By Murray Weiss
DNAinfo Contributing Columnist
Now it’s the civilians' turn to face the grand jury in the widespread NYPD ticket-fixing scandal – including a New York Yankees official.
Dozens of drivers whose summonses for drunk driving, speeding and running red lights were killed by NYPD cops and police union officials have been subpoenaed by prosecutors to appear before the criminal panel, according to my sources.
And so are their pals who helped them find friendly NYPD officers to make those summonses disappear.
All have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony, sources say.
Among those slated to appear is Sonny Hight, the New York Yankees vice president and security chief who was captured on tape discussing a speeding ticket issued to another Yankee exec, Doug Behar, the head of stadium operations.
Also expected to be called are a list of characters from previous stories I've written on the scandal. The include a Bronx barber who cuts the hair of an NYPD cop and his father, numerous relatives of NYPD cops and union representatives, and the boyfriend of a cop's daughter.
I reported last week that as many as 50 NYPD officers have already testified with immunity against their fellow cops who are the targets of the nearly two year probe.
There has not been such as an extensive parade of blue before a grand jury since the 70s, in the days of whistle-blowing officer Frank Serpico and the Knapp Commission, when the department was then rife with a far more venal type of corruption.
Some of those NYPD officers and supervisors who appeared were caught on tapes in cover-ups of serious motor vehicle incidents including drunk driving accidents. Some had information about gifts and other favors being received in exchange for killing summonses.
I reported that prosecutors are winding up their presentation to the grand jury, and the appearance of the "civilians" is another sign they are tying up loose ends in order for the panel to then weigh the evidence and decide who to charge.
My sources say as many as two dozen officers, supervisors and union officials face possible criminal charges. Another several hundred are expected to face NYPD internal disciplinary punishment before the case is over.
Hight, a former NYPD official, was captured on two secretly recorded conversations with an NYPD Bronx union trustee. They were discussing the speeding ticket issued to Doug Behar, the head of stadium operations for the Yankees, last summer when he was stopped by a Bronx highway officer.
On the cozy-sounding tape, the trustee tells Hight to "just tell Doug to not do anything with [the summons] ... to hang onto it." Hight then asks the trustee if he is coming to Yankee Stadium to catch a game. The trustee says he is with his wife and has tickets, but he asks "to get up to the Delta Club," an exclusive box where tickets go for $300 to gain entry.
In a subsequent call, the trustee gave Hight the news that Behar’s ticket was deep-sixed before it got to court.
"We took care of that," he said. "Tell Douglas he can just rip it up and throw it away, like he found it."
"Ok,” Hight says. "That’s great, Joe."
"Just give me a call whenever you need," the union rep says.
"Thank you, Joe," Hight says. "I really appreciate it. Thanks, my friend."
Sources say Hight’s appearance will likely be short before the grand jury, and primarily to confirm that it is his voice on the tape, and that the conversation is accurate and to explain his relationship with the union rep.
Behar has not been subpoenaed to the grand jury. It appears there is no dispute that his ticket was killed and his testimony therefore is not required.
Murray Weiss writes a weekly column for DNAinfo. He is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, columnist and editor, and is considered an expert on government, law enforcement, criminal justice, organized crime and terrorism.