NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, nydailynews.com
BYLINE: Shayna Jacobs / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS,
New York, NY
The NYPD's Auto Crimes Division and Technical Assistance Response Unit deleted video surveillance and failed to record undercover conversations with suspects. It remains to be seen if this will affect trials of the defendants, but a ruling on the evidence issue is expected Monday.
A handful of the motorcycles seized in the snafu-filled investigation, which has seen evidence lost multiple times.
Bryan Smith for New York Daily News
Sloppy cop work has undermined a high-profile stolen motorcycle case for the second time in less than a year, the Daily News has learned.
The NYPD’s Auto Crimes Division and Technical Assistance Response Unit wiped two surveillance videos — the only copies available — and apparently failed even to record two other meetings between undercover cops and suspects, according to criminal court proceedings last week.
The missing evidence is the second embarrassing gaffe to result from the 17-month investigation into gun trafficking and the theft and resale of 63 bikes valued at about $500,000.
About a month after Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. announced last July’s takedown, seven high-performance bikes that had been seized in the sting were swiped from a poorly secured police lot in the Bronx.
Now it has emerged in a Manhattan Supreme Court pretrial hearing that two recordings made in August 2011 were later erased when a detective’s hard drive was reformatted by the NYPD technical experts. The backup copy, on an undercover cop’s laptop, has also been expunged. Two meetings held months later were supposed to be recorded but never were, detectives testified at hearings.
Defense attorneys for four of the defendants due to go on trial in May in the sophisticated theft ring are seeking dismissals or exclusions of testimony and evidence.
Lawyer Andrew Miller, who represents Damian Jones, argued that “you can’t get more blatantly careless” with evidence than the NYPD was in this case.
“The evidence destroyed here is highly relevant,” attorney Joseph Heinzmann, who represents accused ringleader Steve (Jersey Dred) Dow, argued in a letter to the court.
Prosecutors downplayed the significance of the snafu.
“This is just an unfortunate mistake that does happen, unfortunately, in large operations such as this,” Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence said.
It remains to be seen how the botched video collection will affect the upcoming trial of Jones, Dow, Omar Thomas and fourth defendant Truman Francis, who all face up to 25 years in prison. A ruling on the evidence issue by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marcy Kahn is expected Monday.
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