November 20, 2018

Off duty misconduct


Off duty misconduct
People v Latanya Gray, et al., 172 Misc.2d 14

Latanya Gray, a New York City police officer, together with two co-defendants, was charged coercion, grand larceny and bribe receiving.  The three were accused of soliciting and receiving $3,000 in exchange for the promise that Gray would rescind an assault report she filed against an business owner named Daniel Leon.

Allegedly Gray had a dispute with Leon. Gray, who was not in uniform and who was not on duty at the time, summoned the police. When uniformed officers arrived at the scene, Gray told them that she was a police officer and that she wanted the officers to arrest Leon; the officers complied.

According to the ruling, when Gray was released from jail he was contacted by Andrew Johnson, Gray's cousin. Johnson allegedly said that Gray would be willing to "drop" the assault charge if Leon paid her $5,000. After some negotiation, Johnson and Leon agreed upon $3,000 as the price for dropping the charge. Later that day, Leon contacted detectives with the Internal Affairs Bureau of the New York City Police Department and enlisted their aid in the matter.

Leon gave $3,000 to Marion Kennedy while Gray was standing nearby during the exchange. The transaction was monitored by agents of the Internal Affairs Bureau, who arrested Gray and Kennedy at the scene immediately following the exchange.

Gray argued that the criminal charges filed against her were not "legally sufficient" because the charges all related to conduct "as a public servant" or "related to" or "in the nature of" her official office. She and her co-defendants contended that her agreeing to drop a complaint she made as a civilian does not render her criminally liable for the crimes with which she is charged.

The Court said that the basis for all of the charges was the abuse of power by a public servant in performing (or failing to perform) a function relating to his or her office. The judge rejected Gray's  argument that her act of making a complaint as a private citizen, then allegedly offering to withdraw that complaint in exchange for just compensation for the injury she suffered, does not constitute any of the crimes charged in the indictment.

According to the decision, "the evidence portrays Gray not as a victim seeking fair recompense, but as a manipulator and conniver who abused her authority as a police officer to coerce the complainant to pay her money because she was dissatisfied with his services. 

In addition, the Court said that the qualification urged by the Gray -- on duty status versus off-duty status -- is a distinction without a difference.

According to the Court, "[W]hile technically off-duty, in a sense, a police officer is on duty 24-hours a day. Off-duty police officers carry revolvers and are expected to and do respond to emergencies occurring in their presence whether on or off-duty."

In addition, the decision notes that courts have found that Civil Service Law §75 does not preclude imposition of discipline on a civil servant who is guilty of misconduct during off-duty hours.


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