NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

A Most Expensive Ticket

January 23, 2006

In what may be the most expensive parking ticket since the automobile was invented, Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy spent two days in a New Jersey traffic court last week, in an attempt to explain away the circumstances that led to his being disarmed, handcuffed, and arrested.

Before this case is over, McCarthy, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Operations, may plunk down more than $7,500 in legal fees and court costs. Last Thursday, his attorney David Hoffman estimated he had already spent 20 hours on the case. Taking a low-ball figure of $250 an hour, that’s $5,000. Add another five hours of court time Thursday and five more for a final court date next week, that’s an additional $2,500.

Asked outside the courtroom how much this case was costing him, McCarthy glared at this reporter for about five seconds before uttering the words through clenched teeth, “Get away!”

Ironically, the incident might have cost McCarthy nothing if he hadn’t intervened after his teenage daughter Kyla was ticketed for parking in a handicapped zone on the Palisades Interstate Parkway last February. The two Palisades police officers who ticketed her and later arrested McCarthy and his wife Regina both testified they told Kyla — who had suffered a previous ankle injury — that if she brought her handicapped parking placard to court, they would recommend her ticket be dismissed.

So what exactly is going on here? Why is McCarthy spending this kind of money to refute the apparently minor charges that he obstructed vehicular and pedestrian traffic and that Regina engaged in “unreasonable noise”?

In fact, McCarthy is apparently seeking to dispel other allegations for which neither he nor Regina was charged but which have embarrassed them and the NYPD: specifically, that both of them ran their mouths and appeared out of control as they cursed at, then fought with, the Palisades officers, leading to their arrests.

Unfortunately for the McCarthys, testimony so far has done little to exonerate them.

Worse, testimony has revealed that Garry McCarthy had been drinking the night of the incident. Perhaps that explains why a civilian witness, Douglas Eric Hansen of Massapequa Park, L I., testified that when McCarthy exited his black Ford Explorer, which is an official NYPD vehicle, he did so from the passenger side. If that is accurate, it means Regina – who is not a police officer – was driving a department car. Either way – driver or passenger – she had no business inside that vehicle, which McCarthy is issued as a top-ranking department official. It is not for his personal use.

The department’s big boys, however, appear to be circling the wagons. On Thursday, McCarthy produced as a witness none other than Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, the department’s highest uniformed officer. McCarthy had telephoned Espo while in custody the night of the incident. So far as is known, neither man immediately notified the Internal Affairs Bureau, as is required in such incidents. Perhaps this explains why IAB got a late break on the case. Two of its officers are now monitoring the trial.

According to a section of the Patrol Guide reading, “Testimony Before Governmental or Quasi-governmental Agencies,” one must have written permission from the police commissioner before testifying. That would seem to mean that Police Commissioner Kelly is on board with Espo’s appearance for McCarthy.

In the 11 months since the incident, Kelly has taken no action against McCarthy. His spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, has said McCarthy’s actions do not rise to the level of departmental discipline. Browne did not return a call this week seeking comment.

Espo, meanwhile, testified that having two glasses of wine at dinner – as McCarthy has acknowledged he did that night – would not prevent him from carrying his gun. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Espo to testify that way for an ordinary cop.

One can only speculate whether alcohol was involved in another recent incident involving top brass. On Dec. 9, Inspector Robert Wheeler shot a teenager in Washington, D.C, who, Wheeler claimed, had attempted to rob him. Wheeler then fled the scene, reported the robbery by telephone, but failed to mention to the D.C. police that he had shot the teen or that he was an NYPD officer. Two days later, after returning to New York, he alerted the NYPD.

Kelly took no action until Dec. 28th, five days after this column reported some of these egregious lapses. Kelly then removed Wheeler’s gun and placed Wheeler on modified assignment.

Now, let’s return to the night of February 18th, 2005, after Kyla was ticketed. She immediately telephoned her dad. According to Palisades Parkway detective Thomas Rossi, who issued the ticket, Kyla “got on her cell phone and said, ‘My father would like to speak to you.’”

After Rossi refused to speak to him, she added that her father was a deputy commissioner in the NYPD and said to Rossi, “My father really wants to talk to you.”

Nothing in two days of testimony has refuted these stark facts: that McCarthy arrived minutes later, backed his department car into a one-way zone, jumped out and said to Rossi and his partner Roman Galloza, “You know who I am. This is bullshit. This is fucking bullshit.”

Watching McCarthy become increasingly agitated and noticing McCarthy’s gun in his waistband, Galloza wrested the gun from McCarthy, tossing it into his own police vehicle. Regina, meanwhile, shouted, “That’s my husband’s fucking gun,” and retrieved it, cradling it to her chest as Rossi dived on top of her. Both McCarthys were then handcuffed and arrested.

McCarthy and Regina used the word “fucking” so many times, according to testimony, that Traffic Court Judge Steven Zaben, a man of the old school, instructed witnesses to avoid using their actual language. “Just say ‘the f-word,’” he told them.

Perhaps the most sensible advice was offered by Esposito. When McCarthy telephoned him while in custody, Espo said he heard a Palisades cop in the background “ranting and raving” at him. Esposito told McCarthy, "Take the summons and get out of there.”

A final note. Testimony also revealed that Detective Rossi has been the subject of 26 unsubstantiated civilian complaints in his 3 ½ years on the Palisades police force. Judge Zaben is to rule whether this is relevant to the McCarthys’ case.

No More Minder. Your Humble Servant returned to One Police Plaza last week and guess what? No more minder, a la Saddam or Stalin.

After a frantic telephone call from a security officer on the plaza [“It’s Lenny Levitt. He’s back. What do we do with him?”] I was permitted to travel, unescorted, on the elevator to the 13th floor to peruse the department’s Personnel Orders, which are in the Public Information office.

Three cops in the office, whose names will remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, greeted me warmly.

« Back to top

Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt