In a rare instance of judicial squawking, Bronx Criminal Court judge Linda Poust Lopez slammed the cops, the prosecutors and the courts after a Good Samaritan was arrested at gunpoint on a crowded street and dragged through the courts for two and a half years – based on a fake crime staged by the police.
A few years ago, the NYPD, not having enough crime to fight, decided to take up the slack by creating Operation Lucky Bag, a sting where they’d plant a bag on a subway car or street corner with cash or a smart phone hanging out of it. The sucker who picked it up got arrested and charged with larceny and criminal possession of stolen property – misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail.
In People v. Myers (unreported so far), Judge Poust Lopez relates how the police faked the arrest of a driver (an undercover cop) and hauled him away, leaving the car unlocked with what looked like a wad of money and a credit card conspicuously visible. Ms. Myers and her daughter started to take the items out of the car and immediately found themselves at the wrong end of police guns.
Ms. Myers, a respectable matron with no criminal record, was apparently just trying to safeguard the items for the “arrestee” rather than leave them lying around on a busy Bronx street. But the ever-zealous Bronx DA’s Office wasn’t going to let this damnable scoundrel slip through their fingers! They dragged her case on for two and a half years, making her come back to court over and over, refusing to dispose of her case unless she agreed to plead guilty to larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
The judge threw out the case, saying:
[The Bronx] is a county where distrust of law enforcement is high. The populace feel, quite pervasively, and much more than in the other counties of this City, that law enforcement do not prosecute serious, violent crimes aggressively enough, and do not protect their communities as they should.
They also feel, conversely, that they and their children are treated unfairly by law enforcement, and that stops are made, and arrests effected, that perhaps should not be.
So to deny dismissal in this case, where, instead of using their time to fight the significant amount of serious crime in the county, the police went through elaborate lengths, involving the use of a car and several officers, to contrive this scenario to lure, bait and trap a law-abiding person into taking property, and then to draw their guns on a crowded public street to arrest her, and then to require her to come back to court for almost three years to fight the charges would greatly damage the confidence and trust of the public in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and rightly so.
This decision is not based on any considerations of speedy trial or the prosecution’s declination to make a non-criminal offer until 2 1/2 years into the case. Rather, these things are mentioned as exacerbating the public’s image of how an arrest which was unfair to begin with, was treated in the courts.
Squawk on, sister!