Holding the System Accountable

“Community trust in the justice system is essential to achieving public safety. New Yorkers must know that law enforcement is acting with the utmost integrity in the pursuit of equal justice under the law. Without that belief, our criminal justice system will fail to deliver the real and lasting safety that every community deserves.” — D.A. Bragg.

Post-Conviction Justice Unit 

One of the first things D.A. Bragg did upon taking office was to create a Post-Conviction Justice Unit (“PCJU”) to review wrongful convictions and address the root causes behind them. Aligned with national best practices, PCJU is an independent unit separate from trial and appellate prosecutors. All investigations are done in collaboration with impacted individuals and their attorneys, including reviewing and analyzing evidence. PCJU takes a holistic approach to post-conviction justice, including providing services and support to exonerees and survivors, and advising the Office in best practices through trainings and root cause analyses. 

We created an open and transparent process to request a review. PCJU reviews submissions from people convicted of crimes, their attorneys, and, in some cases, community members, clergy or investigative journalists. To request a review, visit manhattanda.org/pcju. 

PCJU’s first exoneration was that of Steven Lopez, who was indicted in connection with the “Central Park Five” case – now known as the Exonerated Five. D.A. Bragg personally stood in court to vacate Mr. Lopez’s conviction, stating “Mr. Lopez was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure.” The Court agreed with D.A. Bragg’s conclusion that “a conviction based on an unconstitutional plea cannot stand.”

SPOTLIGHT: D.A. Bragg joined with New York’s institutional defenders to vacate over 300 convictions tied to nine NYPD officers previously convicted of crimes related to their law enforcement duties. These crimes irrevocably tainted the convictions and represent a significant violation of due process rights – a foundational principle of our legal system.

Police Accountability Unit 

D.A. Bragg bolstered the Office’s work to ensure integrity in law enforcement by creating a Police Accountability Unit (“PAU”), which operates independently from the rest of the Office and reports directly to the district attorney. PAU is tasked exclusively with investigating and prosecuting law enforcement officers who engage in criminal conduct while on duty. That includes excessive force – except for fatalities, which are handled by the New York Attorney General’s Office – in addition to corruption, falsifying evidence, and testifying falsely in court. 

The Office created an easy-to-use form for New Yorkers to report criminal misconduct by law enforcement officers in Manhattan and share video, photos, and other evidence with the PAU. Visit https://www.manhattanda.org/policemisconduct/ to report.

Notable cases:

  • August 2023: A former NYPD inspector pleaded guilty to obstructing the Department of Investigation’s probe into former Mayor Bill De Blasio’s use of his security detail by repeatedly impeding investigators and tampering with evidence.
  • July 2023: A former NYPD Sergeant pleaded guilty and was sentenced for assaulting a person inside a Manhattan Central Booking holding cell.
  • June 2023: An NYPD officer was indicted for punching an individual six times, knocking him unconscious, and breaking his nose.
  • May 2023: Three NYPD detectives were indicted for their roles in the theft of expensive champagne bottles from the Electric Zoo Music Festival in September 2022.
  • April 2023: We announced the jail sentence of former Department of Corrections Captain Rebecca Hillman for issuing orders that prevented officers from saving the life of Ryan Wilson, a person in custody at the Manhattan Detention Complex in November 2022.
  • March 2022: The Office secured trial convictions of two NYPD officers for stealing cash during an Internal Affairs Bureau integrity test. A jury found the officers guilty of Official misconduct and theft.
  • March 2022: We also secured the guilty plea of an NYPD sergeant for punching a 48-year-old man in a Harlem holding cell and attacking a 35-year-old man during a separate arrest in an Upper West Side subway station. The sergeant pleaded guilty to both of the charges against him: Assault in the Third Degree and Attempted Assault in the Third Degree.