Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Partners with CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance on Data and Transparency Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 21, 2019

 

Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Partners with CUNY Institute for
State and Local Governance on Data and Transparency Initiative

Revamping Agency’s Data and Analytical Capacity Will Improve its Practice and
Allow for Better Decision-Making, Greater Accountability and Transparency;
Program Fulfills one of Justice 2020’s Recommendations

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), today announced a Data and Transparency Initiative that will improve the DA’s Office’s ability to track and analyze its data, allowing for better evaluation of prosecutors’ decision-making, enhanced transparency and an increased ability to assess the effectiveness of its policies. The partnership represents an important step in fulfilling the recommendation of  DA Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 Committee to “establish a data/analytics team to drive metrics, best practices and reform.” More information on the partnership is available here.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “A twenty-first century, progressive prosecutor’s office must be guided by data, which informs policies and allows for greater accountability and transparency. This unique collaboration will make my Office smarter, more focused, more mission-driven and will put us in the best position to gauge the effectiveness of our Justice 2020 initiatives. We intend to share what we learn with other prosecutorial agencies, researchers and the public.”

ISLG Executive Director Michael Jacobson said, “We are very pleased to partner on this initiative, which will lay the foundation for data-driven decision-making across the Office and strengthen the DA’s commitment to fairness and equal justice. By investing in data and analytics, DA Gonzalez is taking an important step towards transparency and accountability that can serve as a model for other offices across the nation.”

The first phase of the partnership – which is already well underway – is a one-year capacity-building project in which ISLG is helping the DA’s Office identify and implement a series of measures to improve its ability to track, analyze, and use the data that speaks to its most important policy and practice goals. This work began with a diagnostic review of current data, systems and practices to identify the extent to which current capacity supports operational, measurement, and evaluation needs; what gaps exist; and what steps can be taken to fill those gaps. Much of the initial assessment has been completed and ISLG introduced its findings to the DA in February 2019.

The second step is a nine-month implementation phase during which ISLG will work with the DA’s staff to implement the steps identified as most critical for monitoring and evaluating the Office’s highest priority questions – including those related to Justice 2020 progress and outcomes – and informing the decision-making of Brooklyn prosecutors.

Justice 2020 is DA Gonzalez’s plan of action aimed at keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening community trust by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all. It is made up of 17 specific recommendations that are being implemented to radically transform his Office into a model of a progressive prosecutorial agency in the 21st Century.

Once the above-described data system improvements have been put in place, ISLG will follow up with an analysis of prosecutorial decision-making. This analysis will focus on five key decision points: case acceptance, charging, pretrial release, disposition, and plea bargaining. Ultimately, this work will not only help the DA’s Office evaluate the effectiveness of Justice 2020 reforms, but also provide information to other prosecutorial offices and the broader community, and set an example for data-driven reforms that ensure both public safety and fairness.

The new case management system will allow the Office to identify relevant metrics, generate reports both internally and publicly, conduct deeper analyses of performance, partner with external researchers, and more.

The project is being jointly funded by Arnold Ventures through its National Partnership for Pretrial Justice and the William T. Grant Foundation.

The Data and Transparency Initiative is being implemented by William Power, the District Attorney’s Chief Information Officer, and Jeremy Shockett, First Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Trial Division, under the overall supervision of Jill Harris, Chief of Policy and Strategy and the Director of Justice 2020.

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Brooklyn Man Indicted for Stealing or Attempting to Steal Over $1 Million in Credit Fraud Scheme Targeting Pentagon Federal Credit Union

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

 

Brooklyn Man Indicted for Stealing or Attempting to Steal Over $1 Million in Credit Fraud Scheme Targeting Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Allegedly Stole Identities of More Than 178 Individuals to Apply for Loans
And Credit Cards in Massive Scheme

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office David E. Beach, today announced that a Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny, identity theft and related charges for stealing or attempting to steal over $1 million from Pentagon Federal Credit Union. The defendant allegedly used stolen personal information of more than 178 individuals in a scheme to apply for loans and credit cards in their names and then transfer money to his own accounts. The defendant allegedly stole over $320,000 from Pentagon Federal Credit Union and attempted to steal additional funds totaling over $870,000 over the course of the alleged fraudulent scheme.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “In his eagerness to enrich himself, this defendant allegedly had no regard for the impact he could have on financial institutions or the victims whose credit he jeopardized and whose privacy he exploited. I am determined to bring this defendant to justice for his alleged criminal actions and I thank the Secret Service for its hard work on this complex case. I am committed to prosecuting cybercrime, which continues to pose serious harm to our community.”

