3 susps freed after lies revealed: DA
NYPD Detective Joseph Franco (right) leaves Manhattan court Wednesday after being charged with perjury in several drug arrests. (Alec Tabak for Daily News)
BY ELIZABETH KEOGH,
AND GRAHAM RAYMAN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
An NYPD narcotics detective has been arrested over accusations he lied in court testimony and on official documents, leading to false arrests.
Joseph Franco, 46, a plainclothes cop who was assigned to the Manhattan South Narcotics Division, allegedly falsified information on three arrests over the past two years. He was arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday.
All three convictions against the people he allegedly falsely arrested have been vacated and the cases sealed.
Prosecutor Stephanie Minogue said Franco made up claims he had seen the defendants sell drugs and put “outright lies” in official records.
Minogue said in one arrest, Franco claimed to have seen a man named Julio Irizzary hawking drugs in the lobby of a building on Delancey St. on the Lower East Side on Feb. 21, 2017.
“The drug sale that the officer said happened in the lobby never took place,” Minogue said, noting that witnesses and surveillance footage contradicted what Franco claimed.
Minogue said footage of Franco walking straight past the entrance to the building made it “physically impossible” for him to have seen inside it.
“Mr. Irizzary was arrested for a crime he never committed,” she said.
Franco, a 19-year veteran, had been on desk duty since February. He has now been suspended.
“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,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said.
Added Police Commissioner James O’Neill: “Our NYPD officers swear an oath to uphold the law, and meet the highest ethical standards. Should an officer fail to meet those critical expectations, they must be held accountable.”
In another case, Franco claimed he saw Tameeka Baker, 35, selling drugs in June 2017 outside a building on Madison St. on the Lower East Side, but security video and eyewitnesses contradicted him.
“The detectives ran down on me and searched everybody and said ‘I know what you did,’ ” Baker told the Daily News about the arrest at a friend’s apartment building. “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 was jailed for over 17 months before she was notified by her lawyer that Internal Affairs and the district attorney were investigating her case. Her charges were dropped and she was released from the upstate Albion Correctional Facility last Nov. 21.
“It changed my life,” she told The News. “I never want to see the inside of that place again. It changed me.”
She’s now pursuing her GED and has filed a civil lawsuit against Franco.
“I’m just waiting to see justice,” said Baker. “That’s it.”
The third incident took place April 23, 2018. Two additional cases are still being investigated.
“In each of these cases the defendant compounded his misconduct by repeating these lies over and over again,” Minogue said.
Franco was charged with perjury, offering a false instrument for filing, and official misconduct. His defense lawyer Howard Tanner cited the former detective’s clean record and his 7-year-old daughter as he argued for release without bail Wednesday. He said Franco has had a role in thousands of legitimate arrests.
“In what world do these prosecutors live in that they do not believe in good faith my client will come back to court to face these charges?” Tanner said. “He’s had this indictment hanging over his head since February.”
Prosecutors asked for $50,000 bail but the judge released Franco while the case is pending. The next court date is June 28.
A woman who answered the door at Franco’s Hudson Heights apartment Wednesday night refused to comment.
But a neighbor who said he hadn’t seen Franco in the building in over a month recalled him as “a nice, quiet, peaceful guy.”
“There are very serious things that come with very serious consequences and I hope he is clean,” the neighbor said.