EAST FLATBUSH — Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Thursday he will open an investigation into police corruption in the 67th Precinct after a man was cleared of gun charges.
Charges against Jeffery Herring, 57, were dropped after prosecutors failed to produce an unnamed informant they said tipped them off that the accused man was carrying a gun.
Police said they saw Herring throw out a bag in a garbage can as they approached him that they say was concealing a weapon. Herring maintained it just a garbage bag.
Herring's case raised concerning similarities with a number of other weapons charges in the 67th precinct that finally sounded an alarm to the DA. He said he would launch a probe into allegations that officers were planting weapons on people they arrested.
“We will investigate the arrest of Mr. Herring and other arrests by these officers because of the serious questions raised by this case,” Thompson said.
The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau also says there is an active investigation into the issue in East Flatbush.
Debora Silberman, Herring’s public defender, said she received a tip about one of the officers involved in her client's arrest from the DA’s office back when she started digging into her client's case in 2013. She unearthed five other cases with suspicious weapons charges all involving the same small group of 67th precinct officers dating back to 2008.
With strapped resources at the Brooklyn Defender’s offices, Silberman said she thought it was unlikely she uncovered the only cases linked to these officers.
“There could be dozens of clients who even took guilty pleas to reduce [their sentences],” Silberman said.
That’s what happened in John Hooper's case.
Hooper couldn’t make bail when he was accused of weapons possession in the summer of 2012, his lawyer Renee Seman said.
Cops said they found Hooper with a weapon, but Hooper maintained that he had no idea what they were talking about.
Hooper was held for a year at Rikers Island before trial. Then prosecutors offered him freedom if he pled guilty with the time he’d already served. Seman thought she could get Hooper out of Rikers with just a little more time, but she remembers Hooper saying, “Not if I can go home to my wife tonight.”
In light of the Brooklyn DA's remarks Thursday, Seman said she is hopeful she can clear Hooper's name.
“He’s going to be vindicated," she said. "And [now] his innocence is going to come to light.”