Special Agent in Charge Beach said, “The Secret Service is committed to its partnerships with the federal, state and local agencies in the law enforcement community. This case is yet another testament to those partnerships which brought a complex investigation to a successful conclusion. The Secret Service will continue to strengthen our partnerships to pursue and prosecute any financial or cyber-criminal enterprise. We appreciate and look forward to expanding our relationship with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Joseph Batrony Jr., 28, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 229-count indictment in which he is charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny, attempted second-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, first-, second- and third-degree identity theft, first-degree falsifying business records, fourth-degree money laundering, and third-degree unlawful possession of personal identification information. The defendant was ordered held on bail of $250,000 cash or $100,000 bond and to return to court on April 10, 2019.

A co-defendant, Darrell Walker, 27, of Flatbush, Brooklyn was also arraigned. He is charged in 26 counts of the indictment, including second- and third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree money laundering and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on April 10, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, from approximately September 2017 to May 2018, Batrony allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed), a federal credit union headquartered in McLean, Virginia. He allegedly used stolen personal information of more than 178 individuals to open PenFed membership accounts and apply for loans and credit cards in their names before transferring the money to his own accounts or accounts of people related to or associated with the defendant.

The identity theft victims are primarily residents of Western states whose personal information—including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers—appear to be among those stolen in past “data breaches” targeting various institutions. Batrony allegedly obtained and used this information in his criminal scheme but has not been implicated in the commission of the data breaches.

Between September and October 31, 2017, Batrony allegedly filled out hundreds of online applications and made or attempted transfers of money, including 59 applications or transfers on October 27, 2017 and 42 applications made on September 29, 2017. After October 31, 2017, PenFed blocked the remainder of his attempted money transfers, including several online applications Batrony allegedly filled out in his own name, or that of an alias, “Aaron Green.” The accounts the defendant allegedly attempted to set up in his own name and that of his alias used a Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn address and telephone number associated with Batrony. Investigators with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office found that Batrony also allegedly used a mail drop service on Albany Avenue to receive mail and packages in the name of “Aaron Green.”

In April 2018, PenFed contacted the United States Secret Service regarding the account application made in the name of “Aaron Green,” as well as the connections PenFed had discovered among the hundreds of other fraudulent account applications. Secret Service agents determined the information “Aaron Green” submitted to open an account and apply for a $24,000 loan from PenFed allegedly included a fake New York State Driver’s License with a photo that matched Batrony and a counterfeit Social Security card that belonged to a juvenile in Idaho.

Batrony allegedly transferred or attempted to transfer funds to 10 financial accounts in his name, in the name of Aaron Green or into accounts in the names of relatives, friends or “money mules”— people who would allow the defendant to use their account in exchange for a payment.

It is alleged that Walker recruited “money mules” for Batrony to help facilitate the scheme.

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service.

Paralegal Stephanie Ducatel, of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey and Investigative Analyst Megan Carroll of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Samantha Magnani, and Assistant District Attorney Abdel-Rahman Hamed, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Bedford-Stuyvesant Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Fatally Stabbing Girlfriend

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

 

Bedford-Stuyvesant Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for
Fatally Stabbing Girlfriend

Defendant Stabbed Victim 20 Times; Pleaded Guilty to Manslaughter

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Bedford-Stuyvesant man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for fatally stabbing his girlfriend, whose body was found in their apartment with numerous stab wounds.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s sentence, this defendant has been held accountable. I am committed to ensuring justice for victims of domestic violence and I hope this defendant’s guilty plea and sentence bring some measure of solace to the victim’s daughter, family and friends.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Anthony Bradford, 55, of Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today to 20 years in prison and five years’ post-release supervision by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo. The defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter on February 28, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on the evening of July 2, 2017, the defendant and the victim, his girlfriend of over seven years, were driven home to their Gates Avenue apartment by the defendant’s son after the defendant got into an argument with someone during a barbecue at the defendant’s family’s house around the corner on Monroe Street. At approximately 11:30 p.m. that evening, the defendant returned to his family’s home with blood on his clothes and cuts on his hands. His family called for an ambulance.

