One Police Plaza

Phil Banks Speaks for Himself

December 31, 2018

The name Philip Banks has been cited in testimony of the “friendship”/bribery trial of Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant and Hasidic fixer/businessman Jeremy Reichberg, nearly as often as the defendants themselves. The reason: the federal government’s star witness Jona Rechnitz — a crooked real estate wannabe whom Reichberg befriended — conducted business from Banks’s Chief of Department's office.

The feds charged Banks as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” Reason: He was more a naif and a dupe than a crook. Unlike Mayor de Blasio — to whose 2013 election campaign Rechnitz contributed $100,000 and sometimes called from Banks’s office — the feds never even questioned Banks.

Banks has been unhappy with the feds’ depictions of him and of the media’s coverage of him as well. This includes NYPD Confidential. After last week’s column, which cited Banks foolishly posing in full NYPD uniform with Rechnitz and Reichberg in Israel, he asked to give his side. Here it is.

As a longtime reader of this column, I read last week’s article and wondered…There have been 100+ articles written about the “NYPD Bribery” case and not one that I recall introduces both sides of the story.

All of them appear to be written from the perspective that the police were involved in some type of bribery.

I know the word “alleged” is strategically placed throughout these articles but the vein is one of guilt rather than neutrality. We appear to have come a long way from famed anchorman Roger Grimsby's opening statement “Here now the news” to “Here now my version of the news.” There is a place for these type of articles, it’s called OP-ED.

I, for one, believe readers are smart enough to decide for themselves, to form their own opinions when presented with facts covering both sides.

Example: this columnist, who refers to himself as Your Humble Servant, stated that when Banks visited Israel, he took pictures at the Wailing Wall in uniform. What was he thinking? I think the term dumb and dumber was used. Interesting? Cute? And even funny. I believe the following in addition could have been introduced. That Banks received a briefing from the NYPD’s intelligence division prior to going, that he conferred with the NYPD detective stationed in Israel upon arrival, that he met with the head of the Israeli Army, a ranking member of their Air Force, and had a two-hour meeting with the former head of the Mossad (their CIA) as well as speaking with Palestinian and Jewish settlers in the West Bank. This was in addition to granting an interview for a local newspaper. Not the typical actions for someone receiving a bribe. Was it dumb to appear in uniform or was it the action of someone who was not hiding anything. The readers now have both points, they are smart enough to decide.

In this trial, the defense stated that the government’s star witness [Rechnitz] was being investigated for unrelated crimes and approached the government for a deal. He was turned down. He came back a second time and was accepted. He, according to trial transcripts, approached the government — not the reverse as is the normal course. What happened between the first and second overture? Did he fine-tune his story? Did he get advice on how to gain acceptance? Did he concoct this theory for leverage? I don’t know. Actually I have no idea. But it is an opposing point of view that people reporting this case owe their readers. Give us both sides of the story because readers are smart enough to decide for themselves.

The government’s star witness stated he invited police officials to a suite at a football game. He knew he was bribing police officials at the time. On cross-examination it was revealed that he had hired a professional photographer and brought his adolescent son to the game. Not the typical actions of someone who is bribing anyone, let alone the police. Or was that theory concocted later?

Was he bribing the police or did he concoct the story for leverage? My opinion is not important. It’s actually irrelevant. But when both sides are presented readers are smart enough to decide for themselves.

When friends ask me about this case and say, “Did the police commit a crime?", I say to them that I can only answer for one person — Myself. And the answer is NO.

The government star witness stated Banks “was not that type of person. If I said give me a police ride to the airport, a police escort, he would not go for it. He was not that the kind of person that would do these type of things, these illegal activities. Banks was very careful not to bend the rules within the NYPD as favors for us.”

Those were his words, not mine. I bet you have not read that because they have yet to be reported.


Copyright © 2018 Leonard Levitt