Ex-US Attny Goes from Prosecuting NYC Police Unions to Protecting them

Frmr. U.S. Attny. Mary Jo White is now defending the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Assn. against charges that its hierarchy tried to cover up for a drunken officer convicted of vehicular manslaughter.  As U.S. Attny. for the Sou. Dist. of NY, White won the conviction of two lawyers and a transit police union boss in 1998 for a racketeering conspiracy.  The lawyers paid more than $400,000 in bribes in return for more than $2 million paid to their firm, which represented the transit and other NYC unions.  All three men convicted also worked for the PBA.


Now in private practice, White is representing the PBA, which is accused of “hinder[ing] the investigation and prosecution” of Joseph Gray.  In Aug. 2001, Gray spent all day drinking at the Sunset Park topless bar, then get behind the wheel of a van and plowed into a pregnant Maria Herrara, her 4-yr.-old son, Andy, and her 16-yr.-old sister, Dilicia Pena.  The three died, along with Cesarean-delivered Ricardo Herrara.


After Gray’s conviction, a Brooklyn prosecutor accused the police of mishandling evidence.  Testimony during Gray’s trial also indicated that the investigating officer and union officials discussed giving a “benefit” to Gray on his sobriety test.  An internal NYPD probe claimed to have found no evidence of a cover-up.  Surviving family members have filed a $200 million lawsuit against the PBA.


“We have an obligation to provide police officers with the best possible representation available, and in this particular lawsuit Mary Jo White knows the terrain better than anybody,” said PBA spokesman Al O’Leary.  In fact, this would not be the first time that White has, at least unintentionally, helped legally troubled union bosses.  In 2001, White blew the prosecution of ex-Teamsters boss Ron Carey, expelled from the union for soliciting employer and union funds for his 1996 reelection drive.  White delayed bringing the case so that Carey’s trial began nearly 5 yrs. after the events in question.  She also put a hostile witness — convicted union embezzler William Hamilton — on the stand, allowing him to undermine her case, which collapsed when the jury acquitted Carey.


And despite Hamilton’s admission that AFL-CIO vice president Richard Trumka was present when Hamilton arranged for the Fedtn. to launder $150,000 into the Carey campaign, White never indicted Trumka before the statute of limitations expired on the 1996 allegations. [NY Daily News, 1/2/04]