Case against ex-detective tossed due to prosecutor’s conduct

Posted at 6:17 PM, January 31, 2023 and last updated 4:06 PM, May 2, 2023

By JENNIFER PELTZ Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A perjury case against a former New York City narcotics detective was thrown out mid-trial Tuesday after prosecutors acknowledged failing to turn over evidence as required to his defense.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also said it was demoting the prosecutor who handled the case, which had accused ex-detective Joseph Franco of lying about witnessing drug deals. Because of the charges, hundreds of drug cases he’d worked were dismissed in the last few years because prosecutors disavowed them.

FILE – Former New York City Police Department Detective Joseph Franco, center, leaves Manhattan Supreme Court in New York, April 24, 2019. The former New York City narcotics detective went on trial Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, on charges that he lied about witnessing drug deals…allegations that prompted the dismissals of hundreds of drug convictions. (Alec Tabak via AP, File)

“New Yorkers must know that law enforcement, including prosecutors, are acting with the utmost integrity. We hold ourselves accountable to that standard,” Manhattan DA’s office spokesperson Doug Cohen said in a statement.

It said evidence disclosure in the case “violated our discovery requirements.” Discovery is a legal term for documents and other material that prosecutors are legally bound to share with defendants’ attorneys so they can prepare their clients’ response.

The statement didn’t detail what evidence had been improperly held back, and the case was sealed upon dismissal. A request for comment was sent to Franco’s attorney, Howard Tanner.

He told local media in statements that the DA’s office had engaged in “repeated withholding and destruction of evidence, misrepresentations on the record and other ethical violations.”

“But how does he get his reputation back?” asked Tanner, who said his client had never done anything wrong during his decorated 20-year police career. It ended in a 2020 firing after his indictment the prior year.

During the trial, prosecutors said video contradicted Franco’s claims to have seen illegal drug sales on several occasions. Tanner said the former detective might have flubbed some location details but didn’t deliberately lie and was “on trial for doing his job.”

A judge dismissed the charges Tuesday at Tanner’s request and with prosecutors’ consent.

The charges involved a handful of cases but spurred prosecutors in BrooklynManhattan and the Bronx to disavow a total of hundreds of other convictions in cases involving Franco. The prosecutors didn’t say they had found evidence of alleged perjury in those cases, but they said they couldn’t stand behind his work.

The Manhattan DA’s office said it was continuing to review Franco’s cases. The Brooklyn DA’s office declined to comment; a message was sent to Bronx prosecutors.