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DA, cops split on jogger case

November 4, 2002

A rift has developed between the Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney's office over the prosecutor's re-examination of the Central Park jogger case, Newsday has learned.

The rift has grown so wide that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appointed two outside attorneys, Michael Armstrong and Jules Martin, last week to review the police department's own investigation of the case.

The fear among police officials is that Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Nancy Ryan has already made up her mind about the case and will try to lay any problems at the feet of police.

A top department official, who asked that his name not be used, said police officials believe Ryan has already decided that the five convicted Harlem teenagers played no role in the jogger attack.

The consensus within the department, the official said, "is that the five teenagers had something to do with the jogger, either before or after the attack."

The problem is that there is no physical evidence to link the five to the attack, only the written and videotaped statements the five made.

Last month, Newsday reported that an unsigned and undated department review of the case emanating from the Chief of Detectives' office described the forensic evidence used to convict the teenagers as "useless."

The only physical evidence found so far points to Matias Reyes, who is in prison for murder and rape. Reyes has said he alone attacked the 28-year-old investment banker in 1989.

Ryan did not return phone calls last week seeking comment.

According to the police official, Kelly's decision was prompted by the belief that Ryan has concluded that the teenagers' convictions should be set aside.

The official said Kelly was concerned that the original police investigation would come under question. To counter this, he sought to appoint "people with proven integrity so that it would not appear that just the police were looking at the police," the official said.

Martin, who retired as the chief of the Housing Bureau, was one of the highest ranking blacks in the department. Armstrong was counsel to the Knapp commission on police corruption in the early 1970s and later served a brief term as Queens district attorney. He also represented Queens Borough President Donald Manes on corruption charges before Manes committed suicide.

Yesterday, Police Officer Eric Adams, who heads a group called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, called for a civil rights attorney to be included in Kelly's review process "so that civil rights issues be addressed." Adams' group, along with supporters of the young black men, has called for an outside investigation into the incident.

The police official said detectives conducting an internal review of the case have "objected that Ryan did not allow them access to people they want to talk to. They feel she has hindered them."

The official did not identify the detectives or the people he was referring to.

Within the past two weeks, police sources told Newsday, Ryan, who heads the Trial Division, questioned the case's original detectives. Two of them became so angered that - according to a friend of theirs, a retired homicide detective not connected to the case - they stormed out of the meeting.

The police official said the feeling within the Police Department is that "Ryan has her own agenda and has made her mind up that Reyes acted alone in raping the jogger."

Referring to accusations that the detectives coerced the five suspects into confessing, the retired detective said: "If you look at the notes and the DD5s - the detectives' reports - one set of detectives wasn't even aware this woman had been raped. They just thought they'd been called in on the wilding incident."

Earlier this week, Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, quoted Ryan as saying that Newsday's account of the meeting with the original case detectives was "100 percent false." Asked whether Ryan met recently with the case's detectives, Thompson declined comment.

Police officials have also questioned whether Ryan has a personal agenda. In 1989, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer, of the district attorney's sex crime unit, reported to Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein, who headed the unit.

Fairstein, who no longer works in the prosecutors office, has been rumored as a possible candidate to succeed District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. News reports have indicated she and Ryan were rivals in the office.

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.