YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A cop who falsely claimed that a Sheepshead Bay man tried to run him down in a car was sentenced to four days in prison – only one day more than his victim was locked up based on the officer’s bogus charges.
Officer Diego Palacios pleaded guilty at a hearing on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court in exchange for a sentence of four days and his resignation from the New York City Police Department, the District Attorney’s office told Sheepshead Bites.
The three-day sentence has Palacios’s victim, East 23rd Street resident John Hockenjos, furious – and afraid for his safety.
“This individual spends four days in prison, with no probation, and he gets out of jail today or tomorrow and he’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position; there should at least be probation.”
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Palacios arrested Hockenjos in February 2012, saying on a police report that Hockenjos drove his car at “a high rate of speed” towards the officer in an attempt to hit him, forcing him “to jump out of the way.” Hockenjos was charged with felony reckless endangerment and spent three days behind bars before making bail.
Hockenjos could have lost his freedom for seven years. Surveillance video from Hockenjos’ home, though, cleared his name. The video shows Hockenjos slowly pulling into the driveway and stopping several feet away from the officers. Hockenjos and his wife got out of the car to talk to the police. The officer did not budge, as he had claimed.
In June, a grand jury indicted Palacios for offering a false instrument for filing, falsifying business records, making an apparently sworn false statement, perjury and making a punishable false written statement. He was also charged with official misconduct.
According to Hockenjos, four days in prison is no more than just a slap on the wrist for the man who nearly took everything from him.
“It looks like he really did nothing. It’s almost as if someone was charged with shoplifting, like picking up a pack a gum from the drug store,” Hockenjos said. “It’s like my life, all of my assets, my reputation is worth just a pack of gum. That’s what they’re saying.”
Even more galling, Hockenjos said, is that the assistant District Attorney on the case, Elizabeth Moehle, abandoned all the usual courtesies for the victim in prosecuting the case. Hockenjos said he wasn’t told about Thursday’s hearing until after the fact, and the District Attorney’s office never ran the plea deal by him.
“I started crying right away,” Hockenjos said of hearing news of the deal last week. “I’m afraid now. What’s going to happen to me?”
Though not required by law, the District Attorney’s office said that as a matter of policy, their office seeks the victim’s approval for all plea deals.
A spokesperson for District Attorney Charles Hynes told Sheepshead Bites that Hockenjos did give the thumbs up to the deal.
“We never do a plea unless the victim agrees to it. So that actually happened,” said Hynes spokesperson Sandy Silverstein.
Hockenjos said the only previous plea agreements discussed were in the early stages, when he was told the officer was likely to face three years.
“They said it would be three years, I thought it should be five. We had different opinions, but at least the order of magnitude is correct. To give him four days – one day more than I spent in prison – for the things he did to me is out of this world. It’s unreasonable,” said Hockenjos.
Hockenjos and his wife, Irena, say they live in fear that Palacios and his former colleagues at the 61st Precinct will seek retribution. Since the initial arrest, they’ve been afraid to call officers to report suspicious activity, or to protect them in an ongoing property dispute with a neighbor, who they claim has physically attacked them in the past.
“Now police officers can just shoot us to death and they won’t even face jail time, they’ll just resign from the police department,” Irena said. “This is very scary. I’m afraid to stay in the house; I’m afraid to step out.”
On the occasions that they have called 911, police have arrived only to shout at Irena Hockenjos, she said, and their complaints to the Internal Affairs Bureau have gone unanswered. They have also confronted the precinct’s former commanding officer, to no avail, they said.
“The 61st Precinct officers, they know what happened, and they know they can do whatever they want,” said John Hockenjos.
The NYPD’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This post will be updated if a comment is received.
Correction (5:43 p.m.): The original version of this story spelled the officer’s name incorrectly. It has since been amended. We regret any confusion this may have caused.