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Cop may opt for plea deal

March 11, 2005

The denials of his lawyer Stuart London notwithstanding, don't be surprised if Bryan Conroy cuts a deal with prosecutors in the 2003 fatal shooting of Ousmane Zongo, an unarmed African immigrant.

London probably did as well for Conroy as could be expected, with a Manhattan jury voting 10-2 to convict after concluding Conroy lied in his grand jury testimony.

With Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau promising a retrial, the chances for conviction could improve.

Now it is Conroy, a young white cop who pursued Zongo to a dead-end warehouse corridor and fatally shot him, who has nowhere to run.

As he did with Richard Neri - a white officer who a year ago accidentally shot Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed black teenager, in Brooklyn - London allowed Conroy to testify before a grand jury, locking him into his account of the shooting.

"If I hadn't," London said, "they would have indicted him for first-degree manslaughter or second-degree murder."

Instead, Conroy was indicted on the lesser count of second-degree manslaughter.

London played a second risky gambit. Bucking decades-old cop tradition, he allowed Conroy to be tried before a jury - not by a judge.

"Times have changed," he said. "There's simply too much pressure on judges to convict in high-profile, racially charged cases."

Had Conroy been convicted, he faced 15 years. A plea deal could mean only a year.

Real deal or whitewash? Despite Police Department spokesman Paul Browne's statement that Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy's summons from New Jersey police doesn't rise to a disciplinary level, the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau has begun an investigation, Newsday has learned.

On Monday, nearly three weeks after McCarthy, his wife and daughter each received summonses from the Palisades Interstate Parkway police, IAB contacted that department.

NYPD sources said McCarthy has acknowledged drinking before he received his summons, but maintains he was not intoxicated when ticketed.

Newsday has also learned that the black Ford Explorer McCarthy and his wife, Regina, were riding in - and for which he was ticketed for "obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic" - was a police vehicle.

Neither McCarthy nor Browne returned calls from Newsday.

Police sources say the IAB investigation did not begin earlier because Chief of Internal Affairs Charles Campisi was away when the incident occurred on Feb. 18.

But before anyone concludes there will be no whitewash, remember Campisi has yet to explain the beating two years ago of Aaron Wong, 21, a black man from Staten Island, whose jaw was allegedly broken by James Mangone, a retired white cop. Wong was arrested and a civilian friend of Mangone was allegedly allowed to handcuff Wong.

The remarkable Mr. Cohen. Ten days ago, the Council on Foreign Relations invited reporters to hear David Cohen, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence, speak on terrorism.

But when reporters arrived, council officials said there had been a misunderstanding. Cohen wanted no media.

The council's spokeswoman, Lisa Shields, later called to say the council had reconsidered, but by then the reporters had already left.

Some media types who were members of the council, she said, were able to hear Cohen. One was Ira Stoll, managing editor of The Sun, which reported only that Cohen planned to attend a terrorism conference in Madrid the following week.

Another was Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, who a few months ago contacted Cohen claiming he was being followed by terrorists. Cohen assigned intelligence detectives to investigate and they concluded he wasn't.

Shields later called to say a transcript would be released, then called back to say it wouldn't. "There is some sensitive information he didn't want distributed," she said of Cohen.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.