One man’s conviction is another man’s vindication. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office successfully moved to dismiss the misdemeanors of nearly 200 New Yorkers tied to eight criminally convicted former NYPD officers, announced D.A. Alvin Bragg last week.
In total, the D.A.’s Office tossed out 188 convictions stemming from arrests between 2001 and 2016. Around half of those led to fines and roughly 20 led to incarceration. But Bragg told the Amsterdam News undoing the convictions doesn’t undo the harm.
“There were certainly some folks who were impacted in any direct and immediate sense, but I would venture to guess that they were all impacted, more broadly, in terms of employment prospects, housing and other things that can arise from having a conviction,” he said.
The disgraced police officers are no longer with the NYPD according to Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, reports CNN. Their convictions stem from misconduct such as lying in court, taking bribes and conducting unlawful searches. One former cop, Richard Hall, was sentenced to five years of probation in 2019 for releasing a young woman from custody in exchange for sexual favors. Another ex-officer, Nicholas Mina, received 15-and-a-half years in prison back in 2012 for stealing guns from his precinct house to pay off a drug addiction.
But the work isn’t finished. The vacated convictions are a fraction of the more than 1,100 cases linked to 22 convicted ex-cops that Bragg’s Post-Conviction Justice Unit are combing through. However, the D.A.’s Office says it didn’t want to wait to vacate the convictions of the current cohort in hopes those New Yorkers could move on sooner.
“Going forward, we urge D.A. Bragg and all of the other New York City district attorneys to conduct these reviews on an ongoing basis and with full transparency,” said Elizabeth Farber, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Wrongful Conviction Unit. “The mandate to do justice must include evaluating criminal conduct by law enforcement with the same lens that is used with every other New Yorker. To do otherwise erodes the public’s trust in law enforcement and the criminal legal system.”
A September report by the National Registry of Wrongful Convictions found group exonerations, where minor convictions are overturned or vacated en masse due to law enforcement misconduct, overwhelmingly involve Black defendants, especially in drug-related crimes. Most of those convictions would otherwise not be reinvestigated independently the way murders or sexual assaults are.
For Bragg, that breach of trust extends all the way to his neck of the woods—or more aptly, concrete jungle. Former Police Sgt. William Eiseman and subordinate officer Michael Carsey—two other discredited cops—were convicted of perjury among other crimes while working in the 30th precinct in the D.A.’s native Harlem.
“It hits home when it’s close [to] somebody you know [like] my cousin, my brother, my co-worker,” said Bragg. “But I think defining the neighborhood in terms of cycles of incarceration, and the impact on our system—historically, Harlem [has] been disproportionately affected.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1