FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York Civil Rights Lawyer Eric Sanders, Esq., of The Sanders Firm, P.C., announces a press-loving private eye with a shady past is being accused of coercing a witness of a gang slaying into not testifying by a Queens Supreme Court Justice
NEW YORK, November 3, 2018 – On November 1, 2018, following a Sirois hearing and the reopening of the Wade hearing, a Supreme Court in Queens County granted a motion to allow the admission at trial of the grand jury testimony of eyewitness Erika King and evidence of photographic identification against Defendant Ajaya Neale. Neale’s motion to suppress identification testimony is denied.
In this matter, Neale was indicted for two counts each of Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, and Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, in connection with the shooting death of Joel Rashko on May 10, 2014, at Roy Wilkins Park.
According to the decision, there were multiple adjournments granted at Neale’s request for the People to investigate allegations that someone other than he – – namely, Omar Bryan, had committed the murder. The subsequent investigations did not exculpate Neale and the case proceeded.
On October 12, 2017, private investigator Manuel Gomez traveled to North Carolina to meet with witness Ms. Ericka King, according to the decision. After interviewing Ms. King, Gomez asked Ms. King to record a video statement and she agreed. Using his cell phone, Gomez asked her questions as he recorded her, coaching her from off-camera. Ms. King admitted that while most of the statement was true, portions were not her words and that in those instances, she said the words that Gomez told her to say because he had told her that she would not have to go back to New York to testify if she did so. Gomez did not ask her permission to put the video of her face and statements on television. Gomez told her that after she made the video statement, Ms. King would not have to come to court.
According to the decision, shortly after Gomez left, he called Ms. King in her office and told her that a reporter – – Sarah Wallace – – wanted to speak with her. The conversation was brief because Ms. King was leaving work, but Wallace asked Ms. King if she wanted to come to New York to meet with her and to be on television. Ms. King told her, “No,” and agreed to talk with her on the phone because she never wanted to ever come back to New York. Wallace asked Ms. King questions about herself and everything that had happened. Wallace never told Ms. King that their conversation was being recorded or that her video statement would be shown on television.
But, on October 16, 2017, according to the decision, Wallace aired an NBC News 4 New York I-Team report on the case in which she attributed statements to Ms. King and, among other things, showed portions of Ms. King’s video statement that had been recorded by Gomez. Prior to testifying at the hearing, Ms. King had viewed the news report and made several observations related to what Gomez had told her. Ms. King noticed that Omar Bryan was shown in the news report and observed that Bryan, in fact, had the same build as he had in the picture Gomez had shown her. Ms. King then realized that Gomez had lied to her when he said that Bryan was a lot heavier now than in the photograph. In fact, Ms. King also found several misleading portions of the news report that had been attributed to her. Ms. King never Gomez or Wallace, with whom she had spoken on the phone, that she had been “steered” to identify someone in the photo array. Ms. King’s statement that she “wasn’t 100% sure” referred to one of the men she had told Detective Kaalund that she might have seen in the park but was definitely not the shooter. In addition, Wallace’s statement that Ms. King had said that she had been threatened by the assistant district attorney was not presented in context.
The Court determined that during the interview, Mr. Gomez made false assertions to Ms. King that were clearly designed to malign the prosecutor in her eyes, make her believe that the NYPD had not investigated the case and lead her to believe that she had not identified the right person as the shooter, with the goal of eliminating her as an identifying witness at defendant’s trial.
Further, the Court determined that it was not until Gomez ambushed Ms. King at her job, lied to her about who he was, and fed her false information that she no longer had confidence in her identification of Neale as the shooter and her confidence in Queens Assistant District Attorney Karen Ross’s integrity had been eroded. Given that Neale’s trial had been scheduled to begin October 17, 2017, the timing of Gomez’s shenanigans – – all made public during the October 16, 2017 I-Team news report, and the outrageousness of what he did to Ms. King belies his true intent. This was not a true investigation; rather, Gomez’s intent was to eliminate Ms. King as the sole identifying witness and derail the trial which he definitely accomplished. And if tampering with the witness and derailing the case was not enough, the Court determined that the major parts of Gomez’s distorted work ultimately were wrapped in a nice neat package and aired by Wallace during her News 4 New York investigative news show, just one day before jury selection was to commence.
Although there are no Sirois hearing cases cited in New York that
involve the misconduct of a defendant’s private investigator, the substantial and overwhelming Sirois hearing evidence in this case, as well as public policy to protect the integrity of the adversarial process by preventing a person from obtaining an advantage from his own wrong (see People v Geraci, 85 NY2d at 366), support the extension of liability for the misconduct of Gomez to Neale, according to the court.
The Court determined that the People have met their burden of establishing by clear and Gomez’s misconduct was known about, assisted and
acquiesced in by Neale, and that misconduct caused Ms. Erika King to no longer be able to identify Neale as the shooter, rendering her unavailable in the context of this hearing. Therefore, the People will be permitted to introduce in evidence at trial Ms. King’s grand jury testimony and Neale is precluded from objecting to the admission of that prior testimony on confrontation clause or hearsay grounds. The defense will also be precluded from using for impeachment purposes any of the statements that Gomez
obtained from Ms. King through his misconduct.
“Judge Holder’s decision, reinforces what we have been saying all along,” said attorney Eric Sanders, who is representing NYPD Detective David Terrell in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gomez and NBC, which broadcast several ‘false’ I-Team reports about the Bronx detective.
“As we have said from the outset, the purpose of Detective Terrell’s proactive civil litigation is to stem the tide of ‘frivolous’ lawsuits filed against hardworking honest officers. We intend to hold Gomez, Wallace, NBC and the other associated parties accountable for ‘gaming the system and fleecing the taxpayers,” Sanders said.
Terrell said he hopes the U.S. Attorney looks into the allegations against Gomez.
“Gomez and the I-Team perpetuates these false stories for their own personal gain,” he said.
ABOUT THE SANDERS FIRM, P.C.
The Sanders Firm, P.C. offers those in the New York City area legal services related and connected to civil rights, civil service rights, criminal law and discrimination. We firmly believe in everyone’s individual rights that are described and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. We understand that our freedoms and liberties are sacrosanct and that they have been won in many and various hard-fought battles. We are committed in every way to protecting your civil rights.
Eric Sanders, Esq.
President and Owner, The Sanders Firm, P.C.
Business Phone: 212-652-2782