According to the investigation, as paramedics treated the defendant’s wounds he stated that he had “done a really bad thing” and that he was “going to jail for a long time.” The defendant’s son directed the paramedics to the defendant’s home. When paramedics entered the apartment, they found the victim, who was deceased, in the bedroom in a pool of blood with 20 stab wounds to her chest, shoulders and arms.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Sabeeha Madni, of the District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michelle Kaminsky, Bureau Chief.

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Former Public Administrator Employee to be Sentenced for Stealing Over $78,000 From Estates of Eight Decedents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 15, 2019

 

Former Public Administrator Employee to be Sentenced for Stealing
Over $78,000 From Estates of Eight Decedents

Used Stolen Funds on a Cruise, Bills, Shopping and More

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett, today announced that a former case manager at the Office of the Kings County Public Administrator has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to make full restitution and serve five years’ probation following a 60-day jail term that he began today. He admitted stealing more than $78,000 from the eight deceased individuals whose estates his agency was administering.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I am committed to thwarting corruption and abuse of power and holding accountable those who betray the public trust. This defendant was entrusted to administer the estates of deceased individuals, but shamelessly chose to steal from them instead – causing additional grief to their loved ones.”

Commissioner Garnett said, “This public servant abused his authority as a representative of the Public Administrator’s Office by stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the estates of several deceased persons and lining his own pockets. Now, he has a criminal felony conviction and will pay back in full the money he stole. DOI thanks the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for their partnership and prosecution of this case.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Fitzroy Thompson, 37, of Park Slope, Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny on January 9, 2019 before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who today remanded the defendant to serve 60 days in jail. When he completes the jail term, he will be formally sentenced on May 15, 2019, to five years’ probation and must make full restitution by the end of the probationary term.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant was employed as a case manager at the Office of the Kings County Public Administrator, which administers estates of those who die without a last will and testament or without family members able to administer their estates. Between July 2017 and April 2018, the defendant stole a total of $78,325 in funds from estates being administered by the Public Administrator.

The defendant used credit cards and checking accounts belonging to estates of eight decedents whose cases he handled or could access to make various purchases and payments. In January 2018, he booked a cruise with Carnival Cruise Line, using one of the decedent’s credit cards to pay a $2,741 fee, the investigation found. He also used estate funds unlawfully to make ATM withdrawals exceeding $35,000, to make lease payments on a 2017 Nissan Pathfinder and a 2016 Nissan Altima, to make rent payments in connection with two properties, to pay phone and cable bills, to buy JetBlue airline tickets to Nassau, Bahamas and to make purchases at Walmart, Fingerhut and other retailers.

The defendant was arrested in March 2018 after the executor of one estate noticed charges on his deceased relative’s account, including the cruise payment, and filed a police report. A subsequent investigation discovered the additional larcenies. The defendant was suspended upon his arrest and resigned from the Office of the Public Administrator.

District Attorney Gonzalez thanked the Kings County Public Administrator’s Office, its staff and Public Administrator Richard Buckheit for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

The case was investigated by Senior Investigative Auditor Helen Gromadsky and former Deputy Inspector General and Special Counsel Inna Spector of the New York City Department of Investigation, under the supervision of Inspector General Eleonora Rivkin, Associate Commissioner Andrew Brunsden. The case was also investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Mitchell Eisenberg of the 60th Precinct Detective Squad.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit with the assistance of Investigative Paralegal Zachary Gitman, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

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East Flatbush Man Sentenced to 3 to 9 Years in Prison for Forging Deed and Stealing House from Elderly Neighbor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

