Framed For Selling Crack, Surveillance Video Helps Him Sue Police

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Jan 24, 2014

Busted for selling crack, a New York smoke shop owner used his surveillance system to prove he was set up by a police informant. Donald Andrews, the owner of the shop, says his lawyer will file a wrongful arrest suit against the city, seeking $500,000 from the police department, county and the village.

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.

The Arrest

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.

The sheriff's office, when contacted, declined to comment. The District Attorney did not respond to interview requests.

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.

What the Footage Shows

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. See the video below:

The moment the informant plants the crack:

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.”

A Scotia resident that I spoke to about the case said people are suspicious police targeted him because he is “the only black business owner in that part of town.” Andrews says he thinks he was an easy target.

Andrews says police told him the informant was sent to his store as part of a series of investigations into stores in Scotia. The informant suggested to police he could help make a case against Andrews because they went to high school together.

Informant Arrested

After Andrews was released from jail, the informant skipped town, but was arrested a month later for perjury, drug and tampering with evidence charges.

This same informant was used in seven other convictions. Those cases are now under review.

[UPDATE: January 27]

Slater, the informant pled guilty to two counts of perjury and faces two six to 12 prison sentences, according to officials we spoke to this afternoon.

Also: "The sheriff's office has instituted a strip-search policy for informants, which could have prevented Slater's crime. Sheriff Dominic Dagostino has said Slater had not been a longtime informant for his office and that his officers 'got burned,'" the Times Union reports.

Comments (26)

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"seeking $500,000......" Not enough for this type of misbahavior.

Lou Marrero

So a $300 surveillance system saved him from having his life essentially destroyed. Powerful story.

"Andrews says police told him the informant was sent to his store as part of a series of investigations into stores in Scotia."

Can you get anything via FOAI from the PD on documentation of this series of investigations?

Maybe. To be honest, this case has FOIA written all over it. It would be interesting to get a better look at the documents behind this, not to mention the seven other convictions where they used this informant. This weekend I'll send some their way, just out of curiosity. But my gut tells me they are going to be reluctant to release any of it by using the "ongoing investigation" exemption.

I'm curious why the DA is not taking more heat for this. I see via the various stories on this case out there that most of the blame has been shifted to the snitch. It is the D.A.'s job to seek justice. Sounds like maybe this D.A. was seeking something else entirely.

Also of note... the

*-*****-************-***-****-************" ******="******">*** *** * ***** ***** *** ******** **** ** the ****, ******* ** * ***** ** *****, ****-********** ***** selling ***** **** **** *******.

***** *** *********** ****** ** ****'* *** ******* ****** ********* during *** *** **** *** ****** **** ** **** **** for *** *** '****** ** **************'?

1. I like how we can reply direcly to ourselves (kinda schizophrenic maybe)

2. How come the oldest dude in the gang gets the worst a/k/a name?

"Eric Bell, a/k/a Glasses, age 41"

"I'm curious why the DA is not taking more heat for this."

Absolutely. It seems to me there are two possibilities here:

1.) The DA had blinders on. They were so single-mindedly focused on going after the conviction based on the evidence obtained by the informant that they completely ignored the DVR. They did not even bother to look at the DVR video for additional evidence,...

*** ************* ** ***********.

*.) *** ** *** ****** *** *** *****, *** *** exonerating ********, *** ***** ** ******/******** **** ******** *** ***** prosecute *** ****.

*** ****** ** ******, *** **** **** ** ******** ** knowing ***** ** **. ***** ** ** ****** *.) *********** or *.) *******/********.

Nope, I would have started at $5 million. Bad enough they framed a business owner, but to add racism to it. It just goes to prove that video is still the best form of protection.

"They" didn't frame the business owner. They had a bad CI that they obviously put too much faith in, he broke the law and ultimately made those officers look bad. It's unfortunate what happened, but the evidence did exonerate the store owner, and all other cases with that CI will be reviewed and should be. You guys who think there is some huge conspiracy looking to "frame" innocent people...

