Monday, July 19, 2021

Police bribery conviction is upheld

This man was charged with the most unusual crime I have ever seen in reviewing Second Circuit opinions: he was a go-between corrupt police officers and criminal defendants. He would provide expensive gifts to the high-ranking officers in exchange for using their influence to obtain lenient treatment for the defendants. Bribery through gifts, not money. The defendant was convicted at trial, and the Court of Appeals affirms.

The case is United States v. Reichberg, issued on June 15. Here is how the Court of Appeals describes the arrangement:

The benefits the officers received took many forms, including trips on private jets and luxury hotel stays with prostitutes; football, basketball,  and  hockey tickets  worth  tens  of  thousands  of  dollars; international travel arrangements to Israel  and  the Dominican Republic;  home  improvements  worth  thousands  of  dollars; and approximately  $60,000  in  business  steered  toward  certain  of  the officers’ private security companies.
Reichberg  and  [co-defendant] Rechnitz’s  largesse  obtained  a  host  of  favors from  NYPD  officers.   For  example,  one  of  Reichberg’s  clients  was arrested  three  separate times,  but  each  time  was  released  from custody after Reichberg contacted NYPD officers. [Co-defendant] Grant exerted his influence to secure the processing and approval of gun licenses, even when those applications were deficient or the applicants unqualified for  the  type  of  license  sought. Grant  conferred  this  benefit  on Reichberg, who obtained a full-carry gun license without the licensing division bothering to investigate whether he qualified for one.  Banks secured  Grant’s  promotion  to  Inspector  in  the  19th  Precinct,  on Manhattan’s   Upper   East   Side—a   strategic   posting   valuable   to Reichberg   and Rechnitz   because   of   its   proximity   to   Rechnitz’s Manhattan  office.    Officers  also provided  police  rides  and  police escorts  to  Reichberg  and  Rechnitz’s  friends  to  cut through  traffic, arranged  for  an  NYPD  police  boat  to  give  rides  to  attendees  at  a barbecue Reichberg hosted, and arranged for an NYPD helicopter to do a flyover of a cocktail cruise organized by Reichberg.

Defendant raises a series of issues on appeal. One alleges a Fourth Amendment violation over the unlawful seizure of electronic evidence, which I imagine is how many of these bribes were proven at trial. It appears the government sent to Reichberg's co-defendants electronic discovery that was seized from his devices, but in doing so it sent them more information than they were entitled to, and that this extra evidence hurt his case. But the trial court found, and the Court of Appeals agrees, that the government released this information in error, and not on purpose. Fourth Amendment suppression remedies are available to deter the government from conducting unlawful seizures in the future. That interpretation of the exclusionary rule was articulated by the Supreme Court Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135 (2009), a controversial 5-4 ruling from the Supreme Court. What it means for this case is that since the data was mistakenly released, there is no Fourth Amendment violation because it was done in the good faith that Reichberg was consenting to the release of all of this data.

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