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The "Friendship" Scandal

December 24, 2018

No matter how it breaks; no matter if Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant or Hasidic businessman/fixer Jeremy Reichberg is found guilty or innocent — their two-month trial has been a total embarrassment for the NYPD.

Like the public corruption hearings of the Knapp Commissioner in the seventies or the Mollen commission hearings in the 90s, the trial has exposed the NYPD’s underbelly.This time it’s low-level cronyism and possible corruption under the guise of “friendship.”

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialSuch behavior as free meals, free hotel stays and free plane trips — clear violations of the Patrol Guide and Conflict of Interest Board rules that prohibit cops from accepting gifts of more than $50 — has been ignored and even abetted by the actions of the NYPD’s top brass, including its past four police commissioners.

To put this in perspective, these “friendship” crimes do not approach the criminality revealed by the Knapp or Mollen commissions. There is no widespread, systemic payoffs, as revealed by Knapp commission, no riding shotgun for drug dealers as revealed by the Mollen commission.

In Grant’s and Reichberg’s case, the alleged crimes emanated from Philip Banks’s office as Chief of Department, where Reichberg and his thieving partner Jona Rechnitz, a privileged wannabe from Los Angeles, found a home. Introductions were made by Mike Harrington, Banks’s deputy chief, who had had a longtime friendship with Reichberg.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittFederal prosecutors maintained that Reichberg and Rechnitz, who has pleaded guilty a host of corruption charges, cultivated high-ranking officers to expedite gun license applications and arrange police escorts and helicopter flyovers to their events. Rechnitz, who was also a $100,000 donor to Bill de Blasio’s 2013 election campaign and who sometimes contacted the mayor while in Banks’s office, described himself as “the money man.” Reichberg, he testified, was “the details” guy.

One of their marks was Jimmy Grant, who, as commander of a number of Brooklyn precincts, had also had a longtime friendship with Reichberg. Grant accepted an all-expense trip to Rome and another to Las Vegas aboard a private plane with a prostitute. Rechnitz paid for both. At Christmas, 2013, Reichberg and Rechnitz drove to Grant’s home on Staten Island and presented him with diamond earrings for his wife and a Ninendo system for his kids.

Rechnitz also befriended Banks. He flew Banks to the Dominican Republic and upgraded his plane ticket to Israel, where Banks posed in full NYPD uniform with Rechnitz and Reichberg at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. Dumb and dumber. What was he thinking?

Banks retired in late 2013, not because of the feds’ investigation, as news reports have stated, but because then police commissioner Bill Bratton planned to promote him to First Deputy, a figurehead positon. The feds charged him as an unindicted co-conspirator, which means they found no evidence of a crime. In fact, Banks was something of a victim. In his naivety, he actually thought Rechnitz was his friend. Banks provided no police favors to him or to Reichberg — other than the use of his reputation and good name.

Lastly, let’s turn to the freebies accepted by past police commissioners. Let’s start with Bratton, who in his first turn as police commissioner accepted free plane trips from Wall Streeter Henry Kravis to the Dominican Republic and Aspen, Colorado. This was no crime. But then Mayor Rudy Giuliani used those trips as an excuse to fire him. The Conflicts of Interest Board investigated but dropped its investigation when Bratton retired.

In 1999, his successor, Howard Safir, was flown to the Oscars in Hollywood and comped for the weekend by the CEO of the Revlon corporation. His successor, Bernie Kerik, accepted $165,000 in free renovations from a company seeking city contracts. He was also given a year’s free rent in a luxury Manhattan apartment by a real estate developer. The Conflicts of Interest Board censured Safir and fined him $7,100, the cost of the Oscar trip. Kerik went to federal prison.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialKerik’s successor, Ray Kelly, was reportedly flown to a Notre Dame football plane on Regis Philbin’s private plane. He also received $40,000 worth of meals, drinks and membership dues at the Harvard Club paid for by the Police Foundation. When Bratton returned as commissioner in 2014, he also had the Police Foundation foot his bill there. Asked by this reporter amid the “friendship” scandal whether his freebies at the Harvard Club set the wrong example for cops, he replied, “Lenny, that’s your issue.”

Is it any wonder, then, that high-ranking officers accepted free plane trips and other gifts from citizens posing as “friends”?

Supposedly, the feds offered Grant a five-year prison term if he pleaded guilty. Unlike Harrington, whose union refused to pay his legal fees, forcing him to plead guilty to what seem like minor patrol violations — such as arranging a helicopter flyover for a Reichberg boat party and arranging a police escort for an Hasidic funeral procession — Grant’s attorney John Meringolo says he is trying this case pro bono.

After his closing argument, one of the jurors clapped and said, for all the courtroom to hear, “Bravo.”

It takes only one for a hung jury.

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