August 8, 2013

Ithaca Police Officers Accused of Aiding Drug Dealers Exonerated

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Eighteen months after they launched an investigation into allegations that Ithaca police officers aided drug dealers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday that they did not find any evidence corroborating the accusations.

The investigations included “dozens of interviews and extensive review of police records and other materials” concerning Ithaca Police Department Lt. Marlon Byrd and Officer Derrick Moore, the FBI and Attorney General’s Office said in a statement. Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson, who was briefed throughout the investigation, said in a statement that she had reached an “unequivocal conclusion that [Byrd and Moore] did not engage in the acts alleged, and that they are now exonerated.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 applauded the findings Wednesday, saying “the results of the investigation make it clear that Lt. Byrd and Officer Derrick Moore were the victims of baseless allegations and bald-faced lies.”

“Now that we’ve also cleared the air of lies that unfairly tarnished these loyal officers, we can continue the work of building a better Ithaca Police Department. Those who would hinder IPD’s progress with rumors and lies are its past, not its future,” Myrick said in a statement.

The officials’ statements mark the latest and perhaps concluding event in an extended saga that has raised questions of racial discrimination and dissension in the IPD.

Below is a timeline of events leading to Byrd’s exoneration.

2008

Byrd is accused of giving local narcotics dealers information about pending drug investigations. Testimony from IPD Officer Bob Brotherton suggests that high-ranking IPD officers began working around Byrd for fear he would tip off drug dealers, according to documents first obtained by The Ithaca Journal. After the IPD reviewed these claims, Byrd is cleared of wrongdoing.

2010 – 2011

Allegations against Byrd re-emerge during the arbitration of IPD officer Chris Miller. Miller sues the IPD for $17 million, claiming he suffered racial discrimination when Byrd, rather than Miller, was promoted.

Miller, who is white, said Byrd should not have defeated him for the lieutenant promotion, in part because Byrd is a “poor police officer.” Miller and several other white officers testified that they had reason to believe Byrd had assisted drug dealers.

Several witnesses also testify under oath that Byrd gave information to local narcotics dealers about pending drug investigations — including the times and locations of drug raids — and held substances for them, according to documents originally obtained by The Ithaca Journal.

However, some city officials, community leaders and members of the city’s black community called Byrd an exemplary officer. They said Byrd was susceptible to the allegations because he was willing to forge ties with the community.

For instance, when the fatal shooting of a black man by a white officer in 2010 threatened to bring racial tensions in the City of Ithaca to a boil, Byrd spearheaded an effort to reconcile the IPD with the city’s black community, Audrey Cooper, director of the Multicultural Resource Center, said to The Sun.

January 20, 2012

With Miller’s lawsuit ongoing, Myrick says he welcomes the District Attorney’s office to conduct further investigation into the “very serious allegations” concerning Byrd.

February 2012

Byrd is placed on administrative leave. On Feb. 2, 2012, Myrick announces that Byrd is “fit to continue in his responsibilities” pending further investigation.

A second white officer files a $10.5-million lawsuit alleging that the IPD committed racial discrimination. The case, once again, involves Byrd.

Sgt. Douglas Wright alleges he was unfairly passed for promotions twice because of his race. Wright alleges that in 2009, Byrd was promoted instead of himself even though the chief and deputy chief of IPD allegedly had information relating to drug allegations against Byrd.

March 9, 2012

The Ithaca Journal releases excerpts of a document that show Byrd was charged with incompetency and reprimanded for misconduct in 1994 for failing to turn in several empty small plastic bags and a small plastic bag with a white powder thought to be an illegal substance.

At the time, Byrd waived his right to an arbitration hearing on the charges and accepted the reprimanding.

March 10, 2012

Byrd reacts to The Journal’s story in an email to fellow officers, saying that the story missed important context and gave a false impression of the situation.

“In my opinion, the items they turned over to me were garbage and not worth tagging or testing, so I discarded them into the trash,” he wrote, adding that there were no suspects associated with the items. He said that it was not common practice in 1994 to tag every potential piece of evidence — which is the standard today — and that his actions were consistent with those of other officers.

He adds that, “since that 1994 incident, I have had an unblemished career.”

October 2012

A federal jury awards Miller a $2 million settlement in his discrimination lawsuit, a move that the city expresses disappointment over.

December 21, 2012

The city announces that a federal judge has thrown out the damages in Miller’s case and ordered a new trial to proceed. The district court said Miller’s $2-million settlement was “patently excessive, shocks the conscience” and “was far outside the range of reasonableness.”

August 6, 2013

The FBI and NY Attorney General’s Office say they have found no evidence that Byrd or Moore assisted drug dealers.

Original Author: By JINJOO LEE

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