Justice Yonkers Style

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Some people refer to Yonkers, New York, as “Up south,� for a good reason.

Out of approximately 600 officers in the Yonkers Police Department, only 22 are African American. Yonkers has its share of drugs, gangs, gun violent crimes, and you can add a racist police force that appears to be cut right from the fabric of the American dream. 

Complaints are mounting about the Yonkers Police force: charges of racism, corruption and lawlessness.

These complaints are not making it to the evening news and go unreported too often. I have spent several weeks now speaking to Yonkers residents—many refer to the police department contemptuously as “Gang cops,� and “The dirty dozen.�   

Here’s a story from Yonkers for you. On December 3, 2005, at approximately 6 A.M., John Couto, who had already been working for Yonkers Parking Authority as a parking attendant for a year and a half, was monitoring surveillance cameras hoping to witness drugs being sold, or some other crimes.

Couto does not work for the Yonkers Police Department (YPD); he’s paid to watch the city’s parking lot from a street camera and report any vehicles being vandalized. “I wasn’t watching the parking lot because there was something more interesting to watch,� Couto later stated during his testimony at the trial of Dequan Massey in Yonkers Criminal Court. More on Massey in a minute.

What could have been more interesting to Couto than to watch out for parking lot vandals as he was required? Dequan, who was 16-years old at the time, was putting out old furniture. This prompted Couto to call 911 to inform the YPD of an alleged crime taking place. Dequan was arrested and charged with “attempted illegal dumping,� whatever that is.

It definitely did not help matters that Dequan stood 6 feet 7 inches. Officers responding may have been intimidated. Young Dequan was a star on his High School’s basketball squad.

Dequan eventually found himself sitting in a Yonkers courtroom before Judge Thomas R. Daly. His only crime was helping his mother Dara Massey, 38, put out old unwanted furniture. They had hoped the furniture would be picked up by the Yonkers Sanitation Department. “I lived here for 10 years and this is where everyone puts furniture to be picked up,� Massey recalls. “I never saw anyone get arrested for this.  I was not trying to break any law and my son was doing what I told him to do.� 

A copy of surveillance video obtained by the Black Star News shows the furniture was placed neatly against a wall out of the crosswalk. “Some of the furniture I put out was taken by other people in the neighborhood, and in return, they put out their old furniture in its place.� Massey says. It’s unclear if this piece of information is on any of the DVDs in evidence. 

The Parking Authority witnesses did not state in their testimony, having seen anyone take or put furniture out that morning. There is an old unreadable, “No dumping,� sign in the area; a new sign was posted after Massey and her son’s arrest, warning people not to dump.

On the night in question, when Massey came out of her building, Dequan was cuffed and sitting in the back seat of one of three patrol cars. She would plead with the police to let her son go to no avail and remembers Officer Cobb (from the 3rd precinct) calling her a, “Bitch� several times. 

“‘Is that where you throw your trash out bitch?’� Massey recalls Officer Cobb saying. 

“Yes. To my knowledge that’s where the city picks the furniture up,� Massey recalls saying. “My son only did what I told him to do,� she recalls telling

“Well your son needs to know right from wrong. If you tell him to sell drugs, would he do it?� Massey recalls one officer saying. “I asked them, ‘where are you taking my son?’ They all laughed, ignored me and Officer Cobb jerked the police car in my path as if he was going to run me over,� Massey says.

As Officer Cobb drove past her, his door was still open, Massey says, adding that she braced herself and touched the back of the police car with her hand. “Officer Cobb stopped the police car abruptly and got out saying to the other cops, ‘Get that bitch. Now you are going to get f—king arrested,’� Massey recalls. “I looked Officer Cobb right in his eyes while he was saying, ‘Bitch I’m gonna punch you in your face,’ and he did just that; punched me in my face.�

Massey says the five cops then grabbed her and beat her up, slamming her onto a parked car while punching her in the face with closed fists; her arms were twisted backward and her right leg twisted in an awkward angle—she later needed corrective knee surgery. Her 16-year-old son Dequan, handcuffed, watched helplessly as Mama was pounded up good.

Massey says as she too was arrested, the police ignored her pleas that her two children, David, 11 years old, and Autumn, 11 months old, were in the house unsupervised and her door was not locked. “They kept saying ‘shut the f—k up Bitch,� Massey recalls. 

