The Thin Blue Lie? Video Clears Brooklyn Man Of Attempting To Run Over Officer . . . But What About The Officer?

John Hockenjos, 55, is a New York man accused of trying to run over a Brooklyn officer with his car. The officer claimed that Hockenjos tried to run him over — a claim strikingly familiar to past cases that we have discussed. However, on this occasion, the citizen had this night-vision surveillance tape that showed that the officer lied. The felony charges have now been dropped, but there remains the question of the officer. Citizens are routinely charged criminally for making false claims to police. However, officers are rarely fired, let alone charged, in such cases.

The officer was responding to a call from a neighbor who has a dispute with Hockenjos over a two-foot spread of grass along the driveway. The officer claimed that Hockenjos, 55, entered his driveway at a high rate of speed and that he had to jump out of the way to save his own life. However, the tape shows Hockenjos moving slowly up the driveway stopping well short of the police officer. There is no meaningful movement by the officer and certainly not any jump for his life.

Hockenjos has a clean record, but (based on the officer’s account) spent three days in jail on the felony charge. Notably, however, they did not drop the disorderly conduct charge against his 51-year-old wife, Irena.

The contrast to how these cases are handled is striking. Citizens are charged with false claims while officers appear effectively immune from such charges. This includes New York cases, such as the recent case against a WABC meteorologist. The rare cases that do see charges generally involve civil rights allegations, as here.

The New York criminal code contains the following:

Falsely reporting an incident in the first degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.60) –No less than 3, nor more than 7 years’ imprisonment; No more than $5,000 fine.

Falsely reporting an incident in the second degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.55) — No less than 3, nor more than 4 years’ imprisonment; No more than $5,000 fine.

Falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.50)– No more than 1 year imprisonment; No more than $1,000 fine

“Reporting” is likely to be viewed as an act of a citizen and police officers can claim a generous level of discretion. Yet, this is a case where the officer clearly knew he was lying and bringing a baseless charge.

We have seen a number of cases where citizens are charged with assault for the slightest contact with officers even an air kiss. Previously, we saw how a hug was charged as a felony. We have also seen an officer claim battery when a bubble touched him. Then there is the officer who charged battery when a suspect released gas in his presence. These all pale in comparison to being hit by a flying pillow, of course.

In the absence of a video, such charges generally are difficult for citizens to rebut — another example of why citizens should be able to videotape officers in public.

Source: NY Daily News as first seen on ABA Journal

56 thoughts on “The Thin Blue Lie? Video Clears Brooklyn Man Of Attempting To Run Over Officer . . . But What About The Officer?”

  1. gbk,

    “I thought I’d secured some free lodging after my last response to the prosecutor, but she had been glaring at me since the judge finished her questioning, and in the end I felt she was badgering me with her cynical tone of voice and repetitious questioning.”

    Of course she was. I suspect she was trying to get the Judge to do something to you for, after all, you had just tainted her whole jury pool with common sense. She needed to discredit you.

    That was a really great story. Thanks!

  2. They were royally screwed….. AN….. None got the deal unless all three took the plea….. There are a few cases I know of personally where the prosecutor deliberately withheld information from the defense…. I heard the LEO yell at the prosecutor and the prosecutor tell the Leo that when he wanted his opinion he’d ask for it….. The defense attorney was not to bright…. Never asked the salient question…..In the opinion of the leo….. Never….the leo felt so guilty he took it over his bosses head…. And testified for his release….

    It took the prosecution 18 months after release before they dismissed the charges…. Even though another person had confessed to the crime and was convicted….. You read that right…. The prosecution would not dismiss the charges…. The only thing that happened to the prosecutor was his appointment was recalled….. That is it….

  3. Mike,

    I think it’s hilarious too . . . . now. 🙂 I was pretty nervous after my last response as it really did just pop out. I can be snarky, but as a rule I’m not purposefully snarky to people with guns or the ability to lock me up for snarkiness.

    Your observation of:

    The history of law enforcement in the U.S. and probably elsewhere has been that LEO’s primary job has been to protect the wealthy and protect their property. All other functions are secondary to it.

    is right on the money and has been most recently exposed by the police responses to the various Occupy movements.

  4. AN,

    A Alford plea is better than no freedom…..that’s one of the reasons I never took rape cases or child molesters…. I could never he certain in my own mind who was telling the truth and who wasn’t….. I did not want it on my plate….

  5. AY,

    As you’ve probably read, his lawyer told him that “freedom is justice”… and there’s little, if anything, that’s sweeter than freedom, IMO…

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/02/ex-death-row-inmate-in-sc-to-go-free-with-plea/

    Excerpt:

    In the courtroom was former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner, who has followed the case for more than a decade and recently wrote a book about it. He said police were anxious to make an arrest to allay a community’s fears that a rapist and murderer was among them and the little evidence that links Elmore to the crime was planted.

