05/06/2002

NYC to Probe if Police Protected DUI Cop

The New York Times

NEW YORK (AP) - The city's police commissioner on Sunday promised a thorough probe into whether police helped protect a fellow officer convicted of running down a family of four after a 12-hour drinking binge.

Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters there would be a meeting Monday exploring the issues raised by the Aug. 4 tragedy and subsequent trial.

"We want a thorough examination to go forward," Kelly said after published reports suggested that the so-called blue wall of silence, in which police protect other officers, aided Joseph Gray.

One report said Gray had offered to take a sobriety test following the accident, but fellow officers ignored his request.

Gray was convicted Friday of second-degree manslaughter for the deaths of Maria Herrera, 24, who was eight months pregnant, her 4-year-old son and her 16-year-old sister. Gray was also charged with the death of Herrera's baby boy, who was delivered after the accident but also died. Gray faces up to 15 years in jail.

After the accident, then-police Commissioner Bernard Kerik transferred, suspended or modified the job descriptions of 17 officers from the precinct. Three officers were fired.

Kelly had directed the Internal Affairs and Legal Affairs bureaus to monitor the trial, and on Sunday said he wants to know whether further discipline or procedural changes are needed.

One investigator who has since retired testified during the trial that he had sought to give Gray "a benefit" in his handling of the accident. Testimony also showed that police union officials had asked which sobriety test Gray would be most likely to "beat."

Gray, who has retired, testified that he drank as many as 13 beers during a 12-hour period after completing his overnight shift, beginning in the police parking lot and continuing at a Brooklyn strip club that was off limits to 72nd Precinct officers.

Gray's attorney, Harold Levy, conceded that Gray was driving while intoxicated, but claimed his client's high alcohol tolerance gave him the "ability" to drive.

Gray's blood alcohol content was measured at .16, an NYPD chemist testified. The legal limit is .10.

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