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Officers in NYPD Ticket Fixing Scandal Quietly Trying to Cut Deals: Sources

By Murray Weiss | April 22, 2015 7:43am
 Officers in the NYPD ticket fixing scandal have been trying to cut deals with the Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, but his office has been playing hardball.
Officers in the NYPD ticket fixing scandal have been trying to cut deals with the Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, but his office has been playing hardball.
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Amy Sussman/Getty Images

THE BRONX — Thirteen officers accused in the NYPD ticket-fixing scandal are trying to cut deals with the Bronx District Attorney to save their jobs — and their pensions — but prosecutors are playing hardball with them, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said the officers’ legal teams are insisting prosecutors recognize that ticket fixing was a historic courtesy extended to motorists for decades, and not a venal crime.

They argue that officers convicted of any felony charge automatically lose both their jobs and pensions, which in some cases can be as much as $1.5 million in total retirement payouts.

That loss is tantamount to heaping a whopping “fine” on top of the dismissal from the force, sources argue, merely for getting rid of $100 summonses for friends, relatives or acquaintances.

“They would have been better off paying for all the summonses they fixed,” one source familiar with the talks observed.

The DA is said to be willing to drop the felony counts in exchange for guilty pleas to “official misconduct,” a misdemeanor.

Under state law, that relatively hard line would cost them their jobs, but not their pensions if they have more than 20 years on the force.

Only Officer Joseph Anthony, who has two decades on the force, would instantly benefit from that offer. It could also help Officer Brian McGuckin, who is anxiously approaching his 20th year this July. He recently filed for retirement.

Lawyers for the embattled officers are pushing the DA to allow them to plead to a reduced misdemeanor charge of petit larceny.

According to state and civil service laws, a misdemeanor conviction would not mean the automatic loss of job and pension. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton would ultimately determine their fates.

No officer, however, has been spared the ax — and thereby their pension — after being convicted of petit larceny, insiders say.

From the outset of the 2011 scandal, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has maintained that ticket-fixing punishments should have been handled departmentally and not in criminal court, especially since the practice has been going on for decades and is viewed largely as a victimless crime.

In fact, PBA president Patrick Lynch insisted the accused Bronx officers are being scapegoated while hundreds of other officers implicated in the scandal only faced internal NYPD discipline.

“We remain optimistic that the DA will temper its stance to a more equitable posture,” said a source familiar with the discussions. “But right now it does not look that way.”

Ironically, the outcome of the Bronx prosecutions will likely impact this year’s contentious PBA presidential elections.

Three of the indicted officers — Anthony, McGuckin and Michael Hernandez — are part of the opposition slate seeking to unseat Lynch after 12 years in office.

McGuckin has a court appearance on Thursday, but his trial date has not been set.

The other officers are slated to be in court Monday, when they are expected to receive their trial schedules.

The ticket-fixing probe grew out of an investigation into alleged drug dealing by a Bronx officer, Jose Ramos, when Internal Affairs investigators conducting wiretaps overheard discussions about officers tossing summonses. Ramos was subsequently convicted.