Good story in the Village Voice today discussing how cops busted on steroids don't make for smooth legal proceedings.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn dismissed 54 narcotics cases late last week, bringing the total in that borough alone to 271—and counting.
Incredible. Cops busted for using or selling steroids are poisoning the prosecutors cases; this doesn't sound like a process for making the streets of New Yrok safer. Here is one story:
Meanwhile, the still-simmering steroid scandal ("Cops on Steroids," December 19–25, 2007) has just begun poisoning cases: A prime example is the bust of gunman—and known scumbag—Gary Waters.
The ex-con was nabbed by cops in September 2006 with a fully loaded 9mm handgun, an extra 15-bullet magazine, 27 loose rounds, and a pair of handcuffs. Since then, however, the arresting officer in the case, Vaughn Ettienne, and his supervisor, Sergeant Raymond Cotton, were suspended in the steroid probe, which has ensnared 29 cops who allegedly received illegal prescriptions. Both Ettienne and Cotton tested positive for steroid use, according to law-enforcement officials.
After Waters's lawyer read late last year in the Voice about the suspensions, he launched a "'roid rage" accusation against both Ettienne and Cotton (who signed off on the bust). Last month, Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Michael Gary denied Waters's request for access to the Brooklyn D.A.'s files in the steroid probe to determine whether there was any evidence to support his lawyer's contention that the cops were in the throes of "'roid rage" when they busted him. But the judge ruled that Waters's Legal Aid attorney, Adrian Lesher, already has a "good-faith basis" to question the cops—if they take the stand, as they normally would in such a case—about steroid use and its possible side effects.
It's unlikely that this courtroom confrontation will ever materialize, however.
A spokesman for D.A. Charles "Joe" Hynes says that "our position right now is [that] the case is still going forward," but sources in the office say a supervising assistant district attorney in charge of gun cases is leaning toward dismissing the case against Waters.
Ettienne and Cotton would too easily become targets for the defense, says a source.In any event, cops will often become worthless as witnesses for the prosecution if they're facing legal troubles of their own.
"My experience is that once cops get suspended, they generally don't cooperate with us anymore" on their pending cases, the source says.
D.A. spokesman Jerry Schmetterer says the office will review other pending cases involving Ettienne, Cotton, and four other police officers suspended last November after testing positive for steroids, to determine whether those suspensions would adversely affect the cases stemming from the busts they made. Schmetterer says he doesn't know how many such cases have been worked on by the six cops.
Defense attorneys will jump all over the evidence for an increase in aggressiveness seen with anabolic steroid use:
Lesher won't comment on the case, but one of his motions notes that "anabolic steroids have been repeatedly cited by medical authorities as a reason for spontaneous and irrational aggressive behavior," and contends that "'roid rage was probably partially responsible for one of the most horrific instances of New York police brutality in modern memory, Justin Volpe's sodomization of Abner Louima with a toilet plunger in 1997."
There may or may not be complete scientific evidence that anabolic steroids increase EVERY users aggression; attorneys simply need to throw that doubt out there for jurors to ponder.
Officers have been plagued with corruption due to drugs and sex in the past, but now add steroid use to a list of corrupting influences. And cite this compelling case made by the defense:
But try telling that to a Brooklyn jury—especially when the defense, according to its motions, was headed down this path: "In this case the reported illegal use [by Ettienne and Cotton] provides cause to believe that at least these officers put their interest above those of society, that these officers feel free to commit criminal acts with impunity and that these officers are under the influence of drugs which cause irrational aggressive behavior. Moreover, the desire to cover up such illegal behavior provides a motive to fabricate testimony and evidence."