Cop's Conviction Has Other Side
November 28, 1994
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association vows it will deplete its treasury if necessary to vindicate her. A lieutenants association has taken out a newspaper advertisement calling her conviction and prison sentence a betrayal. Top police officials expressed shock that an officer could be sent to prison for a crime resulting in no monetary gain and no physical injury to the complainant.
Lt. Patricia Feerick, trained as a nurse and a lawyer, was a cop with an outstanding record, expected to become one of the department's few female captains. Then, in May, a Manhattan jury convicted her and three fellow officers of charges stemming from an illegal search for a cop's stolen radio. Acting State Supreme Court Judge Bonnie Wittner sentenced three of the officers to prison. Feerick's sentence was the harshest: two years.
But Feerick's supporters are long on rhetoric, short on details, says a key law-enforcement official.
"No one wants to talk about the details of what actually happened," he said. "The PBA and Feerick's other supporters have an interest in making sure the facts don't come out."
Well, here, according to the official and to a legal memorandum filed by the Manhattan district attorney's office, are those facts:
In September, 1990, Feerick was assigned to the 25th Precinct in upper Manhattan, supervising two narcotics squads. Her officers included Orlando Rosario, John DeVito and Mayra Schultz. On Sept. 22, DeVito lost his police radio while attempting to locate suspects from a drug seizure.
Three days later, a woman arrested on drug charges told Feerick where she could find the missing radio: in a dealer's 32nd-floor apartment in Tower 4 of Taino Towers on East 122nd Street. Feerick reported this to her commander, Dep. Insp. William Friedlieb, adding that the dealers were using the radio to make transmissions that interfered with her narcotics units. She asked permission for "a consent search" - one without a search warrant.
But Friedlieb said a warrant was necessary. He met with Manhattan North Narcotics Sgt. Robert Masci, who obtained it the next evening, Sept. 26, then searched the Tower 4 apartment but found nothing.
Meanwhile, at 10:30 that morning, Feerick, Rosario, DeVito and Schultz had conducted their own search - of Apt. 3202 of Tower One. This was the home of Denise Jackson, who sublet a room to Ben Stokes, a neighborhood drug dealer. Guns drawn, the cops threw Jackson against a wall, then ransacked her apartment, ripping curtains, tearing pictures from the walls, overturning the refrigerator, ripping apart her daughter's stuffed animal. On the living room wall they wrote: "We want the radio!"
Rosario entered a bedroom, where Jackson's friend, Theresa Johnson, was sleeping and woke her up by sticking a gun in her face. Johnson, who worked as a saleswoman in Jamaica, Queens, denied knowing about the radio, as did Jackson.
There was a knock on the door. Feerick opened it and pulled the visitor, Maribel Delgado, inside. As Delgado was searched, she dropped two vials of crack, the memorandum said. Threatened with arrest, she said Stokes was in an apartment on the sixth floor.
Feerick called for backup. Two more cops arrived to guard Jackson and Johnson while Feerick and her three officers took Delgado to Stokes' apartment. When he answered the door, Delgado went home. The officers never arrested her for having the crack vials.
The officers then searched this apartment. They found hundreds of vials of crack and several hundred dollars in cash but told Stokes they would not arrest him if he helped them recover the radio.
They then returned to Jackson's apartment. Feerick wrote her work telephone number on a notebook, threw it at Jackson and Johnson and said that if the radio wasn't returned by 5 p.m., they would be arrested. The officers then left with Stokes' cash and drugs, along with Jackson's keys, wallet and welfare identification card.
Hours later, the radio was turned in to a guard at Taino Towers, who returned it to the police. By then, says the District Attorney's memorandum, "the officers had arrived at the precinct and begun the cover-up."
DeVito prepared a complaint against Stokes and two vouchers, one for the drugs, the other for the money. "All three documents," says the memorandum, "falsely stated that Stokes had dropped a bag containing the money and drugs outside on the street in front of Taino Towers."
But with the radio returned, the cops kept their part of the deal and let Stokes' arrest slide - until four months later. By then, an investigation into their illegal search of Jackson's apartment had begun after Jackson dialed 911 when the cops left and internal affairs detective Robert Miller arrived.
On Jan. 6, 1991, Rosario arrested Stokes on the open drug complaint, telling a grand jury Stokes had dropped his money and drugs outside on the street.
Feerick, Rosario, DeVito and Schultz were indicted in March, 1992. At their trial, they called no witnesses, nor did they testify on their behalf.Wittner sentenced both Rosario and DeVito to a year in prison. She gave Schultz probation. Feerick was found guilty of four misdemeanors - coercion, criminal trespass, unlawful imprisonment and official misconduct - and given the two years.
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.