As a criminal defense lawyer representing police officers in three recent, high-profile cases, I know the detrimental effect that biased reporting has on my clients' right to a fair trial. If the media get it wrong, then so will the public and likely a jury. Recently, there has been a troubling trend in the reporting of cases of alleged police misconduct.
Media outlets have drawn broad conclusions of corruption, and Newsday has not sufficiently sought to balance its stories. In the case of William Flanagan, Newsday initially omitted a comment from the defense camp [" 'Violated their oath and the law'," News, March 2, 2012]. Newsday has distorted the trial's findings, making an argument in an editorial ["Turmoil deepens for Nassau cops," March 5, 2012] and a column ["The Column: Guilt garners a somber silence," May 2] that police officers made the evidence "disappear."
For a June 23 investigative story, although Newsday tried to contact Anthony DiLeonardo ["Long Road To the Truth"], reporters never asked to speak to me, his lawyer. Then a report ran that our client was subpoenaed to the grand jury, which he was not. The paper treated the investigation by the shooting team that cleared DiLeonardo dismissively.
In the case of Michael Tedesco, Newsday never reported that despite his extramarital affair, he was one of the more active police officers in his precinct, so much so that he was about to be transferred to the prestigious highway patrol ["Former cop surrenders," News, Dec. 15].
This has unfairly maligned the police departments and made the task of obtaining fair hearings for the individual officers nearly impossible. I was there for Flanagan's jury selection, where about 75 percent of the prospective jurors had read about the case, and the vast majority of them had a very negative view of our client.
Media outlets, including Newsday, should make charges of corruption only when the facts warrant it. None of the reported cases in the last 12 months justifies these charges.
Police officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our homes secure and our citizens safe. The Long Island police departments are not perfect, but they are made up of dedicated individuals who do their jobs well.
I have spent the majority of my career defending people who claimed that they were innocent of alleged wrongdoing. Further, our firm has brought lawsuits when we believed that individual officers overstepped their bounds or that police departments failed to properly train their members.
Our firm's sense of injustice, however, has taken an unexpected turn. Recently, it is the police departments that have been unfairly attacked, and individual officers who have been falsely accused and, in Flanagan's case, wrongly convicted. As a defense lawyer, I know one thing for sure: If the system can treat police unfairly, it can treat any of us unfairly.
Bruce Barket, Garden City
Editor's note: The writer is a lawyer representing Flanagan, DiLeonardo and Tedesco.