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DA: Police Officer’s Lies Sent Innocent People to Prison; Two Cases on the Lower East Side

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According to Manhattan’s district attorney, lies by a veteran New York City detective sent at least three innocent people to prison. Two of the cases in question happened on the Lower East Side.

On Wednesday, narcotics cop Joseph Franco was charged with 16 counts, including perjury and official misconduct. He claimed to have witnessed drug transactions, but prosecutors say videotapes and other evidence now reveal that Franco fabricated the accounts.

In one case, Franco claimed to have witnessed Julio Irizarry selling drugs in the lobby of a building on Delancey Street in February 2017. Security camera video showed that no transaction took place, and also that the police officer stayed outside the building, meaning he could not have observed what was happening in the lobby.

In June of 2017, prosecutors say, Franco arrested Tameeka Baker on Madison Street, claiming that she had been dealing drugs inside a building. In this case, as well, security camera video, contradicted the police officer’s account. When the district attorney uncovered the discrepancies, convictions against Irizarry and Baker were vacated, and they were released from state prison. A third case was also vacated.

DA Cy Vance said, “This detective lied to judges, prosecutors, and his own colleagues in the NYPD about crimes that never happened, and three New Yorkers wrongfully lost their liberty as a result. My Office will continue to bring the full weight of the law against uniformed officers who lie and undermine the public trust in law enforcement on which we rely to keep New York safe.”

In an interview with the Daily News, Baker said, “The detectives ran down on me and searched everybody and said ‘I know what you did.’ … They kept saying I knew what I did. I was actually being accused of selling crack cocaine. All they found on me was $42 in front of the building.” Baker spent 17 months in prison before her release this past November.  She has filed a civil lawsuit against Franco.

Franco pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and was released without bail. Prosecutors had asked for $50,000 bail. Franco has been suspended without pay.

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