By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Why the 23-year reign of Charles Hynes must end
Five months later, in January 2012, police arrested a second suspect, Gregory Johnson. On January 30, ADA Silver took the Johnson case to another grand jury. This time, Awardeh and his boss testified that Johnson was the gunman. The grand jury indicted him, too.
In other words, even as Bozeman sat in Rikers, the same prosecutor was knowingly using the same two witnesses to secure the indictment of another man for the same crime. "The prosecution of two people as the same gunman is a clear violation of due process," says Gershman, the Pace University Law professor. "The courts do not allow prosecutors to pursue inconsistent theories."
Bozeman's lawyer Mark Bederow was deeply concerned about the contradictory indictments, and last June, shortly after he took over the case, he started pressing Silver's office for more documents, making at least six formal requests and numerous informal ones to prosecutor Sabeeha Madni over the next five months. He was largely ignored. Bozeman continued to fester in jail.
On October 18, Bederow wrote Madni again, and received her e-mail telling him to "relax" and insisting that no documents she possessed would exonerate his client.
Eventually, Bederow found out enough about the case to convince him it should be dismissed:
He learned that the key witness, Awardeh, picked out Bozeman after he had identified a third man as the robber; prosecutors didn't tell Bederow about that ID for five months.
He learned that the third man, Edicy Reedy, was identified by police as a suspect weeks before they arrested Bozeman, but that they never ran down the lead even though Reedy's cell phone was found in the backseat of the SUV, and his DNA was on the handle of the bag left in the car by one of the perps. Prosecutors never placed Reedy in a lineup or questioned him before indicting Bozeman.
And Bederow learned that Bozeman's DNA on the white cloth was the only forensic evidence against him. Neither DNA nor fingerprints were found outside the bag or anywhere on the SUV.
"Based upon any reasonable interpretation of this material," Bederow wrote in late November, in a 10-page letter calling for dismissal of the charges, "it is clear that the D.A. had knowledge that prosecution against Mr. Bozeman was unwarranted at the very time it approved his arrest, and sought his indictment, remand, and lifetime incarceration."
Incredibly, even on October 18, after many of these glaring weaknesses had been exposed in the year-old case, Madni still pushed for a guilty plea. "Let's have a conversation again about whether we can agree on any disposition on this case," she wrote.
On December 12, six weeks after her e-mail to Bederow, Madni was forced to watch as her boss dropped all charges against Bozeman and ordered his release.
Bederow told the Voice that Madni's e-mail demonstrated "a fundamental lack of understanding of constitutional rights and an indifference to investigating serious claims about a man who should not have been prosecuted."
Hynes's spokesman counters that within two days of Bederow's document request, he got what he was seeking, specifically the outcome of a lineup. But a series of e-mails between Bederow and Madni clearly show Bederow was asking for far more than a single lineup. And another e-mail, dated four days after Schmetterer says the material was turned over, shows that even then Bederow still hadn't gotten everything. As for Schmetterer's contention that Hynes prosecutors discovered the problem (with a previous lineup) and brought it to the court's attention, that ignores the fact that Bederow had been raising those issues for months.
In the end, prosecutors did get one conviction: Johnson eventually pleaded guilty. But when Hynes's office finally went after Reedy a year later, they were stymied. Having said for two years that there were just two suspects, they could not suddenly come back and accuse a third robber in the crime. They were forced to decline to prosecute Reedy.
In the wake of the dismissal, Bederow has been busy. He sent a letter demanding that Hynes investigate the conduct of Madni, Lauren Silver, and their bosses. He wants an inquiry into whether any cops perjured themselves or falsified records. And he demanded that Hynes seek perjury indictments against the witnesses.
"The D.A. consistently ignored red flags brought to its attention, which would have resulted in a reasonable prosecutor promptly dismissing the case," he wrote. "Mr. Bozeman lost over a year of his life because of the D.A.'s failure to properly investigate this case and supervise its prosecutors."
That seems to be becoming a theme.