Bronx prosecutors withdraw 133 cases linked to former NYPD narcotics detective accused of perjury

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Bronx prosecutors withdrew charges in 133 felony cases linked to a detective who was previously indicted for lying under oath about drug busts in Manhattan, officials said Thursday.

The cases tied to former Detective Joseph Franco were formally dismissed by Bronx Supreme Court Judge David Lewis following a review by the Bronx District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Bureau. The DA’s office had previously dismissed 123 cases tied to Franco.

“His compromised credibility suggests a lack of due process in the prosecution of these defendants, and we cannot stand behind these convictions,” said Bronx DA Darcel Clark.

Most of the dismissed cases involved low level drug buys in which Franco, working undercover, provided the key information that led to the arrests.

Franco was indicted by the Manhattan DA’s office in 2019 on multiple counts of perjury, filing false statements and official misconduct while working in Manhattan narcotics in 2017 and 2018.

At the time, prosecutors said he put “outright lies” in official records. In one case, he claimed he saw a man selling drugs in a Lower East Side lobby, but security video showed the testimony was false.

In April, Brooklyn prosecutors moved to dismiss 90 more cases involving Franco’s work in that borough between 2004 and 2011. In May, the city’s special narcotics prosecutor dismissed an additional two dozen cases involving the disgraced detective.

More than 250 other Bronx cases involving Franco remain under review. Ultimately, more than 500 cases in the Bronx will be dismissed, officials said.

The Bronx cases, which span 2011 to 2015, all depended on Franco’s sworn statements and grand jury testimony. He was involved in roughly 600 Bronx arrests in that period.

Clark said her office’s conviction integrity unit launched an exhaustive review after Franco’s indictment in Manhattan. The charges in the Manhattan case, she said, utterly tainted the Bronx cases.

But the office still checked each case individually, Clark said.

“We did not want to dismiss or vacate out of hand all cases he was involved in,” Clark said. “We investigated those that hinged on his testimony and sworn statements.”

Some of those Franco accused spent years in prison, said Ruth Hamilton, senior attorney for the Bronx Defenders.

“While the dismissal of their cases is absolutely the right thing to do, it cannot possibly erase the damage done by their incarceration, community supervision, and the civil punishments followed by these convictions,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton noted that some of the defendants pleaded guilty just to get away from Rikers Island. “The people accused very well may have chosen to go to trial and test the veracity of the allegations against them were they not sitting in jail awaiting their day in court,” she said.

Lawyers with the Legal Aid Society lauded the cases’ dismissal.

“This unconscionable and inexcusable behavior corrodes the public’s trust in law enforcement, and it has also caused harm and hardship to real New Yorkers, particularly Black and Latinx New Yorkers,” said Elizabeth Felber, director of the society’s Wrongful Conviction Unit.

Of the 133 cases dismissed, seventeen defendants had failed to appear and were being sought on bench warrants.

In July, prosecutors separately dismissed 39 misdemeanor cases involving Franco. In September, 84 felony Bronx cases were dismissed.

Franco was fired by the NYPD in April 2020 after he was found guilty at a department trial. His perjury case in Manhattan Supreme Court is still pending.

Franco’s lawyer Howard Tanner did not return a call for comment.