Trial opens for former Hempstead police officer
A former Hempstead police officer, who already has served time for illegally selling the painkiller oxycodone, is scheduled to go on trial Monday for what prosecutors said was a botched attempt to stick up a cocaine dealer.
The former officer, Brian Jones, 40, is charged in federal court in Central Islip with conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce and brandishing a firearm during a violent crime.
Because of his prior felony drug conviction, Jones faces up to life in prison if convicted of an unsuccessful attempt to rob a cocaine dealer in Queens in April 2008.
Under federal law, the attempted robbery of a drug dealer is considered interfering with goods that travel in interstate commerce.
Jones' attorney, Brian Davis, of Garden City, has maintained his client is innocent and is being framed by a former girlfriend and another man with a criminal record.
Davis also questioned why Jones is being prosecuted now for crimes that allegedly occurred five years ago.
But Eastern District federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz said in court papers that officials only recently learned about the alleged robbery from an informant who Jones had threatened to harm if she talked about the crime.
Davis also has tried to prevent Treinis Gatz from presenting evidence about his client's past activities, saying it is either too prejudicial or not relevant.
In court papers, Treinis Gatz asked to present evidence that Jones "grossly exaggerated" a hand injury in order to be placed on paid disability by the Hempstead department; later damaged a car with the supposed injured hand and was suspended without pay; and needed the robbery money to support himself.
In December 2007, Jones claimed he had seriously injured his right hand in breaking up a domestic dispute, the prosecutor's papers say. Jones faked the injuries to bolster his argument of self-defense since he had fired his weapon during the botched domestic disturbance, and also "to fraudulently obtain a disability pension," the papers continued.
But in February 2008, Jones wrapped "a metal tow chain around his allegedly injured right hand and smashed out a window of a car" belonging to an unidentified man with the then officer's girlfriend, the papers say.
Police who came to the scene convinced the unidentified man not to press charges against their fellow officer if Jones paid for the damage to the car, the papers say.
Jones became friendly with the car owner, and asked him if knew a drug dealer who "kept large amounts of cash" who he could rob, papers said. The car owner identified a supposed drug dealer in Queens, who Jones then unsuccessfully tried to rob, papers said.
It is unclear how much of the account U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco will allow the jury to hear. Jones was released from prison in February after five months for selling oxycodone and other prescription drugs.