16 Officers Plead Not Guilty In Alleged NYPD Ticket Fixing Scandal
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A ticket-fixing scandal has now ignited a virtual civil war in the NYPD.
The stunning investigation had 16 officers in Bronx Criminal Court Friday, answering to charges. Hundreds of their colleagues were there in a dramatic show of support as all the officers pleaded not guilty in connection with the investigation.
Photo Gallery: NYPD Ticket-Fixing Arraignment
The accused allegedly fixed tickets for family and friends, but the investigation has broadened to include other kinds of alleged corruption, CBS 2′s Pablo Guzman reported.
“They would either remove the actual ticket — the property of NYPD — from the precinct or they would alter the ticket in a manner to cause it to be dismissible,” Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said.
“Those actions are crimes under the law and can’t be glossed over as courtesies or as part of an acceptable culture — they are not. Those who try to rationalize it are kidding themselves,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
No one expected the turnout Friday featuring 1,000 cops outside the courthouse and another 400 inside, many of whom chanted “Ray Kelly hypocrite.” Only about 100 could fit in the courtroom, so the rest were in the hallway outside.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
Among those lending support was paralyzed officer Stephen McDonald, who was wheeled into the courtroom to a rousing ovation.
Officers held up signs that read “It’s A Courtesy, Not A Crime” and “Just Following Orders” and a quote from Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying ”It’s been going on since the days of the Egyptians.”
As recently as April, Bloomberg tried to downplay what had become a major investigation.
“I’m sure there is somebody who went over the line, but they’d be very few and far between,” he said.
Officer Jose Ramos was the first to be arraigned. In addition to allegedly fixing tickets, he is suspected of associating with a drug dealer. Ramos and his wife were arrested Thursday night. He pleaded not guilty in court Friday.
“He sold his shield, he violated his oath,” said Assistant District Attorney Omer Wiceyk.
The DA’s office said they even have Ramos on video telling a drug dealer he can use his badge and uniform for anything: “I can drive a dead body in the trunk of my car across the city, and not be caught.”
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, made it clear his rank-and-file was not there for Ramos. Some of the officers facing charges are officials within the PBA.
“If I could’ve turned my back when that drug dealer walked in without disrespecting the court, I would have done that,” Lynch said to applause.
Lieutenant Jennara Cobb of Internal Affairs also pleaded not guilty to allegedly tipping off officers about the ticket fixing probe. The remaining officers pleaded not guilty to official misconduct and obstructing governmental authority charges.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Irene Cornell reports
Also charged were Bronx union delegates Officers Joseph Anthony, 46; Michael Hernandez, 35; and Brian McGuckin, 44. Officer Virgilio Bencosme, 33, and Officer Luis R. Rodriguez, 43, both of the 40th Precinct; Officer Christopher Scott, 41, of the 48th Precinct; Officer Jaime Payan, 37, of the 46th Precinct; Officer Eugene P. O’Reilly, 39, of the 45th Precinct; Officer Christopher Manzi, 41, of the 41st Precinct; and Jason Cenizal, 39, a former delegate from the 42nd Precinct.
Jacob G. Solorzano, 41, was Ramos’ supervisor. He was charged with misconduct. Sgt. Marc Manara, 39, Officer Ruben Peralta, 45, Jeffrey Regan, 37 and Officer Christopher Scott, 41, of the 48th Precinct were all charged with covering up an assault for a an acquaintance. Some of the charges also include ticket fixing.
Some 500 cops and union officials came under some level of scrutiny over the last two years. CBS 2 learned 80 cops have been disciplined by Commissioner Kelly for various minor offenses stemming from the probe.
The investigation began two years ago when Internal Affairs said they caught officer Ramos, of the Bronx, talking about tickets during an unrelated narcotics case.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman reports
“In late 2009, the C.I (confidential informant) who was seeking to fix NYPD traffic tickets in exchange for payment, was introduced to William Masso, the defendant, as a person who could fix the C.I.’s traffic tickets,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
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