After listening carefully to the two policemen, the judge had a problem: He did not believe them. The officers, who had stopped a man in the Bronx and found a .22-caliber pistol in his fanny pack, testified that they had several reasons to search him: He was loitering, sweating nervously and had a bulge under his jacket. But the judge, John E. Sprizzo of United States District Court in Manhattan, concluded that the police had simply reached into the pack without cause, found the gun, then “tailored” testimony to justify the illegal search. “You can't have open season on searches,” said Judge Sprizzo, who refused to allow the gun as evidence, prompting prosecutors to drop the case last May.
The New York Times reports that over the last six years, the police and prosecutors have cooperated in a broad effort that allows convicted felons found with a firearm to be tried in federal court, where sentences are much harsher than in state court. Officials say the initiative has taken hundreds of armed criminals off the street, mostly in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and turned some into informers who have helped solve more serious crimes. But a closer look at those prosecutions reveals something that has not been trumpeted: more than 20 cases in which judges found police officers' testimony to be unreliable, inconsistent, twisting the truth, or just plain false. The judges' language was often withering: “patently incredible,” “riddled with exaggerations,” “unworthy of belief.”