Dozens of NYPD Officers Investigated for Perjury
At least three dozen cops are under investigation for allegedly committing perjury in various criminal cases including drug busts and even a murder, DNAinfo.com has learned.
As if a ticket-fixing scandal wasn't bad enough, the new citywide investigations cut across a broad spectrum of suspected lying and false statements made on official police reports, in testimony before grand juries and at trials.
These cases are unrelated to the two-year-old ticket-fixing probe of scores of cops who allegedly killed summonses for everything from speeding to drunk-driving for friends, relatives, and fellow cops.
The perjury investigations are being conducted by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau and prosecutors from all five boroughs.
Officers were caught flat out lying about the circumstances of arrests or the way evidence was seized, sources said. In others, cops foolishly cut corners in paperwork or shaded testimony rather than reporting exactly what they saw, or more importantly, what they did not witness.
“The cases run the gamut,” one knowledgeable source said.
"There are narcotics officers who swore to something that did not happen, which is blatant perjury, saying someone threw marijuana to the ground, when they did not," the source continued. "It is classic flaking in order to make an arrest stick and get an arrest number.
"Then on the other end of the spectrum, there are cases where things are done that may not be intentional, mistakes in paperwork or memory, but the district attorneys are very concerned and want to make sure it is not something venal," the source added.
In some cases, prosecutors and Internal Affairs probers have retrieved surveillance video from stores and shops near “arrest scenes” to verify officer accounts. After tapes were reviewed, some officers were caught telling lies or half-truths in official reports or in court.
Francisco Payano, a Bronx detective, is among the first in a new wave of officers to face charges. He was accused earlier this summer of committing 49 counts of perjury for repeatedly lying to a grand jury and a judge about witnessing crack cocaine sales in a Bronxwood Avenue building lobby, according to court documents.
Surveillance video from the building did not even show Payano's suspect in the lobby at any time during the so-called crime, prosecutors allege in court documents.
"There is no excuse for making anything up," said another law enforcement source with knowledge of the perjury probes.
"But everyone knows there is a lot of pressure on cops to make arrests," the source continued. "And some of the problem is that officers, particularly younger ones, fail to understand that misreporting any facts can look like something that was done on purpose, and puts them in jeopardy of being arrested."
Concerned officials from various police unions have gone so far as to attend roll calls around the city's precincts to drive home the point that accurate and truthful reporting and testimony is as important as the arrests themselves. And putting a career at risk is not worth cutting a corner for.
"We felt compelled that more needs to be done on testifying and on filling out paperwork, so we went out to speak with them about preventing mistakes and accurately quoting fellow officers about what occurred during arrests," a union official said.
For its part, the NYPD last January established a pilot program for cops to participate in mock trial workshops to instruct them on how to successfully, and truthfully, testify. Top brass say they do not want officers fudging anything about a case and to let the chips fall where they may.
Still the problem persists.
And there are always cases where all the lectures, training and warnings will not prevent abuses, especially if they involve affairs of the heart.
Take the case of Sgt. Bobby Habib, who can only be described as a great cop gone wild.
Sgt. Habib was a respected NYPD translator who speaks three languages, but he was recently accused of lying during a murder trial about his relationship with the wife of a Brooklyn murder suspect.
Because of his skill as a linguist, Habib was dispatched one time to France to interview Leila Grison and her husband, Marien Kargu, who was held in France as a suspect in the 2001 strangulation of Angelo Guzzardi.
According to court records, Grison used to live and work in Sunset Park and shared an apartment with Guzzardi and his girlfriend.
At the time of the murder, Kargu allegedly flew over from France for a visit and grew angry over her living arrangement. He then strangled Guzzardi, tossed his body in a Dumpster and then returned to France with his wife.
At Kargu’s trial last October, Habib testified he only spoke with Grison on one occasion in France.
But under blistering cross examination, he admitted he visited her more than once. And there was another issue about a series of emails between Habib and Grison that depicted a relationship that went well beyond a solo overseas trip on official NYPD business, according to officials.
Habib’s testimony did not destroy the case against Kargu, who was convicted of murder (he's now appealing). But it may have destroyed his career.
Habib has been charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of perjury on the witness stand. He is due back in Brooklyn court next month on the charges.
“There are some things even the fear of indictment can’t prevent,” one source observed.