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Defense, Nassau DA spar over alleged cover-up claims in drug case

Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas in

Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas in Mineola on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A defense attorney says Nassau prosecutors are part of an attempted police cover-up, and told acting District Attorney Madeline Singas in a letter Thursday that letting his client's drug case go to trial would be "prosecutorial misconduct."

But one of Singas' deputy chiefs called those allegations "inflammatory, reckless and false," also telling the lawyer in response that his police misconduct claims were "meritless."

The controversy has surfaced as Jorge Perez-Soto Jr., 36, of Lawrence, faces a trial next week on felony drug charges stemming from an April 2014 traffic stop in Hempstead.

His attorney, William Shanahan, said the case's arresting officer admitted under oath that all the documents that show when and where police allegedly found the drugs are false.

Criminal complaints show a drug seizure happened at the traffic stop, but a court transcript shows that an officer testified the seizure happened later.

"I find it shocking that your office has completely ignored the police misconduct in this case, and is cooperating with the police in attempting to cover up their crimes," Shanahan wrote.

"Allowing the police to continue to perpetuate a fraud upon this court amounts to prosecutorial misconduct."

But Kristen Fexas, a Street Narcotics and Gang Bureau deputy chief, said in a written reply it's outrageous for Shanahan to claim prosecutors are attempting to assist in a cover-up and that there was no effort by prosecutors to conceal any paperwork discrepancy.

"It is unquestioned that there are inconsistencies in the paperwork generated by several members of law enforcement from different police departments that were involved in this case," Fexas wrote.

Shanahan failed in an attempt to suppress the drug evidence, with State Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti ruling in favor of prosecutors and finding Perez-Soto's arrest was lawful.

Police reported seizing 25 bags of cocaine and 10 bags of marijuana from Perez-Soto after they said they pulled over a Honda Civic for an unsafe U-turn, before the driver and Perez-Soto admitted to having just smoked marijuana.

Criminal complaints signed by a combination of Nassau and Hempstead police say they recovered drugs from Perez-Soto at the scene. They say the defendant handed the drugs over in a plastic bag after taking them out of his pants.

But Hempstead Officer Juan Miranda testified at a pretrial hearing that the drug seizure happened later at Hempstead police headquarters.

"I would never say that the items were found at the scene, because we didn't recover anything from your client at the scene," he said at a January hearing.

Court records show Miranda signed a complaint charging the defendant with a marijuana violation, while Nassau Det. Thomas Maher signed two felony complaints charging Perez-Soto with cocaine charges. Nassau Lt. Andrew Jett also signed the complaints. A grand jury later indicted the defendant on four drug charges, records show.

Nassau Deputy Insp. Gary Shapiro and Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan both declined to comment Thursday, citing the ongoing case.Records show Perez-Soto's arrest happened while he was on federal probation and that he has a previous drug conviction. His trial is set for May 28.

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