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Len Levitt

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Spying on the Rev.

Posted: 02/13/2012 10:30 am

An NYPD informant spied on the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network [NAN] as the group was organizing large-scale protests of the Sean Bell case acquittals, a police document shows.

The confidential informant infiltrated a NAN meeting on May 3, 2008, and reported back to the NYPD's Intelligence Division, according to a document marked "secret," which was obtained by NYPD Confidential.

The informant had attended the NAN meeting a week after a Queens judge had acquitted three detectives of the fatal 50-shot killing of Bell and the wounding of two of his friends in November, 2006.

Angered by the acquittals, Sharpton had vowed to "stop the city" with acts of civil disobedience at major transit hubs during the afternoon rush hour of May 7, 2008.

"We strategically know how to stop the city so people stand still," Sharpton said at the time. Nearly 200 protestors were subsequently arrested on that day.

According to the police document, the informant, who was identified not by name but by a five-digit number given to him by the department, provided the NYPD with a detailed description of NAN's protest plans, including the names of prominent African-Americans set to participate, the locations where protestors would gather and the number of demonstrators who would offer themselves up for arrest.

The Intel document stated that "On Saturday, May 3, 2008, at approximately 1500 hours, Priority Targeting Unit Confidential Informant #... stated that he was present at a meeting held at the National Action Network where the following topics were discussed."

The document did not say where the meeting was held or who attended.

The document also does not specify whether the informant was planted by the department and regularly assigned to attend National Action Network meetings or whether he happened to attend a single meeting and report on it to the police department.

The document described a series of demonstrations NAN had planned for six different locations on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, including one at Police Plaza.

"(A)t 1500 hours, there will be several staging locations for acts of civil disobedience," the document reads, listing such prominent black officials as Hazel Dukes and Rev. Herbert Daughtry as "captains" in charge of two of the protest sites.

"The source reported that it was estimated that there were approximately 50 persons who could be arrested at each location," the document said.

"All persons are to respond at 1500 hours to the staging site and 1530 hours, the Site Captain will announce the location where the act of disturbance will take place. The act is to occur at 1600 hours.

"The source reported that all persons participating in the act of disruption will kneel down and pray at the location where the act of disobedience will take place.

"All participants have been instructed not to resist the police and to have only one piece of identification."

The report, which is unsigned but dated May 3, 2008, appears to have been written by the lieutenant in charge of the Priority Targeting Unit to the Commanding Officer of Intelligence Operations and Analysis Section, who according to a 2008 police roster was Inspector Larry Nikunen.

Sharpton did not respond to a phone call and email sent to his spokeswoman Rachael Noerdlinger, outlining the police document.

It's unclear whether this police spying on Sharpton's group was permitted under court-monitored guidelines that have governed NYPD surveillance since 1985. Under those rules, known as the Handschu guidelines, the police must have what is known as a "criminal predicate" -- a belief that a group watched by the Intelligence Division is planning to commit a crime.

The guidelines were modified by federal judge Charles S. Haight in 2002, to allow greater investigative freedom to the police department in its fight against terrorism.

In NAN's case, the group was planning acts of civil disobedience, which had nothing to do with terrorism.

But Haight's ruling is vague enough that no one seems to be able to determine now exactly what the department can and cannot legally do.

Neither Daughtry, a well-known civil rights activist, nor Dukes, who is president of the NAACP New York State Conference and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, could be reached for comment.

Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne did not respond to an e-mail message, asking about the spying on Sharpton's group.

Bell and two friends, all unarmed, had been celebrating at his bachelor party the night before his wedding. As they were leaving a Queens strip club on Nov. 25, 2006, the police opened fire, mistakenly believing that the trio was armed.

The acquittals in 2008 of the three detectives who opened fire evoked fears in the NYPD that demonstrations could equal those of the 1999 shooting of the unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo. Those demonstrations had occurred throughout the city, including daily protests for a month at Police Plaza, which were led by Sharpton.

According to related Intelligence Division documents sent to this reporter, the department in 2008 was especially concerned about a group known as the New Black Panther Party, which the informant mentioned in his NAN reporting:

"The only member of the NBPP [New Black Panther Party] that will be arrested will be Brother David X. He is responding to 415 Atlantic Avenue with Sister Kadidra," the document read.

Traditionally, the Intelligence Division collects information on groups planning to demonstrate, as it did during the Republican National Convention, held at Madison Square Garden.

The NYPD had continually spied on Sharpton in the 1980s after he came to prominence for championing the case of Tawana Brawley, a black girl who falsely claimed to have been raped by hooded white men.

Two undercover police officers who spied on black protest groups in the 1980s told this reporter in 1998 that the department was so intent on discrediting Sharpton that they were tasked by their superiors to spread rumors that he was homosexual.

Twenty-five years later, the Rev. has become a part of the city's establishment. He now hosts a television show on MSNBC. He is considered an ally of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attends his annual events. He is said to be on cordial terms with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has made him the featured speaker at diversity training classes given to each class of recruits at the Apollo theater.

AMNESIA JOE. It's not enough that the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes framed Jabbar Collins for murder and then deliberately ignored exculpatory evidence that kept him in prison for 16 years.

Or that Hynes did a 180 on the death penalty.

Or placed a former borough president on his payroll as "Director of Community and Civic Affairs" at $125,000 a year.

Or relied on a stone-cold liar as the chief witness against former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio for allegedly passing confidential information to the Columbo crime family, leading to four murders.

Hynes touted this as "the most stunning example of official corruption I have ever seen," before he was forced to drop the case.

Now it can be revealed that Hynes is suffering from amnesia, as evidenced by his letter to the New York Times on Saturday, calling Ray Kelly's accomplishments in public safety "unparalleled."

"In 1992, the city seemed besieged by drug-related violent crime," Hynes wrote. "Today New York is the safest big city in America."

First, New York City is not the Safest Big City in America and never has been. That false claim began under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and is based on FBI statistics that the FBI itself disavows because people like a certain deputy commissioner who worked in both the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations deliberately misinterpret them.

Oh, and speaking of Giuliani, didn't he have something to do with reducing crime? Didn't he appoint someone named William Bratton, who put in place the systems that Kelly is following? Amnesia Joe must have forgotten that.

Just as he seems to have forgotten who the city's police commissioner was in 1992 when the city "seemed besieged by drug-related violent crime."

Joe, the police commissioner for much of 1992 was Ray Kelly.

THE NYPD SURGE. So it was milder weather that caused the surge in reported crime, according to the police department. Maybe so. Maybe not. Maybe the surge is due to Kelly's recent memo that forbade officers from ignoring crime victims, as critics have charged it has done since at least 2004.

Oh, and speaking of ignoring crime, it's now a year and a month since Kelly promised a report from a fact-finding commission to investigate allegations of downgrading of crimes. O.K., Ray, so where's the report?