 

East Flatbush Man Sentenced to 3 to 9 Years in Prison for
Forging Deed and Stealing House from Elderly Neighbor

Forged Deed Transferring Ownership of Neighbor’s Three-Family House
Worth $445,000 to Trust in His Name

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that an East Flatbush man, who absconded during his trial, was sentenced to three to nine years in state prison. He was convicted by a jury of grand larceny and other charges for stealing a house owned by his 84-year-old next-door neighbor by forging a deed and other documents that transferred ownership of the property to a trust in his name.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant twice showed a disregard for the rule of law, first by stealing his neighbor’s house and then absconding during his trial. He’s now been held accountable. This case is part of my continuing commitment to ensuring justice for Brooklyn homeowners who are all too often the target of unscrupulous individuals.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Winston Gregory Hall, also known as “Sage El,” 37, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The defendant was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of three to nine years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant was convicted of second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The defendant absconded after the jury trial began and was convicted in absentia on October 23, 2018. He was picked up in Brooklyn by police two months after absconding.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, between April and May of 2015, the defendant perpetrated a fraud to steal the title to 390 East 49th Street in Brooklyn, a three-family home owned by his next-door neighbor, an 84-year-old woman who lived with a family member in New Jersey.

According to the evidence, on April 16, 2015, the defendant created the Winston Gregory Hall Express Trust, of which he was the trustee. One week later, on April 23, 2015, a deed was executed by the victim, the owner of 390 East 49th Street, transferring ownership of the property to the defendant’s trust. Further, on May 8, 2015, the deed and related tax documents, also forged, were filed at the New York City Register’s Office. On May 18, 2015, the deed was recorded with the New York City Department of Finance, at which time the estimated market value of the property was $445,000.

The victim stated that she did not know the defendant and never intended to transfer ownership of her home to the defendant.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Frank Dudis and Senior Assistant District Attorney Ellen Koenig, of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Unit Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

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Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Unveils Sweeping Reforms His Office is Implementing as Part of the Justice 2020 Initiative, Establishing a National Model of a Progressive Prosecutor’s Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 11, 2019

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Unveils Sweeping Reforms
His Office is Implementing as Part of the Justice 2020 Initiative,
Establishing a National Model of a Progressive Prosecutor’s Office

Treating Incarceration as Last Resort and Partnering with Communities, Justice 2020
Signals Unprecedented Effort to Drastically Reshape Prosecutorial Agency

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced his plan for a groundbreaking initiative to transform Brooklyn’s justice system into a progressive model designed to keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all. The full Justice 2020 Report is available here.

The new approaches were developed following months of intensive consultations with dedicated committees made up of reform experts, defense attorneys, service providers, law enforcement, formerly incarcerated individuals, clergy and others. Justice 2020 is the first program in the nation to take a truly comprehensive and holistic approach to implementing a new model of a progressive and modern prosecutor’s office in the 21st century.

Among Justice 2020’s key reforms to reduce incarceration and ensure equal justice for all are:

  • Considering non-jail resolutions at every juncture of a case and shifting toward community-based responses to crime.
  • Establishing early release as the default position – not the exception – in most parole proceedings.
  • Prioritizing collaboration with neighborhood leaders and community-based organizations to provide more diversion opportunities and engage stakeholders as partners.
  • Implementing updated data and analytics systems to drive reform and ensure accountability and transparency.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “Justice 2020 will reshape the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office into a model of progressive prosecution that keeps the public safe and strengthens community trust by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all. We will move away from over-reliance on incarceration, engage all stakeholders as partners in justice, focus resources on those who do the most harm and make my Office more strategic and mission-driven.

“I am deeply grateful to all of the people, many of whom have personal experience within the system – who helped develop this comprehensive blueprint, which we have already begun implementing. As we continue to reap the benefits of historic decreases in crime here in Brooklyn and across the country, now is the time to focus on reforming injustices in the system that have led to over-reliance on incarceration and a lack of trust in the criminal justice system. In many cases, incarceration does not keep us safer, and I am committed to shifting to ways of holding people accountable and increasing public safety that don’t rely on incarceration as the default option.”

