Saint Morg, Mollen and the Informant, Part III
March 16, 2009
Barry Brown, the police officer who helped expose the 30th precinct corruption scandal, says he was “caught in the middle” of a feud between Judge Milton Mollen and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
“I feel I should have been praised for what I did,” said Brown, whose work as an Internal Affairs undercover “field associate” 14 years ago led to the convictions of 33 cops on drug-related charges in what became known as the “Dirty Thirty” scandal.
Instead, a classic law enforcement confrontation between two powerful figures forced Brown’s resignation from the police department.
Said Brown: “What happened in my situation sets a bad example for any officer who is thinking about coming forward to report police corruption.”
Brown called in after reading two recent columns about Morgenthau’s retirement and his payback towards rival agencies that he felt had encroached on his turf.
Despite helping to make cases against the Dirty Thirty cops, Brown’s days in the NYPD were numbered when he was accused of perjury. George Nova, one of the Dirty Thirty and Brown’s former partner — fingered Brown for allegedly lying about obtaining search warrants during drug raids.
That led Morgenthau to begin investigating Brown. [This column mistakenly reported in two previous articles that Morgenthau had indicted Brown. He did not. We apologize for our brain lock and believe we’ve finally gotten it straight.]
In exchange for Morgenthau dropping his investigation, Brown resigned from the police department.
In the past, Morgenthau has denied a feud existed between him and Mollen. Last week, he said he didn’t “have a clue” that Brown — who testified before the Mollen Commission in 1993 with a hood over his head under the fake name “Officer Otto” —was working for the Mollen Commission when he, Morgenthau, began to investigate him.
Ironically, the feud that Morgenthau denies began with Nova’s arrest. While working with Morgenthau’s office, Mollen investigators took another angle and brought the case to the United States Attorney for the Southern District, which indicted Nova before Morgenthau could.
In 1994, at a news conference announcing the first of the 30th precinct arrests, Mollen and Morgenthau engaged in a shoving match. U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, barely five feet tall, stood between them as peacemaker.
Speaking from South Jersey where he has worked at a billion-dollar retail company since leaving the department 14 years ago, Brown acknowledged that Nova’s perjury rap against him was valid. He maintained he had lied to protect his undercover position.
“I was a 20-year-old kid when I went into the police academy, and went into the field associate program,” he said. “I was never given any real training on how to handle those situations.
“My handler, an Internal Affairs lieutenant, was aware of my testimony. It was all done to protect my identity. There were a lot of leaks in Internal Affairs and, to protect me, he was twisting the information I was giving him in minor ways for my own protection.”
Asked whether he felt Morgenthau had gone after him because of his feud with Mollen, Brown said, “Absolutely. After I testified before the Mollen Commission, they were going to leave no stone unturned until they found out who this officer was and if they could find anything in any way to discredit him.
“After my identity was revealed in January 1995, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office put me in a situation where I had to leave the department. I was left out there for ten months, not knowing what they were going to do. I had already received death threats. I was afraid for my life. I was afraid I would be the next Serpico and get shot by another officer. I had pushed this investigation for more than seven years. But they made me out to be a corrupt cop.”
Remember back in 2003 when Kelly cancelled his appearance at the Finest Foundation’s annual dinner at the St. Regis because, he said, its $50,000 “Commissioner’s Table” implied that access to him could be bought?
Well, that doesn’t bother him now.
Police Foundation chairwoman Valerie Salembier introduced both Kelly and Bloomberg, giving each a lengthy star-struck-sounding speech that went on twice as long as the honorees’.
Next week Kelly is a featured speaker at Salembier’s high-end counterfeiting summit. In the past the Police Foundation has provided “buy money” for such NYPD counterfeiting operations, which include such luxury items as Gucci and Prada handbags. Those products happen to grace the pages of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, of which Salembier is publisher.
What was that about buying access?
So what? says Chief Queens Assistant D.A. Jack Ryan, who hired Pete shortly before he received his tax-free, line-of-duty disability pension from the NYPD. “You drive down a city street, pull two-thirds of the way into a spot. A person knocks on your window, says you can’t park there. Does Pete argue? A little. Does he get out of the car, no? He drives off. Pete did exactly what I would have wanted him to do. Better than I would have. And the city car is approved by the corporation counsel. He is allowed to drive it. Just because he retires on a disability doesn’t mean he can’t drive the car. But because he’s Pete Martin he is wrong?
“I got a guy working for me who works for nothing and they are hammering him. If 100 more people want to work for nothing, send them to see me.”
With a boss as forgiving as Ryan, Pete would seem to have nothing to fear. Expect further incidents — and further Daily News stories.
Memo to Judge Brown: Sometimes what you get for free ain’t worth the price.