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Cops knew substance on arrested man wasn’t illegal, ADA says

Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, at a news

Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, at a news conference on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, discusses arrests that he said were connected to fentanyl distribution. Credit: Jean-Paul Salamanca

A Suffolk judge dismissed a fentanyl distribution charge against a Mastic Beach man Wednesday afternoon, after a prosecutor told him that Suffolk police knew days before the man’s arrest that the substance he had was not fentanyl or any kind of illegal drug.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, who is running for district attorney, held a news conference Saturday to announce the arrest of Corey Robinson, 24. Sini said Robinson received “over 1.1 million doses of fentanyl” in the mail from Hong Kong.

But Assistant District Attorney Edward Jablonski said in court that by the time Robinson and two others were arrested Saturday, the police had lab results for almost three days showing that there were no illegal drugs in either of the two 1-pound bags sent to the Mastic Beach house.

And Jablonski said the police knew that the day before when they swore out a search warrant, signed by state Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro, to search Robinson’s house.

“Without question, the Suffolk County Police Department knew or should have known that the information provided to Judge Ambro was at best incomplete and at worst false,” Jablonski said to District Court Judge Derrick Robinson. “Certainly the SCPD knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the two 1-pound bags contained no controlled substances on Saturday, Oct. 28, when Corey Robinson was arrested by . . . detectives.”

Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers said the district attorney’s office was informed about details of the case “every step of the way,” helped get the search warrant and urged the police to go forward.

“This is a great case that would have taken dangerous drug dealers off the streets,” Meyers said. “The dismissal of the charges comes as a complete surprise and is inconsistent with representations made by senior level officials in the district attorney’s office about how the office intended to proceed . . . This decision to dismiss this case was made by the indicted district attorney, and he did not consult the prosecutor advising the SCPD before making the decision,” Meyers said, referring to outgoing District Attorney Thomas Spota getting charged last week with obstruction of justice.

Judge Robinson, no relation to the defendant, dismissed the charge.

Jablonski said the two bags were sent Monday to a lab in Pennsylvania, which will test for analogs of fentanyl. Analogs of a drug have a slightly different chemical structure and have similar effects. Fentanyl is an opioid, far more powerful than heroin.

If the substance contains a fentanyl analog, Jablonski said Robinson will be charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. That’s a felony, but a far lower charge than what was dismissed, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Meyers said prosecutors knew all along the substance was an analog.

Neither Robinson nor his attorney from the Legal Aid Society were in court Wednesday for the dismissal. Robinson had been free without bail.

Jablonski said the case began when the Department of Homeland Security intercepted the bags shipped from China. A field test — not admissible in court — found the white powder could be fentanyl. But a subsequent test by a U.S. Customs lab was inconclusive and by Oct. 25, the Suffolk Crime Laboratory had determined the powder was not an illegal drug and alerted the police, Jablonski said.

Nevertheless, the search warrant application and arrest went forward Saturday, he said.

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