An NYPD officer was indicted on charges of illegally searching a woman in Washington Heights and then lying to prosecutors about why he arrested a man who the cop accused of interfering, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Jonathan Munoz, 32, was charged with two counts each of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and official misconduct, as well as making a punishable false written statement on the March 12, 2014, incident. Munoz was released without bail at his arraignment on Tuesday and suspended without pay.
Munoz, an officer since 2006, allegedly tried to search a 20-year-old woman who he suspected of buying marijuana near the corner of West 183rd Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue while he was on patrol there, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.
Munoz then arrested a 21-year-old man for “interfering in the search” by taking a “fighting stance” before lunging and swinging a fist at him.
Surveillance video, however, showed that Munoz, of Suffern, New York, was indeed lying, and the charges against the man were dismissed.
“Had this officer’s attempts to conceal his alleged misconduct succeeded, an innocent man may still be facing charges for a fabricated crime,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “Illegal searches and unlawful arrests go against the years of training each NYPD officer receives, erode the public’s confidence in law enforcement, and will be prosecuted by my Office’s Public Corruption Unit.”
The surveillance video also showed that the search of the woman on the sidewalk was not legally carried out since it was done before an arrest was made, and there was no suspicion of the woman having a weapon.
Munoz’s attorney, Stephen Worth, said the officer has made a total of 270 arrests in his time with the department and has a wife and three children.
“The videotape, which was used by the prosecution to charge Officer Munoz has no audio,” Worth said. “The lack of audio, and indeed the fact that video does not show the entire incident, deprives it of context. Once the full context is seen, we’re confident the officer will be vindicated.”
His next court appearance is scheduled for March 11.