Joe Sanchez Like Serpico and Adrian Schoolcraft Victim of NYPD creative pay back for whistle blowing
With the Adrian School craft trial coming up in Sept 2013 -- here is a story of how creative the NYPD can get to shut down and discredit an NYPD whistle blower.
Joe has been trying to tell this story for some time. It's his story, but not his alone. It's also the story of those who lived and died alongside him, in Viet Nam and in that other battle, for justice and safety under the shield of the law, that is fought daily in the streets of every big city by every honest cop. In his case, the city was the Naked City and the cop was a Latino. And the battle was neither for the civilians alone, nor just against the bad guys in the street. Sometimes the bad guys were in the Department. And sometimes the people who needed protection were the honest cops.
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To all concerned;
I want to take this opportunity to tell my version of the unfortunate story of what happened to Joe Sanchez and me while making a lawful arrest on April 13, 1982. It was a good arrest, but then a bizarre turn of events occurred, that left one of us accused of committing burglary and assault, which ultimately cost Joe his job and pension. And yet the invisible man, (ME, the other officer present), was allowed to continue my career totally unaffected. Firstly, I would be remiss if I didn't give you a brief background of what was happening prior to this incident.
When Joe arrived at the 30th Pct., he did so with some obscure rumbling from unknown officers in his past commands. It was implied that he was an "Active" officer with a dangerous enthusiasm towards making arrests. It was also mentioned that he may have the Department's attention as a result of his large arrest activity. After meeting Joe, I was impressed with his knowledge of the streets and its workings. He was a highly decorated officer and also, a wounded Vietnam combat veteran. We were allowed to team up and became a well known duo in the community, as well as in the Department. During this time, we effected numerous dangerous arrests and were not intimidated by street thugs who would take control of entire neighborhoods as they flourished in their criminal endeavors. Somewhere during this period of many good arrests, the death threats began. Criminal elements began fighting back. The Department, of course, took notice. There was the taking of pot shots at us and untrue allegations of misconduct now being lodged against us. Those arrested, now carried with their MO, the discrediting of arresting officers. Their attempt to draw the Department's attention in hopes that the uncovering of incidental breaches of Departmental guidelines, would result in action against us. It became a two front offensive against us.
On April 13th, 1982, Joe and I had stopped at a hardware store in our sector to have spare radio car keys made. As we left the hardware store with our newly made keys, we spotted a vehicle moving slowly in our direction. It was too slow and the only people who would be driving like that were either lost, living near by or looking to obtain drugs. The entire upper area of our command was infested with locations where cocaine or marijuana was easily purchased. The driver obviously wasn't looking for parking as he exited the auto wearing a large cowboy hat. He headed towards a nearby building as the other occupants remained in the vehicle. He entered a building through the front entrance after ringing to be buzzed in. We felt confident we knew what was going down and pursued our suspicions to make a possible arrest. We followed the cowboy hat, (Bertino Cunningham), into the building after ringing an unknown apartment and getting buzzed in. We specifically notified central of our actions as required. We quietly arrived on the floor where the suspect knocked on a door and was admitted entry. We paused momentarily wondering if it was all over. Suddenly, another male exited the apartment and walked right into us. After speaking with this male, he agreed to knock on the door in what appeared to be a gesture of cooperation. The knock sounded and the door opened. Joe who was standing in front of me, observed the apartment occupant open the door while holding a pistol. Joe turned and flashed "Herman, he's got a gun", and began rushing the door. I followed and we were now inside the apartment entrance with this armed guardian pinned against the wall. The fellow who knocked, fled as I secured the guardian, removing the weapon from him and forcing him to the floor. Joe had already entered further into the apartment and was covering others with his drawn weapon. Calls to central for back-up were transmitted. I pulled my prisoner toward Joe as I would expect any partner would have done with the intent in not leaving their partner alone. Upon reaching Joe, we were now covering three males and guarding a closed door where a female had fled into. The sound of an opening window was heard by Joe from within this adjacent room. Our back-ups began pouring in as the prisoners were frisked and contraband secured. It was up to Joe and me to protect the integrity of the collected evidence and condition of the prisoners. This became difficult with the arrival of our back-ups. There were so many assisting in pat downs and searches for further weapons and contraband. The extra help was at first vital to survival and essential to stabilizing the situation. Once things were calm, only the AO's (arresting officers) and essential personnel should have remained. This is where sergeants earn their keep. They oversee the operation. It was also during this brief period of time, that if anything improper occurred, how could it go un- noticed? I can recall pushing cops out of the way in an attempt to secure the contraband and maintain the integrity of the crime scene. There were too many participants in a small area. Prisoners were being repeatedly searched and shoved around. When it finally slowed down, Bertino Cunningham was heard to exclaim "Are you Joe Sanchez? You took my money" Joe was startled at this sudden accusation which seemed as if it was planned. Cunningham was told that he would be allowed to air his complaint at the 30th Pct. station house.
