Kris Gounden, outside Queens Criminal Court, which has become almost his new home. Photo: Nate Adams
January 12, 2019
Hon. Letitia James, Attorney General
New York State
Dear Ms. James:
Congratulations on your historic election as New York’s first African American and first woman Attorney General.
You delivered a rousing speech after your official swearing-in on January 1, 2019 on how you plan to enforce the laws to protect everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status. In part, you said, “We see profiteers and politicians risking the hard-earned security of working people in the pursuit of greater wealth and power. We see corruption eating away at the bedrock of our society, and too often, we feel powerless to respond.”
You said, “But today, we take that power back. Today, we respond. I believe in the rule of law and democracy and the expectation that in the eyes of government, you shall be treated no worse than your neighbor on the right and no better than your neighbor on the left. I will work in a legal system where even the most powerful federal official in the country cannot use a loophole to evade justice.”
You also said: “I will crackdown on government officials who abuse the public trust……And I will shine a light into the murkiest of swamps, and act as a steward of justice for every New Yorker.”
Madam Attorney General I’m sorry to say that one of those murky swamps is Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown’s office. We at The Black Star News have been for some time now aiming light on that office to show how several assistant district attorneys in league with police officers from the 106 precinct have been abusing their powers, especially in relation to the multiple false arrests and malicious prosecution of a Guyanese immigrant named Kris Gounden for the past 12 years.
This is a case of impunity and egregious misconduct by police officers and prosecutors; a vendetta carried out with taxpayers’ money. Gounden has been arrested about a dozen times over the years by officers from the 106 precinct.
His ordeal started when he moved into the “wrong” neighborhood.
It would take too long to outline all the elements of Kris Gounden’s ordeal at the hands of law enforcement officials and accommodating judges and legal aid attorneys who urge him to accept pleas for crimes he didn’t commit. In the interest of brevity this letter focuses on the most pressing matter –an ongoing case stemming from one of several recent false arrests of Gounden that I’ve covered on The Black Star News and also discussed on WBAI radio. Gounden has written about the vendetta to Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, the former New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, and to the U.S. Department of Justice. To provide some context, I will link to some past Black Star News articles documenting and tracing the genesis of this tragedy. Audio recordings, video recordings, photos and court records exist to support and substantiate the following narrative:
On February 5, 2018, Gounden left his grandmother’s home at 109-50 121 Street, South Ozone Park –where he lives– in the afternoon, to pick up his three children from school. He stopped at a red light on 115 Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. The driver of a black BMW rear-ended his car several times. Gounden drove and again stopped at a red light on 115 Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard and again the driver of the BMW rear ended his vehicle. When the light changed Gounden drove forward then pulled up. The driver of the BMW pulled up a short distance ahead. He exited his vehicle and ran back to Gounden’s car and kicked it several times, leaving a dent. This incident was at 116-32 117 Street, in South Ozone Park.
Gounden dialed 911 at 2:26 PM, as phone records later showed, and reported that he’d been attacked by a “crazy” motorist. Fearful, rather than proceeding to pick up his children, he drove back to his grandmother’s home. On his way back, the BMW caught up with him and continued rear-ending his vehicle. When he arrived home Gounden again dialed 911, at 2:34 PM, as phone records show. The driver parked his BMW across from the house. Gounden was joined by Posr Posr, a friend who is also his paralegal and who had been waiting for him at his grandmother’s home.
While Gounden was still on the phone with a dispatcher, police officers from the 106 precinct, responding to the earlier 2:26 PM call, arrived. Shortly after, a white shirt officer also pulled up. Gounden spoke to two officers and told them about the incident. Since Gounden had been a victim of several false arrests by officers from the 106 precinct, he turned on his phone voice recorder before he narrated his account to the officers.
The couple in the BMW, later identified as Joseph Adorno, a White male, and his wife Evaline Orovco– then told the officers, including Officer Carlos Bello from the 106 precinct who took the police report, what they alleged happened. The Adornos claimed Gounden struck Joseph who had been standing in the street and then drove away from the scene. What’s more, they claimed the incident occurred outside a shopping mall at Five Towns, which is 6.4 miles away from the location of the incident Gounden had reported on his two 911 calls. The Adornos even claimed they recorded the incident on their phone video.
Officer Bello could have immediately determined Adorno’s credibility. In the recording made by Gounden he can be heard protesting that he had been nowhere near Five Towns on that day and telling Officer Bello to demand that the Adornos show him the alleged video. Officer Bello can also be heard saying “they say they have it on video” and then arresting Gounden without asking to see the purported evidence. Gounden said Bello told him he was ordered to make the arrest by the white shirt officer.
