WHITE PLAINS — Jamar Smythe, 34, a Peekskill man who served 4-years of a 15-year prison term had his drug conviction tossed in White Plains County Court, Tuesday morning.
Prosecutors contended that partners Dennis Molina and Christian Koch lied at the trial of Jamar Smythe when they claimed to have arrested him following a routine traffic stop, reported The Journal News.
Detective Christian Koch along with Officer Neil Vera were indicted October 2014 when they were accused of lying to get a search warrant for an apartment on school street. During the police raid in March, Dario Tena fell out of a window 40 feet and died. Officer Vera was later fired, Koch remains on suspension and Molina was placed on modified duty this month after prosecutors’ findings in the Smythe case were shared with Yonkers police officials.
When appellate lawyer, Herman Kaufman was brought in to work on Smythe’s appeal, while he was preparing case Detective Koch (who is still on the force) and Neil Vera was indicted on perjury and misconduct charges, Yonkers Police Commission Charles Gardner told The Journal News Friday. Kaufman said the DA’s office admitted Koch and Molina have no credibility and agreed that Smythe should be released.
Family and friends rejoiced in the courtroom, when Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli, announced Smythe’s sentence was vacated and he will be released. Smythe had to travel back up to Eastern Correction Facility in Ulster County, where he was to be later released. The Department of Corrections has since removed the public record of Smythe’s incarceration from its website.
The judge however let the indictment against Smythe stand and scheduled a conference for May 12, in which Smythe must be present. Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward suggested that prosecutors might request a new suppression hearing to determine if the drug evidence could still be salvaged and the case retried. But who they would call as witnesses if not Koch and Molina, whose credibility has been tainted is uncertain.
The evidence shouldn’t be able to be salvaged as the assistant DA suggested, due to fruit from the poisonous, an extension of the exclusionary rule established in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920), that states that evidence gathered with the assistance of illegally obtained information must be excluded from trial. Like the exclusionary rule, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine is intended to deter police from using illegal means to obtain evidence which appears to be what happened in Smythe’s case.
This could just be a stall tactic by the DA’s office from having to admit its fault in not verifying the officers’ statements before aggressively prosecuting the case.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait. I’m ready to go pick him up now,” Smythe’s wife, Brittney said, when asked how she feels after hearing the news her husband will be released today.
After talking with BW Brittney called Jamar’s mother to give her the news and proceeded to head up state to be there when her husband was released.
Smythe was convicted of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, despite the testimony of a friend, that the drugs in the car were his and Smythe had no knowledge of their existence, Smythe was sentenced him to the 15 years.
While Smythe is the first defendant of what could be many, whose conviction was overturned as a result of the fallout from the bad School Street search warrant, prosecutors have dropped charges against 20 defendants in pending cases, including some serious drug felonies.
Kaufman said while he was pleased the conviction was overturned but disappointed Smythe still had the charges hanging over him. Kaufman plans to make a motion to have the indictment dismissed, arguing that prosecutors can’t proceed with the detectives because they have no credibility.
Stay tuned to Black Westchester as we will continue to follow this developing story.
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.