Judge Gustin Reichbach tore the skin off of the New York Police Department this morning. He called the mindset in a Brooklyn narcotics unit one that “seemingly embraces a cowboy culture where anything goes in the never-ending war on drugs.”
Then he delivered his verdict on the case of Detective Jason Arbeeny, who stood accused of filing false police reports, planting drugs on civilians, tampering with evidence, and official misconduct as part of a conspiracy within the Brooklyn South Narcotics Squad.
“Having been a judge for more than 20 years, I thought I was not naive regarding the reality of narcotics enforcement, but even this court was shocked,” Reichbach said of the revelations concerning questionable NYPD procedures that unfolded over the course of the trial.
The courtroom was especially crowded this morning while Arbeeny, a husky man in a gray suit, listened to Judge Reichbach’s comments, and waited for the verdict.
“The testimony of former Detective Stephen Anderson creates an eidetic scenario that one might characterize as a cross between Training Day and Prince of the City,” Reichbach continued.
Subtle smiles swept the faces of the prosecuting attorneys. Arbeeny did not look amused. It was just last week that the judge dropped the conspiracy charges against Arbeeny, who said at the time that he was not worried about any of the charges against him. Today the tables seemed to be turning.
The judge continued, suggesting that it was a series of venal procedures within Brooklyn South Narcotics that led to Arbeeny “flaking” drugs on innocent people and filing false police reports. These flawed procedures, Judge Reichbach suggested, emerged as a consequence of arrest quotas, or other productivity measures in place within the department. “There is of course nothing inherently sinister in trying to measure performance,” he said, “but simple reliance on numbers can create pressures leading to unacceptable practices.”
Police officers sitting in on the trial seemed to slouch in their seats with worried faces as they listened to the judge’s critique of their department. What would the judge’s opinion of narcotics squads mean for Arbeeny?
“This is not a trial about flawed procedures or corrupt culture,” the judge concluded. “The question is not of institutional debility but rather of individual guilt or innocence.”
The moment had come to read his verdict.
He found Arbeeny guilty on eight counts, including submitting false police reports in pursuit of crime, and official misconduct. Arbeeny will be sentenced on January 5th and faces up to four years in prison.
Arbeeny sat in the courtroom long after the trial ended; his wife sat on the bench behind him. Looking as though he dreaded facing the world outside, Arbeeny eventually stood up to leave the room. A pool of photographers awaited him.
Arbeeny kept his head up, and looking straight ahead, he quickly walked down the hall. Making no comments, he disappeared into the elevator.