At the station house, the arrests were processed and the allegation of theft was lodged specifically and "only" against Joe. A field FIAU (Field Internal Affairs Unit) Lieutenant arrived and interviewed Joe and me. We were informed that an investigation would follow in this matter. This was routine as in all such cases. It was almost funny that Joe and I were known to the local FIAU as active officers who have had allegations aimed at them to interfere with our active posture. To me, it was just another baseless allegation. I completed the processing while Joe was interviewed. I don't remember much about the FIAU interviews at the station house because I was the arresting officer and had my hands full with the paperwork involved. The arrest moved through the Court system as Joe and I testified before a Grand Jury to secure indictments against our prisoners. Note: A person who testifies in front of a grand jury is automatically given immunity from prosecution unless that person waives his/her immunity by signing a form. Neither Sanchez nor I were told by the assistant Manhattan prosecutor to do so after we had explained the situation of the arrest and the complaint on Sanchez by Bertino Cunningham. The then special state prosecutor, Thomas Duffy and his assistant Joe Hester, knowing Sanchez had immunity, proceeded to indict him anyway, thus violating Sanchez's civil rights and due process which in itself became a total fiasco of our justice system
The tables began to turn! Appearances and progress in this case slowed down almost un-noticed. The case seemed stalled. The single allegation against Joe now grew to three or four. The other prisoners now were similarly robbed by Joe Sanchez. Still, nothing was directed at me! The Monday morningquarterbacks at the command were in their glory. "Serves him right, we all knew this would happen and that's what he gets for being so active and in the spotlight". These were the sentiments flowing around. There appeared to be a polarization within the command regarding Joe. What also was emanating was the question of what my part was in this mess? Wasn't I the other officer present? There were no allegations tossed at me although I expected, as the partner, to be targeted just as Joe had been.
The allegations against Joe grew into an indictment, arrest and suspension. It was, as if I didn't exist on that day. We both had families and I was disturbed, but thankful I still had my job. We both had families that were to be affected by this. The questions grew at the command about what had happened. It was more confusing to fellow officers than you could imagine. Things were said about me. The rumble was that I turned and agreed to testify against my partner for exclusion in the storm that would follow. What was missing was that the Department mounted no action against me and the vivid images of that day and the struggle with the armed guardian and the good arrest seemed to have been forgotten by all. What should have been a Department Recognition evolved into the loss of a job for Joe and the disappearance of all the defendants. All of the defendants were promised immunity from prosecution if they testified against Joe. Of the six arrested, three never testified once given immunity. They went missing and were unable to be found by the Special State Prosecutors Office. The remaining three, cowboy hat Cunningham, girlfriend and the gun toting guard at the door testified against Joe. It did not matter that the prosecutor knew they were lying. Sanchez had to go down. At his trial, I testified on his behalf as did FIAU Lt John Verwoert and Captain Raymond Abruzzi, who was once our commanding officer at the 30 Pct.
The newly appointed Special State Prosecutor in 1985, Charles Joe Hynes, (now a Brooklyn District Attorney), realized Joe Sanchez was unjustly arrested and indicted and dismissed the indictment against him, yet the damage was already done as Joe was fired and unable to return to the NYPD.
In spite of being accused, arrested, indicted and then exonerated, Joe became a New York State Corrections Officer working at the Sing Sing facility where he faced inmates he had once arrested in Washington Heights. Joe's is a story that needs to be heard by all of law enforcement and others who champion the cause for justice. It tells us all what can happen to a good, honest and well decorated cop that broke the police code of silence and paid dearly for it from "The Enemy Within".
More details of the subsequent hearings and outcome can be found in the book "True Blue: A Tale of the Enemy Within" by Joe Sanchez and Mo Dhania.