The Queens district attorney’s office is reviewing an indeterminate number of cases that could have unforeseen ramifications for some residents of southeast Queens.
The probe comes after The Legal Aid Society, The Exoneration Project and Queens Defenders issued a letter requesting relief for those convicted in crimes in which two current and one former NYPD officers at the 105th Precinct in Queens Village played a role.
The officers — Heather Busch, Rober Hassett and Robert Smith — were arrested on May 11 and charged with various federal crimes in connection with a corruption probe. The defendants’ status as police officers was essential to their alleged criminal conduct. Smith also engaged in violent behavior and routinely used anti-Black slurs, according to court filings.
The letter follows correspondence dated May 3 in which the Exoneration Project, Legal Aid and a coalition of other defenders and innocence organizations identified 22 current and former NYPD officers who had been convicted of crimes relating to their duties and asked all of New York City’s district attorneys to vacate convictions in which those officers played an “essential role” and to conduct a transparent review of all other cases.
The May 12 letter added the three indicted officers from the 105th Precinct to the May 3 list. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz responded to the May 3 letter stating that she had instructed her staff to gather and analyze the officers’ cases in which no prior remedial action has been taken.
“The DA’s office is aware of these arrests and currently assessing the officers’ case histories in Queens so that we may meet our disclosure and ethical obligations,” a spokesperson from the Queens district attorney’s office said. “Restoring trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve has been and continues to be a priority for DA Katz’s administration. One of the foundations of that trust is law enforcement accountability.”
The current and former officers from the 105th Precinct were named in a nine-count indictment that included charges of using interstate facilities to commit bribery, violations of the Travel Act and drug trafficking. All three proclaimed their innocence.
“When police officers are charged with crimes in connection with their duties, all of their cases should be immediately reviewed,” The Exoneration Project Director of the Mass Exoneration Initiative Karen Newirth said. “This is what we’re asking of District Attorney Katz; the request is particularly urgent given the allegations of abuse of power and disregard for the law and the special responsibilities of law enforcement against each of these officers, and the explicit and violent racism that Mr. Smith is alleged to have engaged in.”
Busch and Hassett were suspended without pay by the NYPD while Smith, who retired last March, faces life in prison if convicted of the charges. Timothy Rountree, attorney-in-charge of the Queens Trial Office at The Legal Aid Society, wants to see case reviews extended to all NYPD officers who violate the law and betray public trust.
“Queens residents and all New Yorkers need to know that their DAs have a zero tolerance policy towards NYPD misconduct,” he said.