** **** **** ******* ***** **** ***** ****** ** ** to **** **** *** **** **** *** *** *** **** too. **** ***** **** ***** ** ****** ** *********, *** when ***** ** ** *** ***** ** ** ******** *** law, **** ****** ** ***** ****.

What is your take on why the DA didn't want to release the video during the grand jury hearing?

No offense Steve, but are you a law enforcement officer? :)

Are you serious? The evidence proving he didn't do shit existed at the time of his arrest.

It is the D.A.'s job to seek evidence that proves the truth - not that 'proves' the guilt of whomever the cops arrestis ** ***** ** ** - Isn't it LE's job to make sure what the CI says is true - using the existing evidence ****** *** **************** **** *** ************* ***** ******* ***** ** ** ******** ** ***?

**** *** *** ***********, ****.... *** ** ** *** *.*.'* job ** **** ************* ****** - *** **** ***** **** ******* ***** ** get ********* *** ** **** ****.

I am a police officer. And I wasnt there during the warrant, but I have done a lot of similar narcotics related warrants where the person we were arresting was screaming about something that proves they are innocent. I have taken DVR's, just like I am sure they did, with the understanding that if there is something on there it can be examined later. From phones to computers, unless it is on...

******* ** ** ******** ** **** ** ******** ** *** scene ******* **** **** ** ********. ******* **** ** **** had ** **** *** ** *** *****, **** ******** ******* have **** *** *******. * ****** ** ****** ******** **** wrong. *****, *** ******** ** **** ****'* ***** *** **** unfortunately **** ** **** ** "**** ***** ********" ** ******* to **** **** ** **** **** ***** *** ** *****. Thats ********* **** ********** *** *********** **** ** ******, *** give *** ****** ***** ** ** ***** **** ******.

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Steve,

That is an excellent reply! Thanks!

I put the full blame here directly on the D.A. - for the reasons I've already ranted.

LE (on the street) is one of the most thankless, underpaid, lots of it unrewarding, see-crap-nobody-wants-to-ever-see - profession.

It takes a rare type of person who can do it well - especially over time. The crap...

** ** ******* **** *** **** ** **** **** *** in *** *** *** ** ****-********. * ***'* ***** ** entire ******* ***&*'* *** ***** ********* ******* *********... :(

This was a poor investigation before the CI even set foot into the shop. When running a CI, you have to eliminate any doubts about the case and one way to do so is when you meet with the CI just prior to sending them in, you search the CI just shy of a strip search. Then the CI is in view from the moment after the search until they enter the target location. Yes! This is a problem in some...

***** *** **'* *** **** *** ** ******** ******* **** requesting *** ****** ******* *** **** ** ********** ***** *** narcotic *** *********.

* ****** ******* *** ** ** **** ****** *** * strong **** ** **** *** *** *** ** **** ********* the *** ****** ** ****** *** ******* ***** * *** higher ** *** *****.

Mark, thanks for the feedback.

A new article in the local NY newspaper says they are doing just what you recommend:

"The sheriff's office has instituted a strip-search policy for informants, which could have prevented...

**'* *****. ******* ******* ********* *** **** ****** *** *** been * ******** ********* *** *** ****** *** **** *** officers "*** ******."

From the linked article:

"The plea and sentence reflects the "harm that he caused to Mr. Andrews and to the criminal justice system," District Attorney Robert Carney said.

"The thought of falsely convicting an innocent man is sickening to any DA," Carney said."

Is this quote from the same DA that did everything...

** ***** ** ******* *** ***** **** *** **. *******' lawyer **** ********* *** ************ ***** **** *** *****? **** when ** *** ****** ** ***** ****** **** *** *****, he ****'* **** ** *** ********, *** ***** "********", ** the **** **** **. ******* ***** **** ******** **** ********.

Thanks for the follow up John. I really don't know why that was not thier department policy in the first place as it the norm across the state where I worked and all others that I know of. Never trust your CI and verify their information independently through at least one other source, the more the better. Just imagine how hard it will be for one of the local judges to sign off on a search...