Justice 2020 envisions a level of community engagement with the DA’s office much deeper than currently exists, a true partnership in developing responses to crime.

The panel of experts that led the process to study, create and select these reforms was led by Medgar Evers College President Dr. Rudy Crew and former Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman. DA Gonzalez plans to make measurable progress towards enacting all 17 recommendations of the Committee by the end of 2020.

Medgar Evers College President Rudy Crew, Launch Committee Co-Chair said, “Justice 2020 has the potential to transform the relationship between communities and the criminal justice system. At a time when communities lack faith in law enforcement to keep them safe and treat them fairly, Justice 2020 envisions a partnership that gives communities a real voice in what safety and justice should look like. I know of no other DA’s office in the country that builds bridges in this way, and I commend Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez for his leadership.”

Former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Launch Committee Co-Chair and current Counsel at Latham & Watkins LLP said, “Justice 2020 isn’t just an agenda – it’s a comprehensive roadmap to improve public safety while diverting those who do not pose a threat to public safety out of the criminal justice system and into community-based services. I am honored to be part of DA Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 Initiative and hope to see prosecutors’ offices across the country use it as a model for truly progressive criminal justice reform.”

The full list of all 17 action points is below:

  1. Change the office culture so that ADAs consider non-jail resolutions at every juncture of a case.
  2. Offer pre-plea alternatives for all drug possession charges and reduce barriers to participation.
  3. Seal or expunge past marijuana convictions.
  4. Consider recommending parole when the minimum sentence is complete and participate more robustly in parole proceedings.
  5. Empower community residents and leaders through neighborhood justice partnerships.
  6. Partner with community-based organizations and service providers to expand community justice options.
  7. Reduce prosecution of school-based offenses and divert youth from the criminal justice system.
  8. Develop new protocols for investigations and prosecutions of police misconduct to improve accountability and transparency.
  9. Identify high-risk individuals early and explore early interventions to deter violent behavior.
  10. Interrupt gun violence and gang affiliation by intervening after a major enforcement action.
  11. Enhance prosecution of cases of gender-based violence, including acquaintance rape and sexual assault cases.
  12. Create a single point of contact for hate crime charges.
  13. Establish a transformation office and data/analytics team to drive metrics, best practices, and reform.
  14. Train all staff in cultural competency.
  15. Realign staffing so that each case is the responsibility of a single ADA (vertical prosecution).
  16. Promote accountability by establishing an office of professional responsibility and ethics.
  17. Streamline case handling and enhance fairness and transparency with e-discovery.

Evidence shows that relying on incarceration as the automatic response frequently undermines public safety by breaking apart families and communities and preventing people from pursuing the very educational and employment opportunities that reduce crime and strengthen communities. The District Attorney’s Office has already begun implementing Justice 2020, evidenced in their recent work to:

  • Erase past marijuana convictions.
  • Develop new protocols for investigating and prosecuting police misconduct and create a Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau.
  • Establish a Hate Crimes Bureau as a single point of contact for these offenses.
  • Begin revamping the Office’s data management system.

These efforts will serve to create fairness within Brooklyn’s criminal justice system and maintain the highest levels of public safety, both priorities for DA Gonzalez.

Brooklyn is uniquely positioned to take on this endeavor thanks to a true partnership with community organizations and leaders. The borough is safer than it’s ever been as 2018 ended with the lowest number of homicides since record-keeping began.  The Brooklyn DA’s office has put in place notable reform-minded programs, such as a bail policy that decreased reliance on cash bail, an immigration policy aimed at minimizing collateral consequences of criminal convictions, a Conviction Review Unit that is a national model and an initiative to vacate hundreds of thousands of outstanding summons warrants that were generated due to failures to pay fines for minor infractions.

