Damaging NYPD Lies in Prominent Case of Teenager Uncovered

The NYPD claimed that a teenager shot a police officer and then walked free because of lax bail laws was recently debunked in the courtroom.

Fact Check: Fearmongering, False

The Briefing

The NYPD’s account of a recent January incident in which they claimed a teenager shot a police officer and then walked free because of lax bail laws was recently debunked in the courtroom. Judge Naita Semaj determined that NYPD Officer Taulant Gjonbalaj and his colleagues lied in this case, finding the “incredible…self serving” police testimony “had no value.”

“There was absolutely zero reason for any of those officers to approach this individual… He literally does everything you tell your child to do when they’re approached by cops,” said Judge Semaj, noting the teen kept his hands up, recorded, and answered all questions. Video fully discredited the police account.

Deeper Dive

Though the police lies in this case have been uncovered, much damage has already been done. The photo of this young man has been widely circulated in the media and this false account of the case has been used to bolster calls for rollback of reforms. It was clear—even accepting the NYPD’s dubious account—that bail or other pre-trial reforms were never implicated in this case, but officials and the media ran with this story anyway. The fact that police clearly lied only serves to further highlight the need for the very reforms that police and officials sought to undermine here. 

The policies preferred by police and officials like Adams would serve to further insulate police from scrutiny. More people incarcerated pre-trial means more people desperate for freedom or the certainty of a reduced sentence, even when they know police are lying. Rollbacks to discovery laws mean less evidence is reviewed while more delays chip away at a person’s resolve and resources to continue fighting. A guilty plea means that exonerating evidence is never uncovered, civil rights abuse claims may be barred, police accounts are never tested, and lies never come to light.

This case is not an aberration. Police lie under oath so often there is a word for it: testilying. Some examples are high profile. The NYPD report about Eric Garner’s killing denied use of force. As in countless other cases, the person who legally filmed the police was arrested. Teenager Peter Colon, shot at point-blank range in the back by NYPD Officer Danny Acosta, was accused of holding a gun to an officer’s head (he didn’t). District attorneys vacated hundreds of convictions in 2021 after longtime NYPD narcotics cop Joseph Franco was caught framing someone on camera. Franco was previously accused of framing his victims, but it was his word against theirs. Facing lengthy sentences, they pled guilty.

Lawmakers should reject calls to jail more Black and Brown New Yorkers through regressive policies that serve police unaccountability, not public safety. Gun violence is a serious concern — shared by the same young people who feel so unsafe they arm themselves — but serious concerns demand serious solutions, not the dishonest scapegoating of teens and doubling down on failed responses. 

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