Bronx DA whiffs on police prosecutions

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark gives an update on a case in the Bronx.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark gives an update on a case in the Bronx. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Since 2016, the Bronx district attorney’s office has prosecuted a police sergeant, a captain and a deputy inspector in unrelated cases. Convictions could have resulted in dismissals and prison time. All three were acquitted.

So, what’s up with DA Darcel Clark and the NYPD?

Captains Endowment Association president Roy Richter says Clark told him she wanted to send a message to the NYPD by setting an example in the captain’s case. But he said Clark never made clear what that message was. Asked about it, Clark’s spokeswoman, Patrice O’Shaughnessy, said, “They were all acquitted. There is nothing else for me to say.”

Clark’s rise to DA — the first black woman to head a DA’s office in the state — started with the Great Switcheroo of 2015, when Bronx Democratic Party bosses selected her to succeed longtime Bronx DA Robert Johnson, who decided to become a judge a week after he won his primary race for DA. Clark, who was a judge, then resigned to run for DA.

In November 2016, a month after James O’Neill became NYPD commissioner, Clark’s office sought and obtained an indictment against Deputy Insp. Keith Walton, a former commanding officer of the Bronx’s 49th Precinct, on charges of official misconduct after he allegedly sexually abused a female officer he supervised. A jury acquitted him in October 2018.

On Oct. 18, 2016, just a week after O’Neill’s appointment, Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old emotionally disturbed woman, was fatally shot in her Bronx apartment by Sgt. Hugh Barry. Barry claimed she was about to swing a baseball bat at him. A grand jury indicted him on murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges. In February 2018, a Bronx judge acquitted him.

A few days after Barry’s acquittal, Clark’s office obtained an indictment against Capt. Naoki Yaguchi on charges of official misconduct and obstructing governmental administration after he allegedly delayed a Breathalyzer test for an off-duty detective who was in a two-car crash in 2017. Last month, a Bronx judge acquitted Yaguchi.

Note O’Neill’s evolution as commissioner. In the Danner shooting in his first week in office, he followed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lead and bleated that the NYPD had “failed” her.

After Yaguchi’s acquittal, in a reflection of his anger toward Clark, O’Neill in effect promoted Yaguchi, reassigning him to head the Central Park precinct. That position formerly was headed by a deputy inspector.

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