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Police Officer Convicted for Off-Duty Road Rage Assault

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

 

Police Officer Convicted for Off-Duty Road Rage Assault

Struck Motorist with Pistol and Handcuffs, Causing Him to Require Stitches; Fled the Scene

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a New York City Police Officer has been convicted of felony assault, weapons possession, reckless driving and other charges for attacking a motorist on New Year’s Day 2018.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant endangered the life of not only the victim he assaulted but those drivers and pedestrians who shared the road with him that evening. The fact that he is a trained police officer makes his behavior even more disturbing. There is no place on our streets for road rage, and now a jury has held the defendant accountable for his brazen criminal conduct.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Michael Baror, 25, formerly of Transit District 32. He was convicted yesterday on charges of second-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, reckless driving, improper use of a siren and improper display of plates following a jury trial before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who set sentencing for May 8, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, on January 1, 2018, at approximately 10:30 p.m., at Avenue N and Bedford Avenue, the defendant was driving his personal vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee that was illegally equipped with lights and sirens. He was flashing his high beams at a car in front of him and rear-ended it. He then got out of the car and pulled out his pistol and pistol-whipped the other driver, a 29-year-old man. He also repeatedly struck the victim in the face with handcuffs before getting back in his vehicle and driving away.

The victim followed the defendant. The victim’s girlfriend, who was also in the vehicle, called 911 and remained on the phone during the chase. While the victim’s girlfriend was reporting the plate number to the 911 operator, the defendant concealed his license plate with an electronic device. Both vehicles were speeding and running red lights and the victim eventually crashed into the defendant’s vehicle. Police were at the scene within minutes, but the defendant had fled the scene. He did not report the incident to police or his supervisors. The defendant was arrested the following day and a search of his vehicle revealed that he removed the lights and sirens. The defendant, who is seen on surveillance video with a thick beard and hair on his head during the incident, had shaved his head and beard by the time police arrived to arrest him the following day.

The victim was treated at a hospital and sustained stitches to the mouth, swelling and bruising about the face and head, a contusion to the top of his head, a cut to the nose, and an injured shoulder.

The case was investigated by NYPD Sergeant John Pietanza of the Internal Affairs Bureau Group 34.

KCDA Paralegal Michel Chung assisted with the case.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kelli M. Muse, Chief of the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau and Senior Assistant District Attorney Prabhalya Pulim, also of the Hate Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney Joseph P. Alexis, Chief of the District Attorney’s Trial Division.

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Brooklyn DA Moves to Vacate Murder Conviction In Connection With 2001 Killing Outside Sunset Park Strip Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 22, 2019

 

Brooklyn DA Moves to Vacate Murder Conviction
In Connection With 2001 Killing Outside Sunset Park Strip Club

Defendant’s Confession Was Used at Trial Even Though It Contained a False Fact – That Victim Was Stabbed, not Shot; Detective Notes That Could Have Helped Defense Were Not Disclosed

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that following a thorough investigation by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU), he will move to vacate the murder conviction against Bladimil Arroyo, 39, who has been incarcerated since 2001. The investigation found that the defendant was deprived of a fair trial because the only direct evidence against him consisted of a confession that included a false fact likely transmitted to him by police – that the victim was stabbed rather than shot – and certain detective notes were not disclosed to the defense. Arroyo is the 25th individual whose conviction has been vacated by Brooklyn’s CRU since it was established in 2014. The full report of the CRU’s investigation and its recommendations on lessons learned is available here.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “While we cannot say that Mr. Arroyo was not involved in this crime, a thorough investigation by my Conviction Review Unit has concluded that he was deprived of a fair trial, and this undermines our confidence in his conviction. Confirmation bias and nondisclosure of certain police documents led to this outcome and I am confident that policy changes that have been made over the ensuing years and additional recommendations by the CRU will ensure that these mistakes are not repeated. I remain fully committed to correcting every past injustice that took place in Brooklyn.”

Arroyo will appear in court today at 2:15 p.m. before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic at 320 Jay Street, 15th floor.

The District Attorney said that in the early morning hours of September 16, 2001, Gabor Muronvi, who was walking with a friend, was killed near the Sweet Cherry strip club in Sunset Park, Brooklyn during a botched robbery. Arroyo was apprehended a short time later after police followed a car that left the crime scene, leading to him and to a co-defendant, who was injured during the confrontation with the victim and his friend. A doctor informed police that the victim died from a stab wound to the heart.

