Jason Arbeeny, a 14-year veteran of the NYPD who worked in the Brooklyn South unit was convicted of planting drugs on a woman and her boyfriend in 2007. Before announcing the verdict, Justice Reichbach scolded the department for what he described as a widespread culture of corruption endemic in its drug units.
“I thought I was not naïve,” he said. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”
Several narcotics officers in Brooklyn have been caught mishandling drugs they seized as evidence, and hundreds of potentially tainted drug cases have been dismissed. The city has made payments to settle civil suits over wrongful incarcerations.
Former detective, Stephen Anderson testified during the trial that officers in drug units, like the one Arbeeny worked in, often planted drugs on people. Anderson pleaded guilty to official misconduct over a 2008 incident involving drug evidence and faces two to four years in prison.
On Jan. 25, 2007, prosecutors said, Detective Arbeeny planted a small bag of crack cocaine on two innocent people.
Yvelisse DeLeon and her boyfriend, Juan Figueroa were the prosecutions main witnesses. Deleon testified that the couple drove up to their apartment building in Coney Island and were approached by two plainclothes police officers. She said she then saw Detective Arbeeny remove a bag of powder from his pocket and place it in the vehicle. “He brought out his pocket,” Ms. DeLeon told the court. “He said, ‘Look what I find.’ It looked like little powder in a little bag.”
The detective was also accused of stealing multiple bags of cocaine from the prisoner van to which he had been assigned but was found not guilty.
There was conflicting testimony during the trial about quotas in the department’s drug units, but Justice Reichbach said a system of flawed procedures led to the charges against Detective Arbeeny.
In the department’s Brooklyn South narcotics unit, for instance, drugs seized as evidence are not counted or sealed until they reach the precinct and can be handled by multiple officers along the way, Justice Reichbach said, adding that such unacceptable practices “pale in significance” to the “cowboy culture” of the drug units.
“Anything goes in the never-ending war on drugs,” he said, “and a refusal to go along with questionable practices raise the specter of blacklisting and isolation.”
Sentencing is scheduled for January. Arbeeny faces up to four years in prison.
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