    “Don’t dare call it justice,” he said after the hearing. “A man served 30 years for a crime he did not commit.”

    Elmore’s lawyer wanted to see him exonerated. But she told him he could be convicted again in a trial and talking an Alford plea, where he maintains his innocence but admits there is a lot of evidence against him, was the best thing he could do.

    “Freedom is justice and that’s why he is doing it today,” Holt said.

    Holt has done this before. In May 2002, she helped Sterling Spann get a similar deal after decades on South Carolina’s death row. (end of excerpt)

  6. AN,

    There are unfortunately a lot of innocent folks in prison because of the systems failure. As you can see Mr Elmore took a plea….In order to get out….and what was that…..In most cases the SOL had expired….. Why they forced him to take a plea was to prevent him from being compensated for the illegal detention…. But freedom was more important than incarceration….. All to often…. This is becoming the norm to prevent payments to them….

  7. raff,

    One of the questions on the form asks if you are a lawyer or have studied law at a university level — those answering in the affimative were immediately excused, as were the wives/husbands/children of police officers.

  8. anon nurse,

    One reads about prosecutorial misconduct so often that I’m amazed juries can even be assembled.

    idealist707,

    Some were excused due to hardship, and many were excused for no reason I could discern. Most claimed the ability to believe police testimony (one even stated that she thought police wouldn’t ever lie). Lot’s of reasons, really, but there was no consistent pattern I could recognize.

  9. gbk,
    that is an amazing story. Thanks for your steadfastness! I am surprised that I have never been called for jury in my entire life. I realize for the last 30 years as an attorney I may not have been included on the lists originally, but my wife has been called a few times and usually has to be dismissed because she is a teacher. They never seem to call her in the summer.

  10. gbk,
    my summary: no intelligent jurors wanted here.
    who else got excused and for what primary reasons, since they finally got around to you, if you are inclined to answer?

  11. Thanks for sharing that, gbk. Edward Lee Elmore needed someone like you on his jury:

    When Innocence Isn’t Enough

    By RAYMOND BONNER
    Published: March 2, 2012

    Excerpt:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/when-innocence-isnt-enough.html?hp

    EDWARD LEE ELMORE turned 53 in January. For more than half his life, the soft-spoken African-American who doesn’t understand the concept of north, south, east and west, or of summer, fall, winter and spring, was in a South Carolina prison, most of it on death row.

    On Friday, Mr. Elmore walked out of the courthouse in Greenwood, S.C., a free man, as part of an agreement with the state whereby he denied any involvement in the crime but pleaded guilty in exchange for his freedom. This was his 11,000th day in jail.

    Mr. Elmore was convicted in 1982 for the sexual assault and murder of an elderly white widow in Greenwood. His trial lasted only eight days, including two spent picking the jury. The state concealed evidence that strongly pointed to Mr. Elmore’s innocence and introduced damning evidence that appears to have been planted by the police. For three decades lawyers for Mr. Elmore, who were convinced of his innocence, sought to get him a fair trial. (end of excerpt)

  12. idealist707,

    No, I’m not well acquainted with the law. I wish I was. I’ve only taken one law class (business law, some time spent on torts and basic legal theory) but I do like the subject. My knowledge, however is extremely crude.

  13. Gene,

    Thanks! I thought I’d secured some free lodging after my last response to the prosecutor, but she had been glaring at me since the judge finished her questioning, and in the end I felt she was badgering me with her cynical tone of voice and repetitious questioning.

  14. Gene H.
    Amen to that.

    gbk.
    “this leads to distortions of the definition of fact; fact which is the purpose of the courts existence to discover not solely based on prosecutorial claims.”

    that sums it up. when the search for fact is distorted to search for conviction, as I assume others agree that it is, then justice dies.
    What is left is a lot of victims of injustice including potentially all of us.

    I assume gbk is well acquainted with the law, of course more than i am.
    What I want to say is that the average citizen would not likely given such informed answers to those question.

  15. Blouise, Mike, and RH

    “I just wonder how long it’s going to be before the average citizen realizes how often this happens and starts simply refusing to convict based on the words of a police officer.” (Rick Horowitz)

    “From what I am hearing, locally, from defense lawyer friends of mine, that is already happening.” (Blouise)

    “The system must be reformed, but mitigating against that reform is the authoritaria attitude bred into many Americans, coupled with the media propaganda, that assumes the reverse of our judicial standard.” (Mike)

    I get called to jury duty about every 16 months (for the past 14 years). I in no way believe that the selection process is random in my county. I’ve only made it into the juror box once and it was interesting to say the least.

    To start at a somewhat beginning there were two questions (out of fourteen) on a form that one is given in the prospective jury room that I had a very hard time answering.