Later that day, Arroyo confessed to trying to rob the two men and to stabbing the victim “in the upper chest” during a struggle. He was charged that afternoon with murder and related counts. The next day, the Medical Examiner reported that the autopsy showed the cause of death to be a single gunshot to the chest and that the victim was not stabbed.

The case proceeded and Arroyo’s confession was used at trial, with the prosecutor suggesting to the jury that the defendant confessed to using a knife in an attempt to minimize his culpability in the fatal shooting. The victim’s friend, who survived the attack and initially told police there were three assailants, testified that there were only two. He did not identify Arroyo at trial.

Arroyo was convicted in November 2002 of second-degree murder, attempted robbery and assault. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. (His co-defendant pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was sentenced to nine years in prison.)

The investigation by the CRU revealed that police accounts concerning Arroyo’s confession – which was false in regard to the murder weapon – were incomplete at best and misleading at worst because they did not explain how Arroyo came to describe erroneous facts that police believed to be true at the time. The CRU also discovered that several documents were not turned over to defense and should have been: detective notes about the surviving victim’s identification of another individual as a possible attacker; notes containing a detective’s initial statement that there were three people in the car that left the scene; notes containing the same detective’s description of the car’s passenger, which didn’t match the defendant; and untimely disclosure of the surviving victim’s past conviction, which allowed him to testify falsely about the circumstances of that conviction. These documents would have helped the defense argue against the prosecution’s theory that only two attackers were involved in the crime, a theory that validated the defendant’s confession. The CRU therefore recommended vacating Arroyo’s conviction.

The CRU also found that because the crime happened a few days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, usual processes of obtaining police reports were disrupted and documents were received late and piecemeal. The investigation could not ascertain when, if at all, the non-disclosed items were received.

The CRU issued the following recommendations to ensure that the circumstances leading to this wrongful conviction are not repeated: 1. Video recording of interrogations and statements, which is largely mooted by recent legislation requiring video interrogations of persons accused of serious crimes. 2. Training all prosecutors on confirmation bias, which likely led the prosecution in this case to move forward even after new evidence had emerged that conflicted with the defendant’s confession. Prosecutors believed the defendant was trying to minimize his conduct and did not pause to explore the possibility that he was fed facts and provided a false account. The tendency of people to embrace information that supports their existing beliefs and reject information that contradicts those beliefs is pervasive and comes up repeatedly in the practice of criminal law. 3. Improved discovery practices, which were not subject to a uniform protocol when this case was tried. An open file discovery policy has since been instituted in Brooklyn, which includes disclosures at a much earlier stage than the statutory requirements and creates a clear record of what was turned over. That policy will soon improve further with a transition to electronic discovery, which is part of DA Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 action plan. Together, these changes reduce the chances of documents being mismanaged.

To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit has resulted in 25 convictions being vacated, including Arroyo’s. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 60 convictions are just and not recommended for vacatur. Approximately 100 cases are pending review.

This case was investigated by Senior Assistant District Attorneys Tamara Edelstein and Lori Glachman, of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, and Assistant District Attorney Eric Sonnenschein, Deputy Unit Chief, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, Unit Chief, and the overall supervision of Tali Farhadian Weinstein, General Counsel.

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Chef Turned Restaurant Consultant Indicted for Allegedly Stealing More Than $14,000 From Owners of Bay Ridge Eatery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 22, 2019

 

Chef Turned Restaurant Consultant Indicted for Allegedly Stealing
More Than $14,000 From Owners of Bay Ridge Eatery

Defendant Allegedly Faked Violations and Documentation to Steal Money

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett today announced that a 36-year-old man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records for stealing more than $14,000 from a Bay Ridge restaurant after falsely claiming it had numerous violations.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “The victims in this case worked hard to make their restaurant a success and this defendant, claiming he could help them, allegedly lied and stole their hard-earned money instead. I am committed to protecting small businesses, which are an important part of our communities, from fraudsters such as this defendant.”

