A New York Times investigation of three individuals arrested on gun charges by the NYPD has shed light on several similarities involving anonymous informants and some of the same arresting officers in each case. The Times’ report on the three men- Eugene Moore, John Hooper, and Jeffrey Herring- is part of an outline that questions the methods of one group of police: “Taken individually, the cases seem to be routine examples of differences between the police account of an arrest and that of the person arrested. But taken together, the cases — along with other gun arrests made in the precinct by these officers — suggest a pattern of questionable police conduct and tactics.”
Moore, Herring, and Hooper were each arrested on gun charges with similar circumstances involving tips given to police by anonymous informants. No information regarding informants in these cases had been introduced by police until months after prosecution began. The report stated that the suspects, who were all arrested on different occasions in Brooklyn’s 67th Precinct, claimed that the guns were planted by the police.
Moore was arrested by NYPD Detective Gregory Jean-Baptiste and Sgt. Vassilios Aidiniou on gun possession charges. The police said that Moore “had stored a gun in a white plastic bag underneath containers of takeout food” based on a tip from an informant. Moore spent a year in jail before his charges were dismissed. According to the Times, the judge was not convinced by Jean-Baptiste’s testimony:
“Detective Jean-Baptiste went on to give conflicting testimony about the informer and the circumstances of the arrest. Justice William Harrington of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn called the detective ‘extremely evasive’ and said he did not find him ‘to be credible.’ The judge suppressed the gun evidence, and Mr. Moore’s case was dismissed and sealed.”
In the separate case of Hooper, he was also arrested by Jean-Baptiste, who was dressed in plainclothes at the time of the arrest. Aidiniou was involved in Hooper’s case as well. Similarly to the arrest of Moore, Jean-Baptiste was allegedly tipped off by an anonymous informant that Hooper was in possession of a gun. Police claimed that as Hooper was approached by Jean-Baptiste, Hooper took a gun that was wrapped in a red bandanna and threw it into a wastebasket.
Police failed to produce the informant who had allegedly seen Hooper with a gun. In a probable cause hearing Jean-Baptiste said that he could see a gun-shaped bulge in Hooper’s pocket despite being a car length away and acknowledging that Hooper was dressed in a long shirt and baggy pants. The judge in Hooper’s case was also doubtful of police testimony:
“Supposedly this defendant doesn’t see the police coming, but elects out of nowhere to take the object out of his pants pocket and dump it in a garbage can?” Justice Guy J. Mangano said. “I find it incredible that they thought it was a gun.”
The district attorney offered Hooper a plea deal for time served ahead of Mangano’s decision. Hooper agreed, having spent almost a year in jail.
Herring is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. He was arrested in 2013 after police said that a plainclothes officer saw Herring reach “into a white plastic bag and removed a gun, putting it in a black plastic bag” before tossing the bag. Debora Silberman, Herring’s attorney challenging his charges, noticed that Jean-Baptiste- one of the officers involved in Herring’s arrest- had been found providing undependable testimony in the past.
Silberman contacted Moore’s attorney, Jeffrey Chabrowe, and discovered that the circumstances surrounding Herring’s arrest were close to those of Moore’s.
Silberman and another defense lawyer, Scott Hechinger, have implied through court papers that officers might be fabricating these confidential informants for different reasons. One could be a motivation to fulfill department quotas. The attorneys also questioned the possibility of officers collecting money from an initiative called Operation Gun Stop, where informants are given a $1,000 reward; the officers have been unable to produce any informants in these three cases, even when ordered by judges to do so.