One Police Plaza

Harrington's Turn 

January 14, 2019

“As a police officer, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Nothing I did was inappropriate. The only thing I’d do differently is not talk to the feds. Not that I told them anything I don’t stand by. But to see how they lie. They cherry-pick facts. They make things up.”

That’s former NYPD Deputy Chief Mike Harrington, who spoke with NYPD Confidential last week. He is the only officer found guilty in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s “cops-on-call” investigation, which initially appeared to be a widespread corruption scandal at the highest levels of the department, comparable to the notorious Knapp Commission scandal of the 1970s.

It wasn’t.

Harrington says he was first questioned by the FBI in February, 2016. “Two agents, one male, one female, knocked at my door at 6 a.m. They said they wanted to talk generally about the case. We talked for about half an hour, 45 minutes. They wanted to know about Banks, about Seabrook and about Jona and Jeremy.”

Former Chief of Department Philip Banks was Harrington’s boss and subsequently named an unindicted co-conspirator; Norman Seabrook, Banks’s friend and president of the city corrections officers’ union, was convicted in August of bribery and conspiracy for steering $20 million of union money to a risky hedge fund in exchange for a $60,000 kickback. The deal and kickback were arranged by Jona Rechnitz, who became the feds’ star witness against Harrington and Seabrook; Jeremey Reichberg, a self-proclaimed Hasidic liaison to the NYPD; and Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant. Grant was acquitted earlier this month of bribery. Reichberg was convicted of bribery and conspiracy.

Outside court, Reichberg said that befriending Rechnitz was “the biggest mistake of my life.”

Said Harrington: “They feds asked how did I know Jeremy and Jona. I said I had known Jeremy for years and that he had introduced me to Jona. They said, ‘We have you on a wire.’ I realize I am deep in this because I am Banks’s guy. ‘Do I need a lawyer?’ I said. You’d think after 30 in the police department I would know to get a lawyer. They said, ‘We can’t advise you on that,’ but that I was not a target. Then my wife entered the room. ‘Can she sit in?’ I said. They said, ‘We’d rather keep it private.’ “

Then in April, the License Division blows up. Another Hasidic Jew, Shaya Lichtenstein, was accused of bribing cops in the License Division to expedite gun permits. “I don’t know anything about the License Division. I had nothing to do with it. By now, everyone chief and inspector whose names have been mentioned in the press are transferred. I am modified and sent to Transit. I give Reznick [Joseph Reznick, head of the Internal Affairs Bureau] my gun and shield. The IAB consensus is this is nonsense but that they were doing their thing. I mean I didn’t travel or invest with these guys. I did have dinners with them and did go to local sporting events. In June, Richter [the head of the Captain’s Endowment Association, which represents captains through deputy chiefs] tells me and the other transferred top brass that Bratton [then-Commissioner Bill Bratton] has no problem with dinners or local sporting events. Richter says waive your comp time and you can retire.”

Instead, on June 20th, Harrington was arrested. “I’m awakened at 6 a.m. when my dog starts barking. There was a lot of noise outside. SUVS are blocking the street. Although we had been in constant contact with the feds, they shut down the street as though they were coming after [Osama] bin Laden. Then someone is banging on my door. My wife opens it. It’s two FBI agents and an IAB chief. They drove me to FBI headquarters in Manhattan. Photographers were set up outside.”

Harrington was charged with accepting “personal and financial benefits” that “constituted clear violations of NYPD rules.” These included accepting thousands of dollars from Reichberg, allegedly paid to a security company the feds said was “run in part by Harrington’s family and which Harrington unofficially helped manage.” The feds also charged Harrington with accepting a free hotel room in Chicago from Rechnitz, and a video game system for his children that Rechnitz and Reichberg delivered to Harrington’s home on Christmas Day.

In the end, he pleaded guilty to a single felony and received probation. In his allocution, which the feds accepted, he said he “intentionally misapplied … property belonging to the NYPD, which collectively had a value of at least $5,000 –6,500.”

Instead, THE crimes he pleaded guilty to included arranging for a group of campers for seriously ill children with cancer and other blood disorders to visit the NYPD training grounds at Floyd Bennett Field; arranging for Reichberg and others to be given a ride on a launch operated by the NYPD Harbor Unit; arranging  for the NYPD’s Counter Terrorism Squad to provide coverage for a Midtown synagogue during and around certain Jewish holidays; and arranging for an NYPD helicopter to do a “flyover” above a boat party that Reichberg hosted in the East River.

While some might argue these are federal crimes, others might view them as departmental violations.


Copyright © 2019 Leonard Levitt