“If you want to commit a murder and get away with it, join the NYPD,” said a broken Michael Mineo, just minutes after a jury on Monday handed over a not guilty verdict to three officers, one of whom he alleges sodomized him.
Officers Richard Kern, Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz walked away as free men from a Brooklyn courthouse after a jury claimed they “weighed all the evidence and found reasonable doubt,” despite forensic evidence, witness testimony and even testimony from another officer.
Mineo accused Kern of sodomizing him in 2008 in a Brooklyn subway station in Prospect Park after he was caught with marijuana and chased by the NYPD. Morales and Cruz were on trial for allegedly covering up the incident. Kern faced 25 years in prison while Cruz and Morales faced four.
As deliberation was underway, a juror was replaced last week, according to reports, for giving misleading information. Jurors requested the weekend to make a decision and to view surveillance video from the incident. They also reheard testimony from two doctors about Mineo’s injuries.
Outside of the courthouse after the verdict, Kern told the media that he was pleased with the decision and that the system worked.
“I had faith in the Brooklyn jury,” he said. “And I’m glad it’s over. It’s behind me. And I’m glad I could prove my innocence. It’s been a long road and I’m glad it’s finally over, thank God.”
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, praised the verdict and said in a statement that the officers never should have been indicted, calling Mineo a “con artist.”
Emotions ran high at a press conference following the verdict at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. Memories of Rodney King came to mind as a jury again found the police innocent of any wrongdoing, even with blatant evidence that might have proved otherwise.
“I’m upset,” Mineo said. “I had a feeling this was going to happen looking at other cases. All the evidence was there. Another officer came forward and said he saw it. Witnesses on the street–I didn’t coach these people. I didn’t know these people from a hole in the wall. Why would they lie for me? My credibility has nothing to do with me being sodomized.”
Mineo added that justice wasn’t served and said he wants to get a one-on-one conversation with President Barack Obama to discuss the outcome of his case. Mineo said that he is scared for his safety.
Standing by his side, Sharpton called Monday’s verdict a “travesty,” from the prosecution to the fact that the jury wasn’t given the opportunity to understand the background of the officers accused. One of the officers, Kern, was accused of using excessive force in the past.
Sharpton added that this week was a wake-up call to rekindle the examination of police-related incidents. Last week, the Department of Justice denied prosecution for the police officers involved in the 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell.
Said Sharpton: “I think this also leads to our asking the question of, how do we deal with police matters in this city and this state? This must be the issue of the 2010 gubernatorial as well as the attorney general’s race.”
In response to the verdict, Sharpton is calling an emergency meeting for all of the nation’s civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C., and said that it’s time to go back to the streets to get fairness from the police and the government.
“Cleary, we must turn up the temperature,” he said. “It’s time for us to escalate the anti-police brutality movement and it’s time for this to be front and center in the state election. Rather than us talking about a bunch of hogwash and gossip about people who are running for office, why aren’t we challenging them on what they are going to do about Omar Edwards, Michael Mineo and Sean Bell?”
Mineo plans to go through with his $440 million civil suit against the city. He is also calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to look at the case.
News of the verdict sent shockwaves across the city from leading Black activists who say that the decision is another example of the NYPD running amok.
Marquez Claxton of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance called the verdict a “disturbingly predicable outcome” and is recommending the Department of Justice get involved.
“This verdict sends a chilling message to victims of police violence and criminality. The existing system of investigating and prosecuting police officers needs to be restructured so that ‘justice for all’ can be achieved,” Claxton said. “Under the current system, police officers are too often protected by an implied immunity, regardless of how heinous the allegations are. Judges, juries and prosecutors repeatedly give the benefit of all doubt to the police officer, regardless of the circumstances.”
Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron said that Monday’s verdict is another miscarriage of justice and a “dangerous precedent.” He, too, is calling on those who wish to be elected in the upcoming state political races to speak on the matter.
He said, “This is totally out of hand. I don’t know what to tell our people anymore. The system let these officers go again. You let them go with Bell and 50 bullets and now you let them go with this. People are going to find means to protect themselves not only from common criminals but the criminals in blue suits who are supposed to protect us.”