Brooklyn DA to probe allegations NYPD officers planted guns

Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced it is looking into whether or not six NYPD officers planted guns on innocent people in order to arrest them for illegal possession of firearms.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced the investigation after prosecutors were forced to drop a weapons case involving a man accused of having a gun outside his Brooklyn apartment. The probe will center on allegations that police officers have been planting guns on innocent people.

READ MORE: Two wrongfully convicted New Yorkers awarded $9mn after serving 16 years in jail

The man in question in this particular case, 53-year-old Jeffery Herring, was arrested last year by officers from the 67th Precinct in East Flatbush. Police said they had a tip from a confidential informant stating that someone had a gun. Herring matched the description of the man, and a gun was found at the location reported by the informant.

However, the gun found was in a plastic bag with no traces of the suspect’s fingerprints. The charges were dropped when police were unable to bring the informant to court despite a judge’s order that he or she appear. Herring has maintained his innocence for more than a year and a half.

I dreamed of this day,” said Herring, who was facing up to 15 years in jail, to The New York Daily News. “I knew I didn’t do anything.”

The DA’s investigation will not focus solely on Herring’s case. Five other cases share similar details, a situation that has led to the suspicion of questionable police conduct.

READ MORE:NYC man dies after wrongfully spending 23 years in prison

"We will investigate the arrest of Mr. Herring and other arrests by these officers because of the serious questions raised by this case," said Thompson.

The public defender representing Herring, Debora Silberman, suggested in court papers that the group of officers invents criminal informants and may have been motivated to make false arrests to satisfy department goals or quotas. They might also be collecting the $1,000 rewards offered to informants for Operation Gun Stop, which is meant to notify police of illegal gun possession.

A spokeswoman for the NYPD told The New York Times that investigators from the Internal Affairs Bureau were looking at officers’ conduct in these cases. “Any allegations that are made in regards to the credibility of the officers are taken very seriously,” she added.

READ MORE:Brooklyn man freed after serving 29yrs for false murder conviction

The officers’ names associated with some of the most recent cases are retired Detective Gregory Jean-Baptiste, Lt. Edward Babington, Sgt. Vassilios Aidiniou, Officer Jean Gaillard, and Officer Victor Troiano.

Since taking office 10 months ago, Thompson has vacated 10 cases for wrongful convictions under his predecessor, Charles Hynes. He told reporters at a recent press conference: “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”