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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Judge Rips Lying Cops

Years after cabbie was crippled, judge finally rips NYPD cops who covered for drunk colleague
The New York Daily News by Benjamin Lesser - October 7, 2010

Justice Lewis Bart Stone calls NYPD coverup 'disgusting.'

NYPD cops engaged in a "disgusting" coverup for a drunken colleague who mowed down a cabbie, paralyzing him for life, a Manhattan judge has found. "The statements made by this victim about a police coverup are totally believable ... and most likely occurred," Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone declared. "It is disgusting what they did to prevent justice from being done." Sitting in his wheelchair in Stone's courtroom in May, victim Eric Goldin felt vindicated. "It opened up a whole new world of possibilities in terms of getting some ... positive resolution from the [NYPD]," he said. Goldin's long road to the unusual open-court declaration was filled with frustration. It began Nov. 6, 1998, as he drove his cab in the early morning darkness near E. 86th St. and First Ave. Suddenly a car driven by off-duty cop Edilio Mejia slammed into Goldin, sending his cab careening onto the sidewalk. Cops responding to the scene included Police Officers Donald Houvener and Arthur Olivella. Houvener and Olivella said Mejia was being treated for a head wound when they arrived, and Goldin was unconscious on the floor of his taxi, records show. Olivella was told Mejia was a cop, records show. Goldin and Mejia were taken to New York Hospital, where Goldin's then-girlfriend, Johanna Viksne, asked if Mejia had been given a Breathalyzer test. Olivella says he told her he was not trained to perform the test. Records show Olivella and Houvener said there was "no reason to think a Breathalyzer exam was necessary as P.O. Mejia did not smell of, or appear to be, under the influence of alcohol." Goldin's brother complained to the NYPD, but the department closed the case in 1999 based largely on the cops' testimony. Olivella and Houvener were disciplined for failing to tell supervisors there were allegations Mejia had been drinking. In February 2001, Goldin obtained Mejia's hospital records. They show the cop told hospital staff he'd been drinking, and revealed a toxicology report declaring Mejia's blood alcohol level was at least twice the legal limit. Goldin sent the records to the Manhattan DA and the NYPD. Both opened new probes, which found six cops were involved in the 1998 incident, but the DA said Mejia's medical records were inadmissable because he didn't consent to release them. No charges were filed. Then on Jan. 14, 2002, it happened again. Mejia was arrested sitting in a parked car on W. 170th St. with the engine running, his speech slurred and booze on his breath. He was charged with drunken driving. The NYPD opened an internal investigation and ultimately filed departmental charges in the 1998 and 2002 incidents. In October 2002, Mejia was found guilty of DUI in the 2002 incident and sentenced to 60 days in jail. In February 2008, he was found guilty of six departmental counts, including vehicular assault and DWI. He was forced to retire in March 2008, but kept most of his pension. Eight months later, he drove a 2000 Lincoln Navigator the wrong way on the FDR and hit an oncoming car. He was again charged with driving drunk. In May, 12 years after the first incident, Goldin told his sad story in court at Mejia's sentencing. Then it was Stone's turn. "I can't fault you directly for the coverup of the cops because they all did it; they kept you away from any form of Breathalyzer while you were in the hospital after you hit [Goldin]," he said. Then Stone ripped into the other cops. "Your friends on the [NYPD], certainly, you know, gave you a bye till this point ... for you to pay the piper." Mejia got a year in jail for the FDR crash. It's unknown if any of the cops involved in the 1998 "coverup" were punished. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne refused to comment. Prosecutors declined to discuss the case. Houvener and Olivella would not comment. They remain on the force; Houvener has been promoted to sergeant.


Eric Goldin said...

As the crippled former cab driver mentioned in Ben Lesser ’s recent article in the Daily News, I’d like to expand on several points.

This situation is no longer about Edilio Mejia, or even about me. It rather illustrates the total inability and/or unwillingness of the Police Department to police itself. Every attempt that I have made to pry the truth out of these people has been dismissed in an unbelievably high-handed and insulting manner. They seem to believe that I am the problem.

The fact that the department’s spokesperson refused to even comment on the facts presented in this article speaks volumes.

I am currently working with my State Senator, Tom Duane on a legislative remedy that will take make it more difficult for the NYPD to hide behind their own narrow and self-serving interpretation of current civil rights law in order to avoid accountability when their officers commit crimes.

jsmom said...

Damn Eric. I hate that happened to you.