Cop Union Lawyers Threaten to Quit Amid Ticket-Fixing Probe
Two highly regarded lawyers hired by the city’s largest police union to help it handle a widespread NYPD ticket-fixing scandal threatened to quit last week, DNAinfo.com has learned.
In a terse letter to Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, attorneys Steven Kartegener and Thomas Fitzgerald complained after Lynch brought lawyer Edward McDonald, who played himself in "Goodfellas," onto the team.
They griped that he took the lead in the union's legal strategy, and left them out of the loop.
Kartegener, a former appeals chief in the Bronx District Attorney’s office, and Fitzgerald, a former Criminal Division chief in the Manhattan US Attorney’s office, have been working for the PBA since last spring.
They were hired at roughly the time when a Bronx grand jury was convened to examine evidence gathered by prosecutors and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, who secretly recorded 30 cops as part of a nearly two-year probe.
The recordings revealed cops allegedly fixing moving violations and other tickets for friends and family, and even cover-ups of drunk driving and domestic violence incidents for police colleagues.
The probe involved hundreds of cops. And as "On the Inside" disclosed, with so many members of the rank-and-file possibly caught up in the scandal, the union could face enterprise corruption charges — those usually reserved for Mafia cases.
The troubling prospect of a criminal charge being lodged against the union itself prompted Lynch to hire McDonald, the former head of the Brooklyn US Attorney's Organized Crime Strike Force. McDonald has declined to say anything since being hired by the PBA.
Sources say McDonald started taking the lead in negotiations with the Bronx DA Robert Johnson and there were strategy sessions with Lynch that left Kartegener and Fitzgerald feeling left out.
In their one-page missive they made their feelings known to Lynch with the implicit suggestion they were prepared to part company if things didn't change.
“They complained they were not involved,” a source said. “They basically felt, ‘if you are not going to include us in strategy, we are quitting.’”
Lynch certainly did not want to lose the lawyers as the grand jury is poised to finally announce indictments after nearly six months of work. Their departure would create a public relations problem when the union has enough to deal with.
Meanwhile, as the grand jury's probe nears a conclusion, Bronx DA Johnson recently visited Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at Police Headquarters to brief him on the case and to provide a timeline of when arrests likely will occur after the 9/11 anniversary.
As many as two dozen cops could face jail time, with hundreds more facing disciplinary action by the NYPD for being involved in fixing tickets. As "On the Inside" recently reported, the NYPD has already started making deals for low-level ticket-fixing offenders in the department.
Johnson's appearance at Kelly's office coincided with the NYPD move to deal with the vast backlog of ticket-fixing cases against NYPD officers, some of whom have been under great stress as they await their fates on whether their careers and pensions are safe.
Sources say that at least 14 officers — including two sergeants — will be hit with criminal charges. The roundup of so many officers will be the largest in decades.