A Manhattan judge has dismissed the criminal case against a former NYPD detective accused of lying under oath to secure drug arrests in the middle of his weekslong trial.
Judge Robert Mandelbaum threw out the case against Joseph Franco on Tuesday after learning that the Manhattan district attorney’s office violated its requirements for turning over evidence, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. Franco, 50, was on trial for perjury, official misconduct and other charges regarding several cases he investigated in 2017 and 2018, when he was a detective in Narcotics Borough Manhattan South.
District attorneys in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan have asked judges to drop more than 450 convictions based on Franco’s detective work. The dismissal of his own charges will not affect those cases, according to a spokesperson for Bragg.
If convicted, the former detective could have spent seven years behind bars. But Tuesday’s dismissal means that the case against him is officially over, with no chance for prosecutors to retry him on the same charges.
Doug Cohen, a spokesperson for Bragg, said in a statement that the office is looking into the cause of the error. He said the prosecutor handling the case, Stephanie Minogue, has been removed from her post as deputy chief of the Police Accountability Unit.
“New Yorkers must know that law enforcement, including prosecutors, are acting with the utmost integrity,” Cohen said. “We hold ourselves accountable to that standard.”
Franco’s lawyer, Howard Tanner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bragg’s spokesman said he could not provide further information about the nature of the discovery violation, because the case is now sealed from the public.
Prosecutors said that Franco had lied about drug deals that he said he had witnessed, both on police paperwork and while testifying under oath in court. They said video evidence revealed that the incidents didn’t match Franco’s descriptions — and that he didn’t appear to be close enough to have observed any of the drug deals that he claimed to have seen.
“His lies were a poison that tainted any fair or legitimate case,” Assistant District Attorney Samantha Dworken said during opening statements.
Franco joined the NYPD in 2000 and earned a reputation as one of the department’s best detectives. During his two decades on the force, he made more than 100 arrests and helped with more than 4,000 undercover operations.
Franco was indicted on multiple counts in 2019. The NYPD dismissed him in 2020 for making false statements, after determining that he had made “repeated fabrications” and acted in a way that was “wholly inconsistent with the values and standards that the Department demands of its officers.”
In opening statements, Tanner vehemently denied that Franco had lied. He chalked up any inconsistencies to a faulty memory of details from high-stress operations he conducted without a notebook in hand.
“He’s not a bad guy,” Tanner said. “He’s just doing his job, waking up every morning and hoping to go home.”