Last Friday, Jason Serrano received life-changing news— a judge made a decision to vacate his 2018 conviction, “citing body camera footage which appears to show an NYPD officer planting marijuana in a car he was riding in.”
The decision comes more than three years after the initial incident in 2018, when two NYPD officers, Elmer Pastran and Kyle Erickson, stopped Serrano under the guise of a broken taillight while he was in a car driving down Broad Avenue in Staten Island, Gothamist reports.
Marion Elizabeth Campbell, one of Serrano’s Legal Aid attorneys said, “We’re thrilled that the court has finally recognized that Jason Serrano’s rights were violated when he was arrested, when evidence was planted on him, and then when he was prosecuted without disclosure of any of that information…It’s the least they could do. And what they should really do, and what might actually restore some faith in the system, is prosecute Erickson and Pastran.”
Over the course of the stop, Serrano was ordered to exit his vehicle and inhumanely pushed to the ground and cuffed, which caused a pre-existing abdominal wound to flare up. After waking up in the hospital, Serrano “learned he had been charged with resisting arrest and for weed found in the car and a bag of crack allegedly in his jacket.”
Serrano vociferously maintained that he didn’t have contraband on him, but he was desperate to avoid Rikers Island that spring given the extent of his injuries. So “when prosecutors offered him a plea deal, dropping the drug charges, Serrano says he jumped at it,” according to Gothamist.
While Serrano’s conviction was ultimately vacated, there are many who do not receive the same positive outcome. What’s worse is that these kinds of allegations against the NYPD are not new.
The judge also referenced the arresting officers’ disciplinary records. As per Gothamist, Erickson “was disciplined by the NYPD in two separate incidents the same year for invoice discrepancies related to drug seizures,” and, in a separate incident earlier in 2018, he “was also seen on body camera footage appearing to plant drugs on a young Black man during another car stop. The young man went to jail for two weeks based on what his attorney characterized as ‘fabricated evidence.’”
In 2017, the Daily Beast reported that “[a] former New York City detective admitted in court that it was common practice to plant drugs on innocent people in order to meet arrest quotas.”
Stephen Anderson was one of eight cops arrested in drug-planting scandal, where he “admitted to planting cocaine on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 in order to help his co-worker improve his arrest numbers. ‘It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators,’” Anderson said.