Gounden was confined at Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center for about a week until his mother was able to send bail money.
A copy of the police report filed by Bello at the 106 precinct obtained by The Black Star News states that the scene of the incident was 116-32 117 Street –which matches the location provided by Gounden in his 911 call– rather than Five Towns, which is the location Adorno gave Bello in his statement outside Gounden’s grandmother’s house. Of course, both Adorno and Bello were unaware that Gounden had recorded their interactions, thereby exposing their lie.
Gounden was subsequently charged with seven counts of criminal activity for the February 5, 2018 incident including leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, aggravated unlicensed operator, and driving without a license. The charges were all based on the Adornos’ false statement and Officer Bello’s false police report.
However, coordinating a lie is not easy. Joseph Adorno went on to file a “no fault” claim against Gounden’s insurer Allstate. Both Gounden and Adorno testified at an Examination Under Oath (EUO) conducted by Allstate’s lawyer Daniel Gilly. Gounden’s testimony matches the account he gave in his 911 call.
A review of the transcript shows that Adorno’s April 26, 2018 testimony is filled with contradictions and lies.
At one point the Allstate lawyer asked Adorno, who is 42 and testified that he had a ninth-grade education, “Now, when that accident took place, were you operating a motor vehicle?”
“Yes,” Adorno said.
Whereupon his lawyer, Matthew Marchese, interjected: “No, you weren’t operating it. You were outside the car. You had just gotten out.”
Adorno then said, “Okay. Yes. I was outside of the vehicle.”
Elsewhere, in his testimony: 1) Adorno gave Allstate yet a different location of the alleged accident –this time he said 130-34 117 Street– which is not the Five Towns location he gave Officer Bello in his statement on February 5, 2018. More importantly this address doesn’t match what’s in Bello’s police report, which forms the basis for the insurance claim. 2) Adorno said he was inside his vehicle when he was struck and had to be corrected by his attorney Marchese; after all, it’s impossible for someone to be a pedestrian while sitting inside a vehicle at the same time. 3) Adorno couldn’t remember the address of the doctor whom he claimed treated him after the accident and recommended that he take time off from work. 4) He claimed that Gounden had a Black male passenger with him in the vehicle at the time of the accident, another concoction absent from his February 5, 2018 statement and in Bello’s police report. Only Adorno knows the motive for this false statement. 5) He testified that his wife –who was a passenger in the vehicle on the date of the incident– was also his boss at work and that she was the person who signed off on his New York State form NF6 for compensation for lost wages. When Allstate’s lawyer asked for copies of his pay stubs Adorno’s lawyer asked to go off the record. 6) In response to questioning by Gilly, the Allstate lawyer, Adorno conceded that he and his wife in the past had filed several insurance claims for motor vehicle accidents. 7) He testified that he had once been an auxiliary police officer. 8) He also testified that he had been interviewed a number of times by the DA and that he was told they were familiar with Gounden.
Of course no video has been produced to show Gounden striking Adorno with his car; that too was a fabrication.
Notwithstanding the contradictory and false statements by Adorno at the EUO, Allstate canceled Gounden’s insurance coverage and paid Adorno’s “no fault” claim. Gounden has written to both Allstate CEO Tom Wilson and Maria T. Vullo, New York State Department of Financial Services to report alleged insurance fraud. He’s received no responses.
The Black Star News published a number of articles on the Adorno incident. Deputy Inspector Brian J. Bohannon, commander of the 106 precinct didn’t respond to my inquiries about Bello’s police report. The Queens County DA also declined to respond. The DA, up today, hasn’t asked for a copy of the February 5 recording made by Gounden, proving that the complainant Adorno lied to Bello. There’s also no record that Adorno ever made any 911 call to report an accident.
I’ve personally attended four court dates for the Adorno incident in Queens criminal court. The case has shuttled between a number of judges including Tony M. Cimino and now it’s before Supervising Judge Michelle Johnson. On each occasion the Queens DA asks for an adjournment. Meanwhile the previous court-appointed lawyer Anne J. D’Elia–who is no longer Gounden’s attorney– had recommended that Gounden consider a plea deal for a crime he didn’t commit. Gounden’s current 18b attorney is Michael Schwed.
The matter has dragged on for a year. In the meantime, Gounden hasn’t been able to secure steady employment. A background check reveals he has an “open case” against him; of course potential employers wouldn’t know how bogus these cases are. In the last year alone Gounden has been hired and quickly fired –sometimes in a matter of days– about nine times from different jobs as an airplane technician. Gounden believes this is a starve-the-victim into submission strategy; to force him to accept a plea. Apparently it’s a well-known approach in the criminal justice system.
