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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Valley cop accused of corruption

The Journal News by Steve Lieberman - May 14, 2008

Spring Valley Police Officer David Lebron was indicted yesterday on charges that accuse him of allowing drug deals, protecting illegal activities in bars, receiving oral sex while on duty and filing false reports, prosecutors said. Lebron, 38, who has been suspended without pay, must appear in court May 22 for arraignment on the six-count grand jury indictment.The charges come four months after an earlier indictment was dismissed on technical issues and evidentiary concerns. "The overall allegations are that he violated his oath as a police officer and the allegations are he is a corrupt cop," District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said yesterday.

Lebron denied any misconduct or wrongdoing when he testified before the grand jury, his lawyer, Richard Murray, has said. Murray declined to comment yesterday because he has not seen the indictment. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett in New City unsealed the indictment yesterday at the request of prosecutor Gary Lee Heavner, marking the second set of grand jury charges filed against Lebron since November. The first indictment accused him of sexually abusing a woman while on duty, filing false reports and taking personal information from records for his pending civil rights lawsuit against the village. Bartlett dismissed that indictment in January. Based on a police evidence and an investigation by District Attorney's Office detectives, prosecutors re-presented the case to a grand jury.

Lebron, an officer for 15 years, was charged yesterday with single counts of first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, both felonies. He also was charged with two counts each of official misconduct and sixth-degree conspiracy, both misdemeanors. The indictment charges cover several criminal acts, Zugibe said. Lebron had an unnamed civilian file a false police complaint in Sept. 4, 2007, to cover up for Lebron, Zugibe said. Lebron also is accused of misconduct between June 1, 2003, and Feb. 27, 2007, Zugibe said. During those 3 1/2 years, Lebron is accused of providing protection for bars, Zugibe said. The officer is accused of warning certain bars about upcoming police raids and filing false reports, Zugibe said. Spring Valley police have targeted certain bars for allowing drug sales, prostitution and underage drinking, closing a handful of them last year.

Lebron also is accusing of drinking alcohol and receiving oral sex while on duty, Zugibe said. The grand jury charges also accused Lebron of allowing drug deals to take place in his presence, essentially protecting those dealers from arrest, the district attorney said. Lebron also is accused of allowing an unnamed civilian with a criminal record to patrol with him, Zugibe said. Lebron is accused allowing that civilian to display a police badge and watched him point what appeared to be a gun at another person's head, Zugibe said. "He took the attitude he's the law, and if he wanted to, he would allow crimes and illegal narcotics to be sold in his presence without taking any action," Zugibe said. Zugibe said the officer faces a maximum of 1 1/3 to four years in prison on the top felony counts. Murray will ask for a judge to review the grand jury minutes again - a move that led to Bartlett finding what she felt were flaws and grounds to toss out the first indictment. Lebron has been suspended without pay pending a village disciplinary hearing. Police officials are looking to have him fired.

Lebron has claimed the police investigation came in retaliation for his civil rights lawsuit in February 2007. He has accused the department of bypassing him for promotion because he's Hispanic after he placed first on the Civil Service exam for sergeant. The civil rights lawsuit also has been on hold pending the criminal case. He started the legal action in September 2006 with a federal employment complaint. In court papers, the village officials contend they promoted the officers with more experience, stronger leadership qualities and better service records. The two officers promoted finished among the top three scorers on the Civil Service exam. A department is allowed to choose among the top three. Police Chief Paul Modica called Lebron's accusations of discrimination "ludicrous." Modica said yesterday's indictment again justifies his department's internal investigation into Lebron's activities.- Accused of allowing drug deals, protecting illegal activities, receiving oral sex on duty and filing false reports

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