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Discredited New York Police Detective’s False Testimony Causes the Dismissal of Close to 100 Drug Convictions

Franco’s career began to unravel in 2019 when he was charged in 26 criminal counts of testifying that he had witnessed several drug buys that video evidence showed either did not happen or where he could not have been present. Those charges are still pending.

Of course, the real question is why it took almost two years for the dismissal of these charges to take place. Franco, who had worked for the police for over two decades, was finally held accountable for his actions. Gonzalez said that he felt compelled to dismiss the 90 charges after he lost faith in Franco’s credibility. “We’re in a moment of talking about criminal justice reform,” he said. “It’s clear that we couldn’t responsibly rely on his testimony to stand by these convictions.”

The charges slated to be dismissed were mostly for low-level possession, generally of men arrested between 2004 and 2011, resulting in a total of 27 people serving between six months and one year behind bars and many with life-altering criminal convictions.

As noted by Legal Aid Society attorney Tina Luongo, “The damage is done at the point of arrest. They likely had bail set on them, spent time at Rikers Island, lost jobs, were separated from their families—no matter what happens, those harms were done.”

According to the New York Times, “Between January 2015 and March 2018, an investigation [by the Times] found more than 25 instances in which judges or prosecutors determined that a central aspect of a New York City police officer’s testimony was likely untrue.”

Another criminal justice advocate, Maryanne Kaishian, and senior policy counsel at Brooklyn Defender Services said, “People understand that when it’s their word against the word of an officer, the system is not designed to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many people will decide that it’s not worth it to them.”

Other experts noted that the loss of police credibility from such cases as Franco’s only underscores serious problems with law enforcement accountability. Investigative reporter Tim Cushing neatly summed up the problem: “If a detective is this comfortable lying, it’s because they’ve had years of practice and zero pushback from supervisors or other officers on the scene. This is the sort of thing that happens when accountability is nearly nonexistent. Better late than never, for sure. But if the nation’s law enforcement agencies want to win back the public’s trust, they need to address the internal rot they’ve ignored or tolerated for years.” 

 

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