Our attention span is short, and every day brings a new case, a new situation, that calls out for scrutiny. There is only so much we can follow, except for those who have dedicated themselves to a specific instance. The problem with that is that the rest of us, those for whom it’s just one data point in a universe of data points, don’t share their obsession with one case. We move on.
And even when the instance is big, huge, at the time, our limited attention gets diverted to the next big deal long before anything happens, because they utter the magic words, pending an investigation. No, it’s rarely said when it’s a regular perp, who is caught as quickly as possible, immediately convicted by press conference and smeared with whatever they have available. But when the perp is a cop, they immediately start screaming about rush to judgment, time to investigate, blah, blah, blah.
There isn’t much to say about this assurance that they will conduct a full and thorough investigation. There is no argument against investigating, as if it’s a bad thing. But the one thing it guarantees is that by the time it’s done, assuming it’s done, all eyes will be elsewhere and interest will have long faded away. Maybe not always, but it’s a good bet.
A Newsday/News12 report makes this point glaringly, and pathetically, clear. The underlying story is long and convoluted, but the TL:dr version is a drunk Nassau cop, Anthony DiLeonardo, shot a Suffolk County cab driver twice after a dispute in 2011. The Nassau County police wanted this liability off their payroll, concluding that he committed four felonies.
So what happened in Suffolk County?
There were dozens of potential witnesses to the shooting and its aftermath, including medical personnel, civilians and law enforcement officials from both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Newsday recently interviewed seven of the incident’s central figures, or their attorneys, and all said they had not been asked to testify before the grand jury, which was set to expire in January 2014.
A spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, whose office maintained jurisdiction over the Huntington Station incident, confirmed Newsday’s findings and acknowledged for the first time that Spota allowed the special grand jury to expire last year without key witnesses being called.
Spota made a big deal of the fact that he was convening a special grand jury to deal with this terrible crime. It’s not often that a cop on Long Island shoots a cabbie, and this was a big deal in the papers. Everyone, including Newsday, breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Spota was on the job, that DiLeonardo’s drunken shooting would not get swept under the rug.
So everyone moved on. January, 2014, came and went, and the grand jury term expired. And nobody noticed that nothing happened. DiLeonardo’s prosecution was no longer shiny enough for anyone to care about. Not even Newsday. Not until a year later did it occur to anyone that there was no indictment.
As for the inaction, Spota has his excuses. He claims that cab driver refused to cooperate by testifying in the grand jury. DiLeonardo’s lawyers argue that their defendant wanted to testify, but only upon a grant of immunity. This is pure silliness, as a potential grand jury target may have the right to testify, but only upon a waiver of immunity. Then there were the dozens of witnesses, about which nothing is known except that they were never called to testify.
There are a great many questions about what happened to this case, particularly in light of subsequent events in Ferguson and Staten Island where prosecutors put on a play before the grand jury to create the appearance that they were doing their job while making sure that no indictment would be forthcoming. The renewed interest in DiLeonardo likely stemmed from these botches.
Whenever the official story is about an official person who is the suspect of crime, the cycle shifts speed entirely, from full steam ahead to take advantage of public interest by showing how our brave police have saved us from today’s killer so we can sleep well tonight, to the looooong, slooooow proooocess of investigating.
This is nothing new. This will come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the difference in how law enforcement rushes to judgment when the alleged criminal isn’t one of theirs, but demands patience when it is.
And sometimes, after a lengthy and thorough investigation, a cop gets indicted and prosecuted. And sometimes, if we’re all watching and screaming so loud that they can’t bury the investigation by hoping something new and shiny will divert our attention, they have to take the heat by presenting it to a grand jury while quietly sabotaging their own presentment to make sure “justice is done.”
But when a year goes by after the expiration of a grand jury, for a crime that occurred three years before, and nobody notices despite the fact that it was a huge crime in a place where police shootings are extremely rare, the scam is revealed.
It’s not that Spota failed to indict. It’s not that DiLeonardo should or should not have been indicted. It’s that nobody, from the news media to the public, cared enough about it to remember it happened and followed it through to its outcome. A special grand jury expired and no one noticed. Had it not been for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it’s likely no one would have ever noticed.
H/T Mike Paar