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Cracks appear in the blue wall of NYPD silence

April 21, 1997

If nothing else, the 30th precinct scandal proves that the NYPD's "blue wall of silence" - that supposedly impenetrable barrier protecting corrupt cops - can be breached.

Of the 30 cops sentenced in the largest single-precinct scandal in the city's history, 11 - or more than a third - turned in other cops.

In fact, some cops seemed to race to investigators' doors to turn in each other before they were themselves turned in.

The key to obtaining their cooperation, says Assistant United States Attorney Michael Horowitz, who prosecuted 19 of them, is to make strong cases. "You have to know where their bank accounts are, where they've hidden their money. Then you have to let them know you have the goods. Cops won't volunteer anything. You have to let them know you aren't bluffing. When you lay it on the line and tell them what will happen if they don't cooperate, they'll think long and hard."

The covert part of the 30th precinct investigation - conducted with the Manhattan District Attorney and the Mollen Commission - lasted from May, 1993, until April 14, 1994, when, in the glare of television lights at the West Harlem precinct, investigators arrested officers Josue Rivera and Alfonso Compres.

But unknown to the world, or even to the cops at the Dirty Thirty, prosecutors had in September, 1993, arrested George Nova, a crooked anti-crime cop, who, after investigators confronted him, said, "They told me enough to know I was dead."

"At that point," said Horowitz, "we knew only about three or four corrupt anti-crime cops. But every officer we arrested during the covert part of our investigation cooperated."

Nova (subsequently sentenced to a year in prison for narcotics distribution) began secretly tape-recording other cops, leading to the arrest of Alberto Vargas of the midnight tour.

Vargas (sentenced to four years probation for narcotics distribution) also secretly tape-recorded cops, leading to the arrests of Ruben Garza and Michael Walsh (both sentenced to three years for narcotics distribution and tax evasion.)

Garza and Walsh's cooperation led to the arrest of Blake Struller (44 months for narcotics distribution, civil rights violations and tax evasion); who secretly taped William Knox (six months for narcotics possession); who secretly taped Joseph Walsh (nine months for civil rights conspiracy and tax evasion); who secretly taped Theodore Giovaniello (six months for civil rights conspiracy) and Kevin Kay (a year for civil rights violations and tax evasion).

Walsh, Kay and Gionvaniello implicated Sgt. Kevin Nannery, who headed a dozen rogue cops known as Nannery's Raiders and who was arrested on Sept. 28, 1994, with eight other cops and pleaded guilty to civil rights violations and income tax evasion.

Printable versionWhile eight of Nannery's subordinates received prison terms, the muddle-headed federal judge Lawrence McKenna sentenced Nannery last week to probation because of his cooporation. Nannery implicated five other cops: Edward Checke, Michael Dauphinee and David Rios, each convicted of perjury, and Elmer Martinez and Henry Delarosa, both dismissed from the NYPD.

The Gray Fade. After New York Times reporter Julia Campbell was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly inciting a riot, Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld wrote to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, urging the police to drop the charges. Lelyveld noted that a videotape showed an officer grabbing, pushing and then handcuffing Campbell without provocation.

Ten days ago, the NYPD dropped the charges. The department announced that it and the Times "agreed that the arrest could have been avoided with a greater degree of insight and respect by both the police officers and the reporter . . .," implying that the reporter was somehow responsible for her arrest. The announcement added that Michael Oreskes, metropolitan editor of the same newspaper that 25 years ago went to court over its constitutional right to publish the Pentagon Papers, "acknowleged that Ms. Campbell's use of harsh language was not appropriate."

Manifest Destiny (con't). Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan was apparently so impressed by William Bratton's credentials - supplied two weeks ago by this column - that Bratton is now rumored to be a top dog contender to head the LAPD (although the U.S. Attorney is examining the circumstances under which he received a free $400 pistol from a professional gun dealer).

Key question: Will Bratton's wife, star legal TV reporter Cheryl Fiandaca who earlier this month said she wasn't leaving New York, change her mind?

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.