narcotics corruption scandal in the late 2010s. Another 78 were made by two narcotics officers who pleaded guilty in 2019 to receiving a bribe in the form of sexual acts from a detainee. Most of the other officers were convicted of various crimes in other boroughs or in federal courts.

The Legal Aid Society commended Gonzalez's move in a statement Wednesday but said it doesn't change the fact that the hundreds of people whose convictions he wants to dismiss were forced to endure hardships they never should have faced.

"Some individuals lost years of their lives serving prison sentences and many suffered collateral harm including housing instability, loss of employment, and severed access to critical services, all because of the words of these corrupt police officers," the statement from Legal Aid said. "We urge DA Gonzalez and all of the other New York City District Attorneys to conduct these reviews on an ongoing basis and with full transparency, not just in response to public pressure, but as their duty to ‘do justice.’ To do otherwise erodes the public’s trust in law enforcement and the criminal legal system."

These Are the Ex-NYPD Cops at the Heart of Brooklyn DA's Review

The Brooklyn district attorney's office released a full list of the former officers whose work was scrutinized as part of the review. The office also provided the number of convictions associated with each ex-cop that it is seeking to vacate.

  • Jason Arbeeny (14 cases) – convicted of official misconduct and related charges for planting drugs in 2007 while assigned to the Brooklyn South Narcotics Division
  • Michael Arenella (3) – convicted of petit larceny for taking money from an undercover in 2007 while assigned to Brooklyn South Narcotics Division
  • Michael Bergmann (1) – pleaded guilty to perjury in connection with a 2019 incident in which he testified falsely in the grand jury that a suspect almost ran him and his partner over with a car; video obtained by the Brooklyn DA’s Office showed this didn’t happen
  • Jerry Bowens (134) – pleaded guilty to murder and falsifying business records. While assigned to Brooklyn South Narcotics Division in 2008, he supplied drugs to an informant in exchange for information. While his criminal case was pending, in 2009, he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend
  • Richard Danese (4) – pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in Staten Island in connection with a Halloween 2007 incident in which he and his partner unlawfully imprisoned a 14-year-old boy suspected of misconduct and abandoned him in a marsh
  • Sasha Diaz (15) – pleaded guilty to perjury in Manhattan for falsely testifying to a grand jury about observing a firearm in 2014; also convicted in Queens of offering a false instrument for filing, in which she lied about observing a drug deal
  • Michael Foder (27) – pleaded guilty to federal perjury charges in the Eastern District of New York for testifying falsely at a 2018 hearing about when and how he conducted photo arrays of two robbery suspects in Brooklyn
  • Richard Hall (18) – pleaded guilty to bribe receiving and official misconduct for releasing a woman from custody in exchange for sexual favors from her in 2017
  • Sean Johnstone (40) – convicted of conspiracy for paying off informants with drugs in 2007, while assigned to the Brooklyn South Narcotics Division as an undercover
  • Admir Kacamakovic (14) – pleaded guilty in federal court for civil rights violations for assaulting a bar patron with pepper spray and unlawfully detaining him while in uniform in 2008
  • Eddie Martins (60) – pleaded guilty to bribe receiving and official misconduct for releasing a woman from custody in exchange for sexual favors from her in 2017
  • Oscar Sandino (43) – pleaded guilty to deprivation of civil rights for forcing a woman he arrested to perform oral sex in a Queens stationhouse bathroom in 2008; also pleaded guilty to assaulting an off-duty court officer who was in custody
  • Henry Tavarez (5) – pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing for making false statements regarding a buy-and-bust operation in 2009 while assigned to Queens South Narcotics Division as an undercover
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