New York Cop Corruption Probe Leads to 27 Vacated Convictions and Charges – But No Officers Criminally Charged

(Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

By The Vanguard Staff

WHITE PLAINS, NY – The work of the Conviction Review Unit here at the Westchester County District Attorney Office has led District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah to announce this week a decision to vacate the convictions and charges of 27 individuals for their alleged drug sales to a Westchester County PD Department of Public Safety undercover officer in 2017.

However, Rocah also announced no criminal charges would be filed against Mount Vernon police officers because secretly-recorded conversations couldn’t be used in court, and due to “lack of cooperation by some law enforcement and key witnesses.”

Rocah noted a “pattern of inconsistencies, errors and disclosure issues” uncovered by the CRU she established early in her term.

DA Rocah also announced the conclusion of her criminal investigation into the MVPD Narcotics Division that was prompted by allegations of wrongdoing made by a former MVPD officer and heard on secret recordings.

The DA said, “In light of the allegations made on the secretly-recorded conversations among various Mount Vernon police officers, as well as complaints from the public received by the District Attorney’s Office, my Conviction Review Unit conducted an exhaustive examination into certain Mount Vernon police narcotics prosecutions. 

“The Conviction Review Unit’s review uncovered inconsistencies, reliability concerns, and significant disclosure issues that leave me unable to stand by the prosecutions connected to the Mount Vernon Police Department’s 2017 undercover narcotics operation. As a result, I will seek to vacate these convictions and dismiss the charges. Though rare, wrongful convictions erode community trust and the public’s faith in the criminal justice system.”

DA Rocah explained 32 people were initially charged in the 2017 operation, five had cases dismissed before the CRU review, and of the remaining 27, 26 of them were resolved by pleas.

She said 16 individuals “served sentences from up to one year in jail or up to one-and-a half to four years in state prison. Another 10 received non-custodial sentences such as conditional discharges or probation, or their cases were covered by another case. One matter is still open. None are currently incarcerated.”   

The DA added the criminal investigation into the MVPD Narcotics Division “prompted by the secret recordings, uncovered conduct and practices” has led to requesting the Dept. of Justice to “conduct a civil rights ‘pattern or practice’ investigation, which it initiated in 2021.”

Rocah added no charges would be filed against officers because “the recordings themselves are not admissible in court to prove the crimes discussed on them and could not alone support criminal charges.

“I understand that people may be confused and possibly even disappointed by the lack of criminal charges after hearing the secretly-recorded conversations among certain Mount Vernon police officers. We could not rely on the allegations contained on the recordings as evidence in a court of law,” the DA said.

“(O)ur criminal investigation was hampered by significant hurdles, such as recantations by an officer who was heard on the recordings alleging corruption, and lack of cooperation by some law enforcement and key witnesses,” DA Rocah added.

“As a result of this investigation, and the findings by my Conviction Review Unit, I am proud of the subsequent actions we have taken to help restore even a measure of public faith in our justice system,” she noted.

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