Thursday, September 21, 2006

U.S. Supreme Court’s Giglio Decision Threatens New Castle Police Authority

by Maureen Keating Tsuchiya

A recent teenage drinking party on September 9th, 2006, has landed some Chappaqua teenagers in hot water with their parents, school and local police. But will the charges stand after defense lawyers find out that members of the police involved with the investigation and subsequent arrest may have liabilities of their own because they may have been involved with lying in official matters, falsifying reports, or expressing bias which will render them unable to testify credibly and consequently as law enforcement officers?

The relevant cases are The State of New York, by Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General vs. Dennis Mahoney and John Vize, filed with the Westchester County Clerk’s office on July 27, 2006, by the Attorney General’s of-
fice, has focused tremendous attention on the Town of New Castle’s 40 member Police Department, a matter that has churned since 1999, involving a top law enforcement officer who is still on duty—in this case New
Castle police Lieutenant John Vize, who is accused of keeping fraudulent payroll records for at least a year in order to help a fellow officer—Dennis Mahoney, obtain a 20 year pension when the officer had in fact
only worked 19 years. According to twenty years worth of documents seized from the New Castle Police Department in 2003 by the Public Integrity Section of the office of Westchester District Attorney Jeannine Pirro,
Lt.Vize was also involved with arranging shifts under Mahoney’s name, referred to by some of the department’s members as “Mahoney days.” Approximately 25% of the Department’s officers have been reported to have participated in the scheme

The second case is Steve Kaufman vs. Town of New Castle; New Castle Police Department; Gennaro Faiella; Robert Breen; James Baynes; John Vize; James Tully and Public Employee Risk Management Assn., Index No.05-10178. Kaufman was the only Jewish police of-ficer employed by the town until approximately 2004.

His lawsuit alleges that the Town’s Police Department systematically excluded police officers of non-Irish national origin from top positions in the Department which has also created and perpetrated a hostile work environment against Kaufman because he is Jewish, and as for a second cause of action because Kaufman
filed worker compensation claims.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Giglio v United States, the Supreme Court extended the obligation to share exculpatory information with the defendant to include information concerning the credibility of government
witnesses.

According to a recent article entitled “Disclosing Officer Untruthfulness to the Defense: Is a Liars Squad Coming to Your Town?” by Lisa A. Judge in Police Chief Magazine, “The reality is that prosecutors must rely on law
enforcement agencies to inform them of a hidden witness credibility problem including, for example, evidence of an officer’s prior untruthfulness in official matters.”

Ten years ago, in 1996, Attorney General Janet Reno established the Giglio Policy to require federal law enforcement agencies to inform federal prosecutors about potential impeachment information, including prior
misconduct information.

Judge also stated “Many state and local agencies have begun to disclose to prosecutors any conclusive information regarding untruthfulness, bias and crimes committed by an officer who is to be a material witness
in a criminal prosecution.”

“As this trend grows, agencies will be required to deal more forcefully with officers who lie. Departments may choose to adopt strict policies regarding truthfulness and rigorously adhere to those policies. Without taking such steps, agencies set themselves up to employee a portion of their commissioned workforce as administrative employees, unable to investigate crimes and testify regarding their investigations.”

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