The next scheduled court date is February 7, 2019 –one year and two days after the initial arrest. I won’t be surprised if there’s another request for adjournment by the DA.
Madam Attorney General in your inaugural speech you also said, “We stand today on hallowed ground. Blessed with the sacrifice of resisters who refused to bow to traditional rule; seeded with the dreams of millions of Americans, refugees leaving their nations of birth for a brighter future under the torch of Lady Liberty; as well as those like my parents, who simply saw their destiny and seized their shot at the American Dream.”
Gounden’s original sin was having the audacity to realize his own American Dream. After working and saving money for many years he purchased a two-house water-front property in Howard Beach in 2007. He and his family, dark-skinned ethnic Indian Guyanese immigrants, became victims of a racist attack from a bat-wielding N-word spewing neighbor who was arrested but never indicted. The incident was widely covered by most New York City media outlets. In an article on August 24, 2007 under the headline “Family Haunted by hate in Queens,” The Daily News described it as an incident akin to “the deep South” circa 1950s.
The Gounden family received NYPD police protection 24 x 7 for months. At the time there was some pushback from then New York City Council member Joseph Addabbo Jr. who claimed it was Gounden who had played the race card. After the NYPD protection was withdrawn the decades-long retaliatory actions by the 106 precinct and the Queens County DA’s office began.
In addition to the ongoing Adorno case, The Black Star News has published several past bogus cases against Gounden. It always starts with a false arrest from an officer or officers from the 106 precinct even when Gounden is the victim of the crime; the officers then work in league with the Queens DA’s office.
In each case Gounden has also rejected attempts to pressure him into accepting pleas for crimes he hadn’t committed.
Let me point to two recent egregious examples of charges that were adjudicated in his favor.
One incident was from an August 2015 arrest. Gounden was charged with switching price tags on merchandize at a Home Depot store so he could pay $80 less. The Queens County DA maintained for three years that he had a video of the alleged crime, yet kept asking for adjournments. There was resolution once The Black Star News focused on the case. I attended several court dates. In one proceeding last year, Assistant District Attorney Brian Cox told Judge Michelle Johnson he couldn’t locate the incriminating video. He said it was impossible to obtain a new copy because Home Depot’s policy was to destroy videos two weeks after incidents; the arrest was from 2015. The ADA planned to call the arresting officer to testify. The officer’s words would presumably carry more weight than Gounden’s; an immigrant defendant of color.
Gounden filed a motion for Judge Johnson to sanction Cox for destroying Brady material. On the next court date ADA Cox claimed, miraculously, that he’d obtained a new video from Home Depot. I was in court when Cox handed a DVD container to Gounden. When Gounden stepped out into the hallway and opened the DVD container, it was empty. He immediately returned into Judge Johnson’s courtroom whereupon Cox gave him another container, this time containing a DVD. Gounden took the DVD to five different computer experts who told him there was no retrieval-information on it. On the next court date Cox returned with a senior ADA named Kevin Fogerty to press the case against Gounden. Judge Johnson acquitted Gounden on the Home Depot case on February 22, 2018, two years and six months after Gounden’s initial arrest. No action has been taken against ADA Cox for the DVD charade or the Queens County DA for two and a half years of malicious prosecution. If a DVD showing the alleged crime exists why would’nt a DA produce it to secure conviction?
In 2015, Gounden filed a lawsuit against the City, the NYPD and Thomas Pascale who was then commander of the 106 precinct and who participated in one of the numerous arrests of Gounden. In March 2016, during one of Gounden’s arrests by officers from the 106 precinct, Officer Ryan Kenny body-slammed him on the ground. Gounden lost two teeth and now has a damaged shoulder and lower back. He asked for ambulance but was taken to the precinct where he drifted in and out of consciousness.
By the time Gounden was in the middle of deposing Pascale for the case in late 2016, he had been promoted to Deputy Inspector Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). At the time, Gounden was spending most nights at his grandmother’s home because he feared an officer from the 106 would kill him. A police officer named James Wilfinger started visiting Gounden’s Howard Beach home to ask his wife what she knew about Gounden’s lawsuit. Gounden hired a private investigator who documented how Wilfinger, who is married and has a family of his own, started taking his wife –a teetotaler at the time– to drink in bars and use other substances. Wilfinger gave her a PBA card with the ID # 31561 which she was to show in case she was ever stopped for DWI. The two also started having an inappropriate relationship.
