The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office will request to throw out nearly a hundred convictions that they say were based on work of a discredited NYPD narcotics detective currently awaiting trial for perjury and misconduct.
The cases all involved former undercover Det. Joseph Franco, who has been indicted in Manhattan on perjury, official misconduct and other charges in four incidents where he’s accused of framing people in drug transactions during investigations, DA Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.
While Gonzalez’s Conviction Review Unit said there hasn’t been evidence of similar misconduct in Franco’s police work when he was assigned to commands in Brooklyn, nonetheless Gonzalez has “lost confidence in cases where the detective was an essential witness, i.e., cases that could not have been prosecuted without him, and is requesting that those convictions be dismissed,” he said.
Former Detective Joseph Franco’s cases in Brooklyn are over a decade old, which limited our ability to reinvestigate them, but I cannot in good faith stand by convictions that principally relied on his testimony. https://t.co/Yo2X7qOrBv
— DA Eric Gonzalez (@BrooklynDA) April 7, 2021
Franco was indicted in April 2019 by a Manhattan grand jury on 16 counts of first-degree perjury and related charges, and another ten counts of first-degree perjury and related charges in July 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyer Howard Tanner told the New York Times “I would therefore ask that the public withhold judgment until all the facts are heard.”
Gonzalez’s office is requesting that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic vacate and dismiss 27 felony convictions and 13 misdemeanor convictions, which are largely for criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third or fifth degree. The DA’s office is also requesting that Criminal Court Judge Keshia Espinal vacate and dismiss 50 misdemeanor convictions that are mostly related to criminal possession of a controlled substance. The cases date from 2004 to 2011, when Franco was working in Brooklyn, and all but one of those convictions were obtained via guilty pleas.
Records show Franco made more than $143,000 in 2018 before he was placed on desk duty in 2019, then fired from the NYPD last year.
Here’s Franco’s CCRB history (which was still secret in ’19): 14 complaints, 4 substantiated, 2 instances of Command Discipline A. No clue about his Internal Affairs history b/c it hasn’t been posted by NYPD. In fact, Joseph Franco isn’t even in NYPD’s online officer database pic.twitter.com/ybPY74lBfw
— Ali Winston (@awinston) April 7, 2021
According to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Franco arrested three people for drug deals that never happened, then repeatedly lied on the witness stand about what he’d observed. In one case, Franco testified that he’d seen a woman selling crack outside her Lower East Side apartment building in 2017. The woman spent a year and a half in prison before she was released this past November, after security camera footage disproved the officer’s account.
Most of the other people who were convicted on felonies based on Franco’s work were sentenced to between six months and a year in jail and up to three years in prison, the Brooklyn district attorney said. Most of the people convicted for a misdemeanor were sentenced between time served to 90 days in jail.
One man who was arrested three times by Franco and charged with low-level drug offenses told the New York Times that he was “fresh out of high school, with a young son and a second child on the way, when he was arrested in 2005, he said. He spent several years behind bars. The man, now 35, said the transition home was rocky, and the arrests continue to affect him.”
A request for comment to NYPD was not immediately answered Wednesday.
Franco’s 19 years in the NYPD also included a stint in the Bronx from 2001 to 2003 as an officer, and from 2011 to 2015 working undercover there. A spokesperson for Bronx D.A. Darcel Clark said Wednesday the borough’s Public Integrity Bureau has been reviewing approximately 150 convictions involving Franco’s role as an undercover narcotics detective and “is in the process of analyzing each case to determine if the convictions are reliable.”