Nov. 8, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz will dismiss 60 cases Monday that relied on the police work of three NYPD detectives convicted of various crimes—including perjury.
Katz will ask the court to vacate the charges against 60 defendants at a virtual hearing before a Queens Supreme Court judge later today.
The 60 cases relied on three former detectives — Kevin Desormeau, Sasha Cordoba and Oscar Sandino — as essential witnesses. Their convictions, Katz said, makes their testimonies as witnesses unreliable.
“We cannot stand behind a criminal conviction where the essential law enforcement witness has been convicted of crimes which irreparably impair their credibility,” Katz said in a statement. “Vacating and dismissing these cases is both constitutionally required and necessary to ensure public confidence in our justice system.”
The dismissals, however, don’t mean the 60 defendants are innocent. Katz is seeking to dismiss the cases due to trial error, not because the defendants were proven to be innocent.
Desormeau and Cordoba were both convicted of perjury related to cases they had worked on while employed at the NYPD, while Sandino was convicted of sexual assault charges for sexually abusing arrestees including one instance inside the bathroom of the 110th Precinct house in Elmhurst.
The three former detectives were named in a letter from defense attorneys to all five of the city’s district attorneys earlier this year. The defense attorneys provided a list of 20 total former officers who were convicted of crimes and asked each borough’s district attorney to reevaluate their cases given their lack of credibility.
“Earlier this year, my office was informed of a list of NYPD officers who were convicted of crimes which related to serious misconduct in regard to their law enforcement duties,” Katz said in a statement. “Upon receipt of this information, I made a commitment to review the Queens cases in which the officers were the essential witnesses and take appropriate action.”
Katz said at least 10 of the 20 officers — including Desormeau, Cordoba and Sandino — identified in the letter were involved in Queens cases. She directed her office’s Conviction Integrity Unit to examine all cases in which the prosecution of a defendant relied of the work of one of the officers.
The unit completed its investigations of the caseloads of Desormeau, Cordoba and Sandino and identified 60 cases that require dismissal. The unit is now working to investigate the cases of the remaining seven officers named in the letter.
“The step we’ve taken today is the first in an ongoing and systematic review,” Katz said.
The Conviction Integrity Unit identified 34 cases that it believes should be dismissed based on Desormeau’s role as the essential witness.
Desormeau was convicted of perjury in the first degree, official misconduct and making a punishable false written statement in Queens after he lied about witnessing a drug sale in 2014 that videotape showed never happened. He also pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument and official misconduct in Manhattan after investigators learned he fabricated the facts of a gun possession arrest.
The unit found another 20 cases it believes should be dismissed due to Cordoba’s role as the essential witness.
Cordoba pleaded guilty in 2018 in Manhattan to perjury in the first degree and official misconduct after she fabricated the facts of a gun possession arrest.
Lastly, the unit determined six cases should be dismissed based on Sandino’s role as the essential witness.
Sandino pleaded guilty in 2010 to federal charges for sexually assaulting arrestees while working as an NYPD detective. He was involved in three instances of sex crimes — one of which he sexually abused an arrestee in the bathroom of the 110th precinct house.
All three detectives were terminated by the NYPD as a result of their convictions.
Katz will ask the court to dismiss the charges in the combined 60 cases at a hearing scheduled for 3: 30 p.m.
The dismissals, however, don’t mean the defendants were found to be innocent. They are only based on the fact that the detectives’ witness testimonies in the cases can no longer be deemed credible.
“The vacatur and dismissal of these cases does not constitute a finding of actual innocence and is based instead on a finding of constitutional error and the fact that we cannot re-prosecute these cases where the essential law-enforcement witness has forever lost professional credibility,” the Convictions Integrity Unit Director Bryce Benjet said.
He added that the unit would investigate any claims of actual innocence made by any of the defendants.