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NYPD Detectives Caught on Video Framing 2 Innocent Brothers on Drugs Charges

posted 02:09 AM EST, Sun June 14, 2009
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NYPD Detectives Caught on Video Framing 2 Innocent Brothers on Drugs Charges © Photo Credit: Neoliminal

Max and Jose Colon spent a night in jail after arresting officers reported buying cocaine from the 2 that they described as drug dealers. Surveillance camera footage proves the brothers' innocence and leads to charges against the arresting officers.

Brothers Max and Jose Colon were arrested Jan 4th 2008 on charges of cocaine distribution after undercover officers successfully purchased a small quantity of cocaine from the 2 men while at a Bronx bodega.

The 2 brothers spent a night in a holding cell. Jose made bail the next morning and was released, Max was sent to Rikers Island Jail before he could make the bail.

It was a good bust by a veteran narcotics detective and his novice partner, sure to hold up in court – it was also a complete fabrication. The police detectives made up the whole thing.

The arresting officers, Detective Stephen Anderson and Officer Tavarez reported in their arresting statement that they had entered the bodega undercover and inquired about buying cocaine. They were informed that Max was a resident dealer, and they approached the man who was sitting at the bar. Max frisked the undercover officer for a wire, and then demanded $100 for cocaine. Tavarez stated that they saw cocaine pass through the hands of both brothers prior to delivery.

After the undercover officers left the bar, an assault team of officers entered the establishment and arrested the 2 brothers on drug dealing charges. Security tape footage shows the arresting detectives literally dancing in the street to celebrate the arrest.

The arresting officers hadn't counted on security tape footage that recorded the 2 arrested brothers for the entire time period in question, and which shows a very different story from that reported by the officers.

As soon as Jose made bail he beelined to the bodega and convinced the small bar's owner to go over the security footage with him. After finding footage that vindicated the 2 brothers, Jose took the tapes to defense attorney Rochelle Berliner, who said that what she saw and didn't see on the tapes was enough to make her feel sick to her stomach. Berliner, a former prosecutor who says she has prospected between 1500 and 2000 drugs cases, spoke about her history at the prosecutor's office and about working with police officers, saying, "And I think back, Oh my God, I believed everything everyone told me. Maybe a handful of times did something not sound right to me. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic but I was like, sick."

The security tape shows the two brothers sitting at the bar of the bodega as the 2 undercover officers enter in and interact with patrons of the bar. Some time later, the officers leave the bar and a team of arresting officers swoops in and apprehends the 2 surprised brothers. At no time does the tape show any interaction between the undercover officers and the 2 brothers. The tape shows the 2 brothers at the bar for the entire time period.

The District Attorney's office reviewed the footage as many as 100 times to make sure that the tape hadn't been altered, and eventually dropped all charges against Max and Jose Colon.

Charges were filed against officers Tavarez and Anderson, who pled not guilty at an initial court appearance. The two officers are due back in court on June 26.

The Colon brothers say they're angry about the way they've been treated. Previously the owner proprietors of a small convenience store in Jackson Heights, the brothers lost their licenses to sell tobacco, alcohol and lottery after their arrest, and were forced to close their shop prior to their vindication. They say that although they've been cleared of the charges, suspicion about them lingers in their old neighborhood, which they now mostly avoid.

Jose says he is no longer able to afford to house or care for his children and Max rails against a system that punishes those who try to walk the straight and narrow, while those who engage in criminal activities seem to profit greatly, saying, I know a lot of people ... they don't go the right way and they can get away with it. I'm young and I try to go the right way and boom, this happened to me."

The Colon brothers have brought a $10 million dollar lawsuit against the arresting officers, the police department and the city.

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