A Suffolk County police sergeant targeted Hispanic motorists and stole money from them over a four-year period because they were “easy marks” who were unlikely to report the crimes, a prosecutor argued Wednesday.
“They’re driving while Hispanic,” Assistant District Attorney Joseph Carroll Jr. said in his closing argument in the trial of former Sgt. Scott Greene in County Court in Central Islip.
Defense attorney Scott Gross of Garden City conceded that Greene took $100 during a sting, which was recorded on video, but said he never targeted Hispanics for traffic stops.
Judge Fernando Camacho then gave jurors 90 minutes of legal instructions, telling them they must first decide whether Greene was guilty of larceny as a hate crime. If they determine he is guilty of a hate crime, it would increase the penalties he would face under the hate crime statute.
They would then consider seven separate counts of official misconduct, one for each victim, the judge said, and decide whether each incident was grand larceny — taken directly from a person — or petty larceny — taken without a person’s permission.
Greene faces a total of 21 counts charging that he stole money in seven incidents — from six Hispanic motorists or their passengers, and from the undercover officer in the sting.
The jury began its deliberations about 3:40 p.m. and sent a note to the judge an hour later asking for pictures of the trial witnesses, apparently so they could match the testimony to the faces.
Camacho brought jurors back into the courtroom at 4:45 p.m. and told them there were no pictures of the witnesses in evidence, then sent them home. They resume deliberations Thursday morning.
Six Hispanic men testified through an interpreter during the trial that their vehicles were stopped by Greene in the Coram area between 2010 and the end of 2013, and they were searched by the sergeant when they could not provide a driver’s license or other documents.
All of them said they later found that money was missing from their wallets or pockets. Several of them were able to specify the exact amount missing because they were day laborers who were paid their weekly cash wages in $100 and $50 bills.
Greene, 52, of Shirley, retired shortly after his arrest on the night of the sting. He faces a maximum of 7 to 20 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, grand larceny in the fourth degree as a hate crime.
Arresting officers testified he told them as he was being arrested that he was in a financial “whirlwind” and needed money.
Gross argued to the jury that police and prosecutors targeted Greene to placate the federal government because Suffolk County had signed a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department two weeks before his arrest. That decree stemmed from a federal investigation into whether county police were discriminatory in their handling of Hispanics.
During the prosecution summation, Carroll again played the video of the undercover sting, showing Greene’s right hand going into an envelope in the undercover car, slipping out a $100 bill and folding it with his right hand before slipping it inside the sleeve on his left arm.
Carroll said Greene had pulled his police vehicle up next to the undercover vehicle during the sting so he could see the face of the Hispanic driver before pulling him over, and observed many of his victims from the side of the road to establish their Hispanic ethnicity before pulling them over.