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Jamar Smythe

Other Drug Cases with Perjury and Official Misconduct
On September 16, 2011, police detectives in Yonkers, New York arrested 30-year-old Jamar Smythe and reported that they found powder and crack cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy pills in his car.

The officers, Christian Koch and Dennis Molina, reported that they stopped Smyth for a traffic violation and discovered two plastic bags of cocaine in plain view on the front seat along with crack cocaine, powder cocaine, marijuana and some ecstasy pills in the pocket of a pair of jeans in the back seat.

In November 2012, Smythe went to trial in Westchester County Supreme Court. Both detectives testified that they saw Smythe pull into a parking lot without signaling. They also claimed that Smythe was the only individual in the vehicle, and that there were no others in the general vicinity. The officers testified that they confiscated 400 grams of powder cocaine, 30 grams of crack cocaine, 30 ecstasy pills and six plastic bags of marijuana.

Jasmin Green, a friend of Smythe’s, testified for the defense that he was in the parking lot waiting for Smythe to pick him up and take him home to Peekskill, where he and Smythe both lived.

Green told the jury that he placed a book bag, pair of jeans, and other clothing in Smythe’s car. Green said that as he was getting into the car, Koch and Molina approached and ordered him to get away from the car. Green testified that he was detained along with Smythe and one other person who was in the parking lot that day. Green said that all three men were handcuffed and searched by Koch and Molina.

Green further testified that there was no cocaine visible on the front seat of Smythe’s car. However, Green admitted that the book bag containing cocaine and marijuana was his, as were the pills and crack cocaine found in the clothing in the back seat. Green said Smythe did not know about any of the drugs.

On Nov. 27, 2012, Smythe was convicted, despite Green’s exculpatory testimony. The jury found Smythe guilty of possession of a controlled substance in the first degree for the 400 grams of cocaine and other lesser counts of possession for the other drugs. He also was found guilty of a traffic violation. In April 2013, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The case was reopened in 2014 at the urging of his lawyers, Herman Kaufman and Anthony DiPietro, after revelations that prosecutors were conducting an investigation of cases handled by Detective Koch and Yonkers police officer Neil Vera. Koch and Vera came under scrutiny for allegedly falsifying a search warrant for a March 21, 2014 raid on a Yonkers apartment. During the search, the tenant, Dario Tena, fell to his death from a third floor window.

In October 2014, Koch was charged with perjury and official misconduct for falsifying the warrant to search Tena’s apartment.

In April 2015, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to vacate Smythe’s conviction. In the motion, the prosecution said evidence showed that Molina and Koch falsely testified that they stopped Smythe for a traffic violation when in fact the officers had stopped the car based on information from a confidential informant.

“In this case, the prosecutors never knew the police had used a confidential informant (CI) because when specifically asked by the prosecutors in this office if a CI was involved…(the) officers affirmatively misrepresented that no CI existed in this case,” the prosecution said.

At the time Smythe was arrested, his car was impounded. After the conviction, DiPietro was able to obtain access to the car. In the back seat, he found clothing matching the description given by Green at the trial as well as a school calendar of events for Green’s daughter. The calendar, according to DiPietro, supported Green’s testimony that he put his belongings in the back seat.

In addition, DiPietro was able to locate the third man who was detained on the scene, along with an eyewitness who was present. The man and the witness both confirmed that Smythe was not the only individual handcuffed and searched—as Koch and Molina testified at trial. The eyewitness said the officers searched the third man’s car and when the officers found nothing illegal, they removed his handcuffs and released him.

DiPietro also discovered that a Yonkers police surveillance camera was located nearby and was pointed at the parking lot where the arrest and searches took place. No tape was ever disclosed to Smythe’s trial lawyer and by the time DiPietro requested a copy of the tape, it had been destroyed pursuant to routine practice.

On May 12, 2015, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/20/2015
State:New York
County:Westchester
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:Traffic Offense
Reported Crime Date:2011
Convicted:2013
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:15 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:30
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No