January 25th, 2014
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What a shocking story. The police used an informant who went in and planted crack cocaine in the store to frame a business owner. Thankfully the business owner had video that showed the whole thing was a frame-up. The prosecutor was aware that the video exonerated the accused, and yet the prosecutor never stopped pursuing the accused.
Andrews opened up Dabb City Smoke Shop in Scotia, New York last January. By April he was arrested for selling crack cocaine. In one of his few media interviews since the arrest, Andrews told us about the set up.
A police informant, James Slater, visited the shop on March 25th and 29th and said on both occasions he bought crack from Andrews. He provided cell phone photos of crack rocks on the front counter of the shop.
Around April 11, police raided the shop and arrested Andrews. From the very beginning Andrews asserted his innocence.
“I kept telling them that I had video, and I could show them that never happened and that I wasn’t selling drugs. The cops said there was no need for that — that they had me on video, and they had audio. They said, ‘We don’t need to watch your video,’ but the confiscated my system anyway,” he said.
He was in jail for five days before he made bail. When he got out, he contacted a lawyer.
Grand Jury, Hearing Prosecutors Refuse to Return DVR
At his grand jury hearing, he says he testified that he had video proof that he wasn’t selling drugs out of the store and that police hadn’t allowed him to get the footage from his surveillance system to prove it.
“The grand jury wanted to see the video. The grand jury asked the DA where the videotapes were. The DA said the videos were irrelevant. My lawyer kept trying to get them to release the tapes, but they wouldn’t release the tapes. My lawyer had to beg for those tapes. It was a while before we got them,” he said.
Andrews was using a six-camera Nightowl system that he purchased online for $300. He had installed the system himself. Eventually, the authorities released the video.
Once his lawyer was able to get the footage from his surveillance system, it told a dramatically different story than what the informant said. The tapes show the informant coming into the shop, setting a bag of crack on the counter, taking a photo of it, then picking it back up before leaving.
Other than the informant’s testimony, police had no other evidence that Andrews was using the shop as a front to sell drugs. By July he was cleared of all charges, but not before his business took a hit.
“The impact on business was brutal,” he said. “The arrest was all over the six news channels, and people didn’t know what to think … I had just moved into the neighborhood so people don’t really know me. People were saying then that they didn’t want me here.”