A former Suffolk County police sergeant was convicted Friday on charges of stealing money from two Hispanic motorists, but was acquitted on the more serious hate-crime charge of targeting the men because of their ethnicity.
The jury acquitted Scott Greene, 52, of Shirley on all six counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree as a hate crime in the stops he made of six Hispanic motorists during the past four years.
Judge Fernando Camacho, who presided at the four-day trial in County Court in Central Islip, ordered Greene held without bail until his sentencing Feb. 16.
The former sergeant, who retired after his arrest, showed no emotion as he removed personal items from his pockets and handed them to his attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City.
Court officers handcuffed Greene, who did not testify in his own defense, and led him away.
After the verdict, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called Greene “a thief with a badge,” and said he was “disappointed” that the jury did not believe the ex-sergeant committed hate crimes.
He was convicted of two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree — without the hate element — for stealing from two motorists, and acquitted of the same charges in the case of four other motorists who said Greene took money from them.
Another indictment in June 2014 accused Greene of victimizing an additional 20 Hispanic men. Trial on the second indictment is pending.
He was also convicted Friday of petty larceny, a misdemeanor, for taking $100 during an undercover sting on Jan. 30, 2014, that generated publicity prompting other men to come forward to make complaints.
And, he was convicted of three counts of official misconduct, a misdemeanor, for the three thefts.
He faces up to 1 1⁄3 to 4 years in prison on the most serious charge of grand larceny in the fourth degree. He would have faced up to 2 1⁄3 to 7 years in prison on a hate-crime count. Prosecutors had said he faced 7 to 20 years if convicted on all charges.
Six Hispanic men testified during the trial that their vehicles were stopped by Greene in the Coram area between 2010 and the end of 2013, and he searched them 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 specified the exact amount missing because they were day laborers who were paid their weekly cash wages in $100 and $50 bills.
Nancy M. Trasande, senior counsel for the advocacy group Latino Justice, was in the courtroom for most of the trial and said after the verdict that she was “shocked that we had the outcome we had.”
“The only thing I could think of why we had the outcome we had is there was a failure to educate the jury on the conditions of the Hispanic community out here,” she said.
“Really, that when you don’t have documentation you don’t have a checking account, you don’t have a credit card account and you do carry large amounts of cash, and there was a failure to establish that,” she said.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of the advocacy group Long Island Wins, said outside court that the acquittal on the hate-crime counts was “very disturbing.”
“It sends a chilling message throughout the Hispanic community that the police are not there to protect and serve that community,” Slutsky said.
Spota said the trial prosecutors had “emphasized the plight of the Hispanic drivers,” explaining why they often carried large amounts of cash and were unlikely to report crimes because of their immigration status.
None of the witnesses testified they saw Greene take money from their pockets or their wallets after they were stopped.
The jury foreman declined outside court to explain the jury’s reasoning on why he was acquitted on all hate-crime counts and convicted of victimizing only two of the six motorists.
“It was a careful deliberation because of the serious issues involved,” foreman Kenneth Behrens, 72, of Babylon, said. “No one wanted to be cavalier about it. You wanted to reach the right decision.”
The defense did not contest that Greene had stolen a $100 bill from the undercover officer, but said he never targeted Hispanics.
“The jury said what we’ve been saying the whole time — that this was not a hate crime,” Gross said as he left court. “The jury spoke loud and clear. They took their time and they looked at every piece of evidence and they said this was not a hate crime.”
The jury, which had one member with a Hispanic surname, had begun deliberations late Wednesday.
They asked for readback Thursday morning of the definition of a hate crime, and the judge repeated his instructions that hate crimes are those where the victims are targeted because of their race, ethnicity or national origin.
The jury sent in a verdict note shortly after noon Friday.