On January 1, 2017 Gounden reported to police that when he confronted Wilfinger in his home that morning, the officer pulled out a gun on him. Wilfinger was never arrested. Instead, Gounden was arrested on January 24, 2017 by officers from the 106 precinct. He was charged with allegedly touching his stepdaughter inappropriately. Gounden’s wife provided him with a signed affidavit stating that her daughter never told her about such an incident. The Queens DA offered Gounden a plea bargain on those charges. It was only after I called the DA to get comments for a story about the charges that the DA started trying to contact Gounden’s stepdaughter to interview her about the matter. In other words, the DA wanted to investigate an alleged incident after having already offered Gounden a plea deal. I attended the court session before Judge Johnson on the day the DA withdrew the charges.
Gounden contacted IAB and was interviewed about his allegations against Wilfinger by two detectives Yesenia Guerrero-Schwarz and Edwin Jerez on September 13, 2017. He provided them with a video recording he made of Officer Wilfinger in bed with his wife in their Howard Beach house with his then three-year-old son as well. Gounden informed Guerrero-Schwarz and Jerez that on one occasion his wife called him over from his grandmother’s house when Wilfinger hurt her during an inappropriate activity. He informed detectives that he supplied her with medication and took pictures. Gounden said his wife told him Wilfinger said he would end up either dead or imprisoned. Gounden was never contacted about any follow-up investigation. In retrospect this isn’t surprising since Pascale was IAB Deputy Inspector. (Pascale, is no longer with the NYPD; he’s deputy chief of SUNY Old Westbury University police. He was also sued last year by NYPD Sgt. Joel Silver for wrongful arrest, as reported in The Daily News on June 26, 2018).
After Officer Wilfinger initiated the inappropriate relationship with Gounden’s wife, another officer named Davindra Singh also started having a relationship with her. Singh moved into Gounden’s Howard Beach home in the middle of 2017 and lived there on-and-off until some time in 2018. Gounden was able to obtain photographs of Singh while he was living in his house. On one occasion when Gounden went to see his three young children Singh came running out of the house to chase him away; Gounden photographed him. Singh eventually moved out and Wilfinger now lives in the house. He also convinced Gounden’s wife last year to file for divorce which was granted by a judge without Gounden being in court.
Gounden believes both Singh and Wilfinger are essentially playing tag-team to prevent his wife from reporting their inappropriate conduct to the investigative authorities–beginning with Wilfinger’s fishing expedition for information about Gounden’s lawsuit against the City and Pascale. Gounden has reported the matter to Police Commissioner O’Neill who has not responded.
Meanwhile, Gounden’s home has been foreclosed on under what he alleges are fraudulent circumstances. That matter is in New York Civil Court in Queens before Judge Sally E. Unger. There are other aspects of Gounden’s drawn-out ordeal that can’t be discussed with brevity. Suffice to say that it involved other city agencies. For example, after the 2007 racist attacks against the Goundens, the NYC HPD and NYCHA started issuing tickets for bogus violations on four private residential rental buildings the Goundens owned and their home as well. As The Daily News reported in another 2007 article, “Inspectors went to Gounden’s home nine times in the past year, according to Buildings Department records. Seven of the complaints resulted in fines totaling $10,500.” Eventually these fines totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars. When Gounden couldn’t pay, the city stopped paying him for the Section-8 Tenants in his properties. With his revenue stream cut off, all the buildings were ultimately foreclosed on and he lost all the buildings worth millions of dollars. He went from monthly income of $30,000 to having to ask for money from his mother and grandmother.
Even after destroying Gounden’s business, hijacking his wife, and stealing his Howard Beach home, this Mafia-like operation hasn’t stopped. The last remaining goal is to deprive Gounden of his liberty by having him incarcerated.
Madam Attorney General, in the interest of justice, this cruel vendetta begs for intervention. Every incident described in this letter can be verified. There is some urgency involved; the approaching February 7 court date. If your office would like to witness abuse of taxpayers’ resources, an Assistant Attorney General could attend the next proceedings before Judge Johnson.
The Queens County DA Richard Brown is in possession of both Bello’s police report and Adorno’s EUO testimony. The DA knows Adorno has perjured himself yet still continues to prosecute Gounden. ADA Kevin Fogerty is leading the prosecution.
Even a sitting judge deplored the Queens County DA’s conduct in an unrelated case. When NYPD detective Kevin Desormeau was convicted in April 2018 for false arrest and for lying to a grand jury, Judge Michael Aloise sentenced him to three years probation and ordered him to pay a fine of $500. However, Judge Aloise criticized the Queens DA for using an unreliable witness to win conviction.
After sentencing Desormeau, Judge Aloise said: “I will not become complicit in the district attorney’s hypocrisy by incarcerating you.”
Gounden has been the victim of this hypocrisy for 12 years. He fears it could wrongfully send him to prison.
Madam Attorney General,
I close by wishing you much success in your highly esteemed position.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
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