Rousting the Cops

One man stands up to the NYPD's apartheid-like trespassing crackdown.

Next I asked him how David had entered the high-rise, and he claimed that he had slipped in behind a woman with a key. When I asked what had initially attracted his attention to David, the officer began to dig himself a hole. But he charged recklessly on, throwing in, almost casually, that he believed David was going to rob or assault the woman once inside the building.

"What made you think so?" I asked.

"Because, counselor," he smirked at me, "your client stalked that woman for nearly a block."

"You watched my client prepare to commit a violent crime . . . and you waited to exit your vehicle until my client had already gotten inside the building?"

"It happened very fast, counselor."

He then balked when I pointed out the first door is unlocked and didn't require a key.

"How was it that the woman had used a key for the first door?"

"She had her key out, counselor."

"David was alone when you observed him in the lobby?"

"Yes."

"And you arrested him in the lobby?"

"Yes."

"How did you get into the lobby?"

"I walked in."

"So the door was open?"

"Ummm . . . yes, I believe so. I don't remember."

The judge looked over his glasses at the cop and changed expression for the first time. I could see David shaking his head in disgust.

The D.A. stood by his cop, arguing in his closing statement that he had observed my client trespassing in the lobby of a Clean Halls building and that any minor inconsistencies were irrelevant to the trespassing charge. My arguments were to the contrary: The officer's testimony on direct examination, I argued, bore no resemblance to his testimony on cross-examination, which, in turn, bore no resemblance to the criminal complaint he swore out.

The judge acquitted David, reasoning that if he had been in the building to visit a specific individual, he had not been trespassing, even if he had been there for an illegal purpose. (Odd, if defensible, logic. My guess is that the judge was reluctant, as most judges are, to call any cop a liar.)

I was elated, but David didn't feel vindicated—he was disgusted. The entire process left him feeling only bitterness. He had been falsely arrested for "trespassing" in his own backyard, like so many others before him.

Like so many others right now.


Fabricant is the author of Busted! Drug War Survival Skills (HarperCollins, 2005).

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