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From the archive: Twist in Testimony; Drug informant: I lied when I said I lied

This article was originally published in Newsday on January 26, 1988.

 

A former drug informant who testified before the state Commission of Investiga-tion that Suffolk police forced him to lie in court, yesterday claimed that he made up that testimony as well.

The former informant, Kevin Eason, said during a hearing before State Supreme Court Justice George F.X. McInerney that he had lied when he said that police forced him to make up information that led to the convictions of four defendants in drug cases.

Legal Aid Society attorneys who represented the defendants had asked for the hearing based on Eason's statements to the SIC that he did not arrange drug buys between undercover officers and the defendants. The attorneys were attempting to have their clients' convictions overturned because of Eason's testimony before the SIC.

After Eason recanted his initial recantation, McInerney delayed a decision on the matter.

Officials from the Suffolk District Attorney's Office and the Suffolk Police De-partment, which granted Eason immunity from perjury charges for his testimony yesterday, said the young man's turnabout bolstered their contentions that the SIC is seeking to embarrass Suffolk's law enforcement agencies.

During an interview after his court appearance, Eason, 21, was asked why he lied to the SIC:

"Threats," he replied. "I was told that unless I testify [before the SIC] some-thing was going to happen to me." He said that the people who threatened him - whom he would not identify - broke his brother's jaw as a warning.

As his lawyer, Sandy Kurtz, looked on, Eason also had an apology for the two former undercover officers with whom he worked - and whom he fingered during the SIC hearings as being the officers who pressured him to lie.

"I'm sorry I put Officers Warren Savage and Ellen Donnelly through this head-ache. But I know that they're two understanding people and if they would have received threats like I did, they would have done the same thing."

Officials from the police department and district attorney's office were quick to point out that Eason's testimony yesterday, and the conviction on 48 department procedural charges last week of another key witness, Police Officer James Kuhn, vindicated Suffolk law enforcement. Kuhn has been suspended without pay from the department.

"My first question is how many other witnesses did the SIC present that may have also committed perjury?" asked Robert Kearon, assistant deputy police commis-sioner and head of the police's legal bureau.

David Freundlich, chief assistant district attorney, said that the reliance on Eason by the SIC was "a sad commentary on the whole SIC type of procedure that allows indictment by press release, indictment without a trial, without any cross-examination of witnesses, and indictment without any search for the truth."

But Susan Shepard, chief legal counsel for the SIC, defended the agency. In fact, she interpreted Eason's latest turnabout as further proof of improper practices by Suffolk law enforcement. In a prepared statement, Shepard said:

"The SIC was not vouching for Mr. Eason. Mr. Eason was a district attorney's witness in a series of drug prosecutions. Indeed, each of the other witnesses the SIC called at the hearing attacked Mr. Eason's credibility in one way or an-other.

"Our point was that raised by [SIC] Chairman [David] Trager in his opening statement: That they had a witness with 'serious credibility problems,' " Shep-ard said. "And despite that, and despite credibility problems of the officers and despite the officers' inability to identif many of the defendants, and despite the officers' failure to conduct an adequate investigation, the police department and the district attorney's office proceeded with several dozen cases."

On Jan. 14, during the second day of a two-day SIC hearing in Hauppauge on al-legedly improper practices of the Suffolk police and district attorney's narcotics bureaus, Eason testified that he started working in Wyandanch as an informant for undercover police in drug cases when he was 16. He said that during the three years he worked with then-undercover officers Savage and Donnelly, he in-dependently ran afoul of the law. He claimed that, in exchange for leniency for two unrelated larceny charges, he was asked by police to lie that he arranged drug buys with four defendants.

And, he told the SIC, he did lie, during the trials of Craig Carter, Robert Carter, Daniel Watkins and James Legette, who were arrested and accused of selling drugs in North Amityville last spring. Craig Carter, the son of Suffolk Police Officer John Carter, pleaded guilty Dec. 16, 1986, to one count of criminal sale of a controlled substance, and was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in state prison; his uncle, Robert Carter, was sentenced to 6 years to life after being found guilty at trial of selling cocaine to undercover police.

Watkins and Legette, who also were convicted at trial of selling cocaine to police, are not in jail pending appeals on separate issues.

Eason said that sometime last fall, he was contacted by unidentifed people who threatened him, and told him that if Eason doubted their intentions, "I should find out about my brother." His brother, Jeffrey, was then in the Suffolk County Jail, and Eason called him. He learned that he had a broken jaw.

Kevin Eason said he was prompted to recant his latest testimony this time be-cause "I'm still 21 - I'm young. I want to get my life together and I want to have a clean slate. 

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