**** **** **** ******* ** *** ****** **** **** *** new ******. **** ** *** **'* ***** ***** ******* **** reputation ** *** **** ***** ** * ******** **** ** catch ******* ********.

"Never trust your CI and verify their information independently through at least one other source, the more the better."

Too bad that is not a universal practice. The information the CI gave in our case was never verified through another source. Of course our CI was a sweet blond single mother who only cared about her boys............and dated at least one LEO for a...

*** ** ****.

** *** **** * *** ******, ***** ** ******, **** the ***** ******** ********* *** ***** ********** **** ******* **, she **** **** **** ***** ** "*** *** ******* **** it ***** **** ***** *** ********* ** *******". **** **** did *** *** ******, *** **** ***** *******, ******* **** stress ****** *** ********* **** *** * ****. * ***** it ***** **** ** **** ****** ** ******* **** **** they **** **** ****** *** *** ** **********.

Steve:

"I have taken DVR's, just like I am sure they did, with the understanding that if there is something on there it can be examined later. From phones to computers, unless it is on the warrant to be searched it cant be examined on the scene without some type of EXIGENCY."

1.) The "exigency" was the business owner's presumption of innocence. The "exigency" is the implied,...

*** *** ******* ********* ** *** ******** ***** **** ** had ** *****, ** * ***** *********** ** ****. *** he **** *** ********* *** **** **** *** ****** **** were *** ********* ** **** *** *****? **** **** ***** make ** ***** ** ***.

*.) *** ***********'* *******/******* ** **** *** ***** *** *******. They ****** **** ****** * ***** ***** ** * ******* as ** ****** *** *********** ********. *** ************ ***** *** salt ***** **** *** **** **** *** *** ****. ***** these ****** ******** *** ** **** **** **** ** *** circumstances **** ********. **** ** ** *** ***** ******** ***** served * ******* ***** **** * ***** *********, ******* ********* held ***** **** * **** **** ******** ******* *** ***** refused *** *********** ** ***** ***** ********* *** *********** ***** evidence.

**** ** ******** ******* *** ** ***** ** ********, ** not **** *******, *********** ** ******* **** ** ******* *** grand ****'* ******* ** "*** *** *****", ******* ** "**********".

*** ***** ******** ********** ********** *** ******/*********, *** *** ***** after *** ****** ******* ** *** ******'* ******** ** ******** that **** ***** ******** **** ** *** ******* ** *** police. ***** ***** ******* *******. **** ******* ** ********* ** the ************* ******** *** *** ** ****** *********** ** *******.

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I'm a Police Officer too. I agree with Steve's assessment, but would add that digital evidence is something that most PDs aren't prepared to support. Beyond the training and equipment is the struggle with how to best deploy resources.

Even if they had the capabilities in house, do they pull an investigator off another case to look at the DVR or have that person work on other cases...

***'* ****** ** *** ******* ** **** **** "******".

****** *** ***** ******** ** ****** *** *** ******** *** make ******, ** *** **** ******** ** ***** *** *******, get * ***** ** **** **, *** **** ****** *** findings ** *** ***** **** **********. ********* ** **** ******, that *** *** ** * ******* ********** ** *******.

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****'* ***** ********* ***** **** ****. *** ******* ** ********** entitled ** *** ******** ** **** ***, ********** ** ******* the *********** ********* ** ********** ** *** **** ** ***. That's *** **** ** **** ***** **** *****'* **** ***** to **. *** ***** *** *********** *** ** **********?

*** ******* ***** ** ** *** **** *** ********* ***** copy ** *** ********. ***, **** ******'* ** ********* ** share ***** ******** **** *** ***********. *** **** **** ** trial, **** ***** **** **** * ****** ******** ***** ** testimony! ** ***** ** ** ***** ** ** ******* ********* from *** *****.

I have personal experience in this area of law enforcement as a victim.

In our case, first, the CI lied to investigating officers about what we were doing(