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Officer 'Otto' Cashing In?

October 30, 1995

Police Officer "Otto," the Mollen Commission's star witness, may soon be forced to resign from the NYPD because he allegedly perjured himself as a cop, but he could still make big bucks out in Hollywood.

An option for his story is said to have been purchased by Hollywood Pictures, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.

People at Disney say the deal was struck with Richard Emery, an attorney for Officer Otto, whose real name is Barry Brown. Emery is also negotiating with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau over Morgenthau's ultimatum to Brown: To duck an indictment for perjury, Brown must resign from the NYPD and publicly acknowledge his misdeeds.

Meanwhile, Emery arranged for Brown to break his 18-month silence and be interviewed by The New York Times, the New York Post and CBS television's "60 Minutes." Two weeks ago, "60 Minutes" portrayed Brown as a hero, punished for breaking the so-called "blue wall of silence" and informing on corrupt cops to the Mollen Commmission.

John Miller, the NYPD's former deputy commissioner for public information, traced Brown's troubles to jealousy by the Manhattan DA's office over the 30th Precinct corruption scandal in which 29 cops were arrested last year.

"Some of the DA's people felt the Mollen Commission took too much credit," Miller said on "60 Minutes."

Miller also compared Brown to Frank Serpico, the legendary NYPD detective whose anticorruption efforts a generation ago led to the Knapp Commission and altered the culture of corruption in the NYPD. "Serpico" became a best-selling book and multimillion-dollar movie.

Miller argued on the program that Brown did more than Serpico. "Frank Serpico complained and complained and complained that the system was ignoring corruption," Miller said. "But he never fingered anybody himself. Barry Brown said, 'I'll go undercover.' And he certainly took a larger step than Serpico."

Contrast Miller's encomiums with the words of his former boss, Police Commissioner William Bratton.

When a group called the Concerned Alliance for Professional Policing honored Brown 10 days ago and said its award was "being presented with the approval of Police Commissioner William Bratton, who is keenly aware of Detective Brown's contributions and has been personally supportive of Det. Brown throughout his ordeal," Bratton went ballistic.

"I am putting each of you and your organization on notice that the above quoted statement is false in its entirety," Bratton wrote on Oct. 20. to the group. "Any such statement indicating my support is false . . . I have certainly not approved an award of any kind to be presented to Detective Brown. I strongly urge your organization to publicly retract your reference to me and I advise you I am considering appropriate legal options."

Printable versionShortly before "60 Minutes" aired, DA Morgenthau also wrote a letter - to its producer, Don Hewitt. Morgenthau cautioned Hewitt against presenting Brown as a hero. In a "P.S.," he pointed out that the attorney for Barry Brown and the attorney for John Miller "are one and the same."

"60 Minutes" made no mention of Miller's relationship to Emery. The program's spokesman Kevin Tedesco said, "The producers and the editors failed to see the journalistic significance of that and therefore did not include it."

Turning the corner. After months of agita caused by reporters' complaining that his office was dysfunctional because of staff cuts imposed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Tom Kelly, the deputy commissioner for public information, was feeling groovy. The Pope's visit and "United Nations 50" had run seamlessly, with Kelly's staff providing full-time coverage of His Holiness, Fidel Castro and President Bill Clinton.

One of the office's own detectives, Julio Martinez, had even effected an arrest. During a Castro interview on West 57th Street, Martinez spotted someone wearing a stolen security card with the letter "E," issued only to armed law-enforcement personnel. The impostor turned out to be a Gamma News photographer, who was charged with possession of stolen property.

The lone dark spot: Kelly will lose his uniformed Highway Patrol driver, who during the celebrations chauffered him about town and to and from his home on Staten Island in a marked S.I. Highway Patrol car.

Seen. Chief of Detectives Charles Reuther holding two news conferences last week, one on the triple homicide of the Batista family in Washington Heights, the second on the alleged serial killer of Lower East Side prostitutes. Reuther had stood mute at previous news conferences a few weeks before, including one in his office.

Seen again: Jack Maple, in a wide-pinstriped charcoal suit, blue shirt, three-peaked white handkerchief, navy-and-white Allen Edmonds spectator shoes and yellow-and-brown bow tie with blue spots matching his shirt. Maple objected that a description in last week's One Police Plaza column of his bow tie as "polka dot" was incorrect. He did not elaborate.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.