Several police officers were charged with various crimes arising out of their conduct in connection with their search for a lost police radio. According to the records of the case, the police officers went to two apartments to pursue a lead regarding the radio. The radio had been lost during an arrest related to a drug crime in the area several days earlier. The records said the police officers pushed their way into two apartments, ransacking both, and unlawfully detained the individuals encountered within the apartments. In searching the second apartment, the police officers discovered vials of crack coccaine and threatened the occupants therein that they would be charged with coccaine possession if the radio were not promptly returned. The police officers allegedly told the apartment occupants that they would “forget” about the drugs if the radio was returned. Administrative proceedings were then commenced against the police officers by conducting hearings.
Following a jury trial, each police officer was found guilty of unlawful imprisonment, coercion, criminal trespass, and official misconduct. Two of the officers were also convicted of falsifying business records. Prior to sentencing, the police officers moved to set aside the verdict alleging improper use of their statements in connection with the indictment and trial.
Among the numerous issues raised on appeal, the police officers challenged the sufficiency of the trial evidence, the cour’ts charge on unlayful imprisonment, alleged inconsistencies in jury verdict and the court’s restriction on cross-examination of certain witnesses. Each of the police officers gave similar statements essentially denying any wrongdoing. The policemen testified in court that they saw one of the occupants of the apartment in the alley and he dropped the cocaine when he saw the police officers. One of the policemen said he has arrested the same person for marijuana possession prior to the incident.
The court found that the evidence was more than sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict of guilt, that all the elements of the crimes charged were established and that the guilty verdicts as to certain counts and not guilty verdicts as to others are not inconsistent with one another. While the police officers continue to claim that, at worst, their conduct constituted no more than an impermissible search for which there is no criminal liability, and that to uphold the guilty verdicts would be to seriously “chill the ability and good faith efforts of law enforcement to protect the public, the evidence before the jury amply demonstrated that defendants far exceeded the bounds of permissible police conduct and that they committed the crimes of which they were found guilty.
The court noted that an indictment is not fatlly tainted merely because someone involved in the criminal prosecution may have been exposed to a portion or all of the police officers’ immunized statement, although clearly precautions should be taken — and stringently observed — to prevent such occurrence.
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