Monday, March 23, 2015 5:00 pm

PBA Challenger Faults Lynch for Backing DA

Union Head: He Did, Too

By Mark Toor

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Fusco was for choice before he opposed it.  

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association trustee who is seeking to defeat four-term president Patrick J. Lynch criticized Mr. Lynch last week for the union’s 2013 endorsement of Kenneth P. Thompson for Brooklyn District Attorney.

The trustee, Brian Fusco, noted that Mr. Thompson had indicted four Police Officers in his first 15 months in office. He said Mr. Lynch had acted on his own in making the endorsement. Mr. Lynch said the endorsement decision was approved by the PBA’s political-action committee.

Son of an Ex-Cop

Mr. Thompson, a former Federal prosecutor whose mother was a police officer and PBA member, beat Charles J. Hynes, who was running for a seventh term, in both the 2013 Democratic primary and the general election.

An ad prepared by Mr. Fusco’s Strengthen the Shield Slate, which is viewable on YouTube, shows Mr. Lynch making the endorsement on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall. A legend at the end of the ad says, “‘Proud’ and ‘Honored’ to endorse a DA who has indicted four cops.”

The indictments involved three incidents. Officer Peter Liang was charged with manslaughter and other less-serious counts in the shooting of Akai Gurley in a darkened housing-project stairwell. Mr. Gurley was unarmed, and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said he was totally innocent.

The shooting was characterized as accidental. “We don’t believe that Officer Liang intended to kill Mr. Gurley,” Mr. Thompson said in announcing the indictment, “but he had his finger on the trigger and he fired the gun.”

Police Officer Joel Edouard was charged with third-degree assault and other crimes for allegedly stomping on the head of a suspect who was face-down on the ground and being handcuffed by other officers.

Damning Video?

A witness to the incident captured a cell-phone video that showed the suspect’s position, and also depicted Officer Edouard briefly walking away from the scene of the arrest and then walking back and stomping on the suspect, according to the DA’s Office.

Police Officers David Afanador and Tyrane Isaac have been charged with assaulting a 16-year-old boy during an arrest in Crown Heights. “A video-surveillance camera captured one officer allegedly striking the teen in the mouth with his gun, allegedly breaking his teeth, and the other officer allegedly punching him in the face with his fist,” the DA’s Office said.

Officer Afanador was charged with second-degree assault, a felony, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and official misconduct, both misdemeanors. Officer Isaac was charged with two misdemeanors, third-degree assault and official misconduct.

Mr. Lynch and Mr. Fusco both declined to address whether any of the indictments were justified. But the PBA leader said Mr. Fusco had initially supported the endorsement.

‘Now He’s Hiding’

“Political endorsements by this union are done by a process that includes a candidate’s interview with the PBA’s political-action committee,” he said in a statement. “Fusco participated in Thompson’s interview and was energetically supportive of Thompson’s endorsement, but now he’s hiding from that fact. Fusco also seems to have forgotten the record of the previous Brooklyn DA, who never hesitated to indict a police officer.”

Mr. Fusco remembers it differently. He said he attended the meeting of the political-action committee, although he was not a member, because the race involved the area he represented, Brooklyn South. Mr. Lynch was not present, he said.

He said that cops in Brooklyn are still bothered by the Abner Louima case, in which Mr. Thompson was a member of the Federal prosecution team. Officer Justin Volpe was convicted of sodomizing Mr. Louima with a sawed-off broomstick in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct. Mr. Volpe is serving a 30-year prison term. Four other officers were indicted but only one was convicted, and questions about the charges against that cop, Charles Schwarz, continue to this day.

Says He Urged Neutrality

He said he told the committee, “Let’s just stay out of it and not endorse anyone...I don’t think it would have benefited anyone.”

The trustee said he left after speaking to the committee, adding, “I never even heard if there was a vote.”

“There were about 10 people at the interview and there was immediate agreement in the room that Thompson was the preferred candidate over Joe Hynes,” PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said in an e-mail.

Teams representing both Mr. Lynch and Mr. Fusco offered to produce witnesses they said would prove their accounts. Mr. Fusco said he was also bothered that Mr. Lynch did not show up for any of the arraignments resulting from the indictments.

One case handled by Mr. Hynes resulted in indictments in 2008 of three officers, one for allegedly ramming a baton between the buttocks of a man arrested for smoking marijuana on a subway platform and two for allegedly covering it up. All three were acquitted at trial. Mr. Hynes deferred to Federal prosecutors in the Louima case.

He also sought the indictment of officers in other shootings by police, but grand juries declined to issue charges. One such case, presented in 2013, involved Shantel Davis, an unarmed woman shot by police try to apprehend her in a stolen car. Another case involved Police Officer Richard Neri, who shot Timothy Stansbury Jr. in 2004 as he came through the door of a housing-project rooftop just as Mr. Neri was opening it from inside. The officer said he was startled by the opening of the door.

Mr. Thompson told WNYC that the indictments of the four officers were not politically motivated. “I’m not sending a message at all—that is not my intent,” he said. “My intent is to be true to the obligation that I took on when I became Brooklyn DA, and that is to do justice.”