This wouldn’t even qualify as a dirty little secret but for the fact that no judge seems aware of it. Cops lie. NYPD Police Officer Michael Carsey, 31, was convicted of perjury for lying. Way to go, Cy. You got one.
Mr. Eiseman, 39, and Officer Carsey, prosecutors said, said they had smelled marijuana coming from an illegally parked van. In seeking a search warrant for the driver’s home, both testified that the man had admitted to having contraband in his apartment, where drugs and a gun were later found. But the two had actually learned of the contraband when they found pictures on the man’s phone, prosecutors said. The case against the driver was eventually dismissed.
The backstory involves two of the most common themes in street arrests uptown, the car stop and the smell of marijuana. So you know, the testimony of the officer who claims to have smelled the marijuana will describe it as “pungent.” That”s the code word for unsmoked marijuana. They’re actually taught to use this word, and it appears in every instance. Search Lexis. It’s no joke.
There there’s the vehicle aspect. Unlawful turn, failure to use blinkers, illegally parked, whatever. There’s no driver uptown who doesn’t realize that he can be pulled over at any time for something or nothing. That’s just how they roll uptown. There are no rights because these nice people are unworthy of rights. They are the subjects of the power of the State, and they know only too well that when they cross
92nd 96th Street, they forfeit any rights that downtown people have.
All it takes to make this happen is for a police officer to utter magic words:
I observed the defendant change lanes without signalling, so I stopped him.
Disprove it. You can’t. The cop said that he saw it, and there is no judge who will disagree. The defendant can testify. The passenger in the defendant’s car can testify. Twelve unrelated witnesses who watched the stop can testify. Cop wins. Always.
A: As I approached the driver’s side, the defendant opened the window and I smelled the strong odor of marijuana.
Q: How did you know it was the smell of marijuana?
A: Based on my experience and training.
Q: And what did it smell like?
A: It was pungent.
Disprove he smelled the strong, pungent odor of marijuana. The reason this testimony works is that the officer, after stopping and searching the car, found some pot. If there was pot in the car, bingo, the search is good. If there is no pot in the car, and the cop has no particular need to bust the defendant, whether for fun, a lesson, a quota or overtime, then the driver goes on his way and the stop never happened. Life is good.
What makes this case curious is how this went from one of a hundred (a thousand? Who knows how many, since the stops where nothing is found disappear) that happens every day in the Big Apple to a case that made the Official Corruption Unit take notice.
It’s not that the New York County District Attorney’s Office Official Corruption Unit doesn’t mean business. The
do. Unlike the line prosecutors who grow to love their cops too much, these prosecutors have no problem trying to clean up the mess. The problem is distinguishing between the disgruntled defendants who claim the cop is lying and the cop who is lying.
So what made Michael Carsey stand out? What made Michael Carsey’s lie different from the rest?
On rare occasion, there’s a video that proves the cop was lying. While video is becoming increasingly pervasive, we’re still a very long way from having a video of everyday police interactions. Reading various stories about the case, there is nothing to suggest why Carsey (and his training supervisor, William Eiseman, who pleaded guilty earlier) were outed as liars.
This is the rub. Why Carsey? Why did he get caught when he did nothing different than what so many other cops do daily? What made the Official Corruption Unit take this seriously when claims of baseless stop, lying cops, are made every day? This is the piece of information that most interests me, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest an answer.
In the course of trying to find out, I came across a comment, offered after Eiseman’s guilty plea, that pretty well sums up the attitude behind this conduct:
Bill Eisman should only be found guilty of taking his job to heart. He went the extra mile to protect our youth from low life drug dealers and protect our society from careless and dangerous savages. If he recovered a gun with a technically illegal search, he may have saved the life of someone’s precious child. If the majority of the population continue to believe that low lives carrying drugs and guns deserve equal civil rights, the world will just be more miserable for the people who do good because it becomes just too difficult to fight crime. I say give Bill Eiseman a medal of honor and give him back some respect for the hard work he did which most people like me would be much too terrified to do.
There are great many people who will nod in agreement, naturally caring little unless and until they’re on the receiving end of a bad stop and a lying cop. But it’s long been clear that people aren’t particularly sympathetic to “low life drug dealers” and that our concerns about lying and constitutional rights aren’t universally shared.
The line between getting a medal and being prosecuted is a thin one. So what caused Michael Carsey to end up on the wrong side of that line? What can be done to make sure all dirty, lying cops end up there as well? Without knowing this, the most that can be said is that one perjurious cop was taken down. For the rest, it’s business as usual. Life goes on.