The tale of retired New York Police Department (NYPD) detective Louis N. Scarcella is a chilling story of abuse of power and corruption. The former detective, known as “the closer,” has cost taxpayers an astonishing $110 million in settlements of over a dozen overturned convictions.
Scarcella has been accused of fabricating testimony and forcing confessions out of suspects. Scarcella has been accused of a number of corrupt acts, including fabricating testimonies and coercing confessions from suspects.
A New York City police detective accused of fabricating false testimony and forcing confessions to close murders cost taxpayers over $110 million. Settlements were paid to more than a dozen people whose convictions were overturned. Some of them spent decades in prison.
According the the comptroller offices of New York City and New York State, the people investigated by the former detective Louis N. Scarcella received $73.1 and $36.9 million respectively. The payouts are likely to increase by tens of millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as the men cleared of burning a ticket clerk alive in 1995 have filed claims against New York State.
The $110,000,000 was distributed among 14 defendants. One of them, a woman who died only a few weeks after her release, was among the recipients. A 14-year-old man was arrested for murder. Another was a 37-year-old man who had settled with his mother because he died in prison.
Experts in wrongful convictions say the amount of money that has been spent by taxpayers is “staggering”. This puts Mr. Scarcella in the same league as a few officers from Chicago or Philadelphia who were accused of rigging thousands of cases, costing taxpayers millions.
Scarcella was involved in many cases between the 1980s and 1990s. Scarcella’s questionable methods led him to be questioned by defense attorneys as well as some of his colleagues.
Ronald Kuby, a civil rights attorney, has won settlements in three Scarcella lawsuits.
David Ranta, who spent more than 20 years in prison, was Scarcella’s first victim. David Ranta was falsely accused of the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi in 1990.
Vanessa Gathers, who died just a few months after her release from prison, and Derrick Hamilton were among those whose convictions were overturned by the district attorney following a review of his cases in which he testified. Vanessa Gathers, who died a few weeks after being released from prison, and Derrick Hamilton spent 23 years behind bars for falsely accusing him of murder were among those who suffered.
Scarcella, in an interview with The New York Times from 2013, said: “I’ve never fudged a lineup in my life.” His attorneys claimed that the methods used by Scarcella were legal, and still used today.
If Kuby is right, and there will be more false accusations because of Scarcella’s misconduct it will serve to remind us of what can happen when those charged with the enforcement of the law abuse their power.
Scarcella has not been held accountable for his corruption. When police officers violate the civil rights of people, it is the taxpayers who are compensated and not the officials.