Commissioner Garnett said, “This defendant falsified City documents to continually shake down a local small business for thousands of dollars in cash, according to the charges. Forging official City documents is a crime and DOI will continue to pursue individuals who attempt to use fake records to take advantage of unwitting New Yorkers. DOI thanks OATH for referring the original complaint that led to today’s arrest and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for its prosecution of this alleged conduct.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Vincent Tropepe, 36, of Bay Ridge. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano on a 41-count indictment in which he is charged with 19 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, 20 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, one count of third-degree grand larceny, and one count of third-degree attempted grand larceny. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on April 17, 2019. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant, who holds himself out to be a restaurant consultant, was employed as a registered representative by the Yemen Café, located at 7130 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to appear at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) to advocate on its behalf. The defendant also consulted and trained kitchen staff in proper food handling practices.

Between July 13, 2018 and August 18, 2018, according to the investigation, the defendant claimed he had discovered delinquent violations at OATH, appeared before a judge and negotiated lower fines, paid the fines from his business account and saved the Café from closure. He gave the owners of the Café fraudulent paperwork, including notices of appearance, that he claimed to have received from OATH, claiming that the restaurant owed thousands of dollars in fines for delinquent violations.

On July 13, 2018, he demanded to be reimbursed and he was given $2,570 by the owners. On August 13, 2018, the defendant demanded an additional $11,650, claiming he laid out that amount to pay fines on the Café’s behalf, and presented the owners with additional paperwork stating higher fines were owed. The owners gave the defendant that money as well.

The owners became suspicious of the validity of the violations and went to OATH to determine if the fines were legitimate. OATH determined that the documents presented by the defendant were fraudulent and the alleged fines and violations were fabricated. OATH reported the incident to DOI for investigation. Finally, the defendant allegedly sought additional payment from the Café in December 2018, presenting them with more fraudulent documents and fabricated violations. However, the owners did not give him any money.

The case was investigated by DOI’s Office of the Inspector General for OATH, specifically Assistant Inspector General Trenton Sweeney, under the supervision of Inspector General Eleonora Rivkin, Associate Commissioner Andrew Brunsden, Deputy Commissioner/Chief of Investigations Dominick Zarrella, and First Deputy Commissioner Daniel Cort.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Chief of the Public Integrity Unit, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him With Attempted Rape of Homeless Shelter Security Guard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 22, 2019

 

Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him With
Attempted Rape of Homeless Shelter Security Guard

Defendant Escaped Custody Following His Arrest, Found in Hiding Two Days Later

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 31-year-old resident of an East New York homeless shelter has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with attempted rape, sexual abuse, escape and other charges for allegedly attacking a shelter security guard while she was on-duty, and then escaping custody following his arrest.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant is alleged to have cruelly attacked a woman whose job was to keep him and other residents of the shelter safe. Thankfully other residents and DHS police bravely thwarted this violent attack. We will now seek to hold him accountable and secure justice for the victim.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Jose Bisono-Torres, 31, formerly of 1000 Blake Avenue, a homeless shelter run by the Community Healthcare Network. He was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Ingram on an indictment in which he is charged with first-degree attempted rape, attempted sexual misconduct, first- and third-degree sexual abuse, and second- and third-degree escape. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on March 19, 2019. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 19, 2019, at approximately 7:45 a.m., the victim was finishing an overnight tour as a security guard at the shelter. She was standing next to a garbage can when the defendant allegedly approached her from behind and grabbed her aggressively while shouting that he was going to rape her. The defendant allegedly groped the victim.

Furthermore, the defendant allegedly refused to let go of the victim even after several people came out of their rooms and attempted to pull him off her. He was apprehended at the scene by Department of Homeless Services police officers stationed at the site.

At approximately 5:20 p.m., as the defendant was being escorted to the Central Booking entrance on State Street by the DHS officers, he allegedly shoved one officer and managed to escape. The defendant was apprehended hiding in the basement of a bodega in Cypress Hills on January 21, 2019 by New York City Police Officers assigned to the Fugitive Task Force.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Daniel Newcombe, of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Bureau Chief.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not a proof of a defendant’s guilt.