    One question was something to the effect of: did I have “moral or religious” reasons why I would not be able to be a juror. After much thought (a day actually), I answered “Maybe.” There was not enough space on the form to elucidate on the fact that I have “intellectual” reasons and what those where, and that I objected to their coupling of “moral” and “religious” reasoning.

    The second question was obviously meant to ask whether I was aware of any racial biases in my own thought process, which no one can answer with absolute confidence. The question was two sentences long and obscurely broad. I answered, “I have no idea how to answer such a broad and leading question.”

    Upon being placed in the front row of the reserve jurists at 4:30 on the second day the judge started the questioning: after reading my form responses she commended me on my answer to the overly broad question and agreed that it was overly broad and leading. I agreed back and additionally stated that it was broad to the point of assumed bias. She smiled and nodded. Then I was asked by the judge if I could be fair in evaluating testimony. I answered that I hoped I could be but that I might have issues here. Of course she probably thought that I meant I couldn’t listen to the defense testimony of the Hispanic on trial and stay opened minded.

    She asked me to explain, so I told her my uncle was a sheriff in Missouri (a fact also written on my form answers) and that he was a very racist and ugly man, who, from stories I heard out of his own mouth, “taught me early the dangers of ignorant people with authority granted by the state.”

    After a very pregnant pause she again asked me if I, “couldn’t be fair in judging” testimony. I responded “could or couldn’t?” She apologized for asking a confusing question, whereupon I remarked that yes, it was a confusing question. She then asked again if I, “could be fair in judging” testimony. My response this time was the same as my form answer, “Maybe.” When asked to expand the answer I stated that I would have “more suspicion” and treat testimony from law enforcement with a, “more critical thought process than testimony from civilians,” and that this perspective was based mostly on, “my own personal life experiences and unjustified harassment by police, reading of news and history, and only minimally buttressed by my opinion of my uncle.” She then turned over the questioning to the attorneys.

    The defense attorney only asked two questions. The first was so convoluted that I didn’t answer because I thought it was a statement, and when it became obvious that I was supposed to say something I had to ask her whether what she just said was a statement or a question–I really didn’t know which it was. I don’t remember my answer or her second question. Then the prosecutor started up.

    She started with a claim that she found it “incredible” that I could not be “fair” in my hearing of testimony. She then went on to explain that police are human also, and then asked me to expand on why I would treat testimony from law enforcement more suspiciously and critically. My response was (paraphrasing myself here, but not by much) that, “I think it is in the nature of law enforcement, which includes prosecuting attorneys, to be loose with truth and facts because it is in their interest to do so. I think it is a bureaucratic and self-serving tendency, and is probably not even noticed by them as it is institutionalized with the thought process of ‘we are on the side of good and justice’ and this leads to distortions of the definition of fact; fact which is the purpose of the courts existence to discover not solely based on prosecutorial claims.”

    She then asked if I didn’t think that the defense would not be loose with “truth and facts” for its own reasons. I readily admitted that of course they would be, but that the differences are that the prosecution usually defines the “facts” of the case that the defense, by definition, defends itself against, and that the defense rarely has corroborating testimony whereas the prosecution has a copious amount due to that the prosecution has the power and resources of the state behind it, and that, “of course, the state is never wrong without the long lens of history.”

    After a few more questions where I referenced my prior statements both to the judge and her, the judge called both attorneys to the bench for conference. The prosecutor then came back and flat out asked me, “So you don’t trust cops?” I responded, “Your summary elucidation is humbling.” I don’t believe I said that, it just popped out really, but how many times am I supposed to answer the same basic question? This response prompted another conference at the bar with the prosecutor being quite animated. After several minutes the judge thanked me for my honesty and excused me.

    The judge was great, I suspect the prosecutor after my last statement to her was asking for contempt as in my viewing of eight hours of jury selection in the courtroom on my second day there were no other conferences between the judge and counselors.

    I’m convinced that encounters like the one this thread discusses are extremely common.

    1. GBK,

      I found your report of the jury duty questioning to be hilarious. Please understand though what was so funny to me, given the seriousness of the subject was that I could imagine the prosecutor’s head almost exploding at what she would think would be your effrontery. I of course think your responses were brilliant and to the point. Unfortunately minions of criminal law prosecution have had their way since the beginning of the Republic and as you so clearly stated delude themselves as to the correctness of their actions because in their minds they’re on the side of “good”.

  16. Oro Lee,
    Thanks for what you said.
    As to your question. The said to be photo for on line examination would appear to have been mounted in a passepartout ie a frame with imprinted counterfeiting protection lines such as are on the document itself.
    The lines on the frame don’t match the document—slight misallignnemt.
    Further, there are indications on the document which could be explained by entries made on different typewriters. None of the above proves forgery.
    Nor do photographic anomolies found there either.
    In any case it’s there to be seen and it’s really up to the CIA and other expert forgerers to decide—-joke intended. Helpfully yours, as always.

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