She recalls eye witnesses looking at their windows and one yelling, “We see what you’re doing.� Massey says one officer responded: “We got a paddy wagon for you monkey niggers if you come out here.�

The city of took Yonkers 16 months to bring this case to trial. The judge at times seemed bored when Dequan’s attorney, Evan Inlaw, questioned the city’s witnesses about their testimony and the evidence. 

Inlaw was given only one DVD of surveillance tape, when in fact the city’s prosecutor Larry Pocari, introduced eight DVDs in an unsealed manila envelope marked as exhibit #3 evidence; Pacari could not explain why exhibits one and two were missing.

Inlaw began to question the Parking Authority supervisor Blake Perez about the foul up or mishandling of the real evidence. Judge Daly leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes a few times as if he had heard enough. There’s “Up south,� for you.

A page from the Parking Authority official log book was placed into evidence. This document had entries so poorly made and approximately three lines left blank; Inlaw raised many questions about. 

“No one from the Yonkers Police Department came to view any of the DVDs,� Parking Authority supervisor Perez stated in open court. Inlaw questioned Perez whether he was selective in deciding what to burn on the DVDs from the original Parking Authority hard drive.

Massey has a civil suit pending against the City of Yonkers for the arrest of her son. Hours before his hearing, the city made an offer. “Mr. Pocari told my lawyer if I drop the civil suit, all charges against Dequan will be dropped,� she says. “I’m not dropping anything! He doesn’t deserve this. He didn’t do anything to get arrested for. It’s not right he saw these cops beat his mother and hog tie her like some kind of animal. No, I’m not going to drop anything.�
It’s just too much—she bursts into tears; but then she calms herself—ready to fight on. “They are not going to railroad my child. He works and goes to school and wants to be a pro basketball player some day. No, it’s not going down like that.�

Outside the courtroom, in the presence of this Black Star News reporter, Pocari approaches Massey and says: “You better go tell your son’s attorney to drop the lawsuit or he’s going to jail. I don’t want to send your son to jail. I checked into his background and I don’t want to send a good kid to jail for a lie. Don’t be a fool, tell your attorney to put in a motion to drop this case.� There’s some more “Up South� for you.

Inlaw asked Judge Daly to dismiss the case on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Pocari asked the judge to “fine the defendant $10,000 and 30 days of community service.�

Inlaw told Judge Daly Dequan was a high school senior who had never been in trouble or arrested before and that he had a job. 

Without viewing any of the DVDs in evidence, and after listening to the testimony of two poor witnesses, on April 27th, Judge Daly found Dequan guilty of, attempted illegal dumping, and fined him $500, and one year conditional discharge. Inlaw objected and after the attorneys had a side bar with the judge, the order was changed; one year conditional discharge and 20 days community service to be completed by August 31st. 

After Massey’s arrest she had been charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. She suffered injuries to the left side of her face, head, ribs, left leg and left knee, which caused her to lose time from her job; six months later she was terminated from her job. 

Her trial date is set for May 29th, before Judge Charles D. Woods. She is expecting to fill the courtroom with members of the Nepperhan Community Center and the Yonkers branch of the NAACP.
Even after her son’s “conviction,� Massey says she has been told that the offer to drop the charges against him was still on the table, provided she dropped the civil lawsuit. 

“Didn’t they find my son guilty of something he did not do?  How can this offer still be on the table?  The judge made his judgment,� Massey wonders. There’s another “Up South,� for you readers.

Winkfield’s note: If you tuned in to Black talk radio WLIB 1190 AM with Imhotep Gary Byrd’s, “Mind flight,� which once aired Monday thru Thursday mornings from 12:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M., and are like most of us – ‘tired of being dumbed-down because of a lack of news and information in your community and around the city.’ Tell WLIB management, “I want to listen to the old Black talk radio program listed above.  One day is a disservice to our communities,� contact: Deon Levingston, Vice President and General Manager, WLIB Radio, 3 Park Avenue, New York New York 10016; telephone – 212-592-0426.  Send me your response and any reply and I will print it in this column.  Let’s stay informed.

Watch Manhattan cable channel 34 or
www.mnn.org channel 34 every Sunday at 7:30 P.M. for news updates and other articles. If you have any comments or stories about injustice to report for “On The Spot,� column contact Winkfield.

Bsnonthespot@aol.com or editor@blackstarnews.com; call (212) 481-7745.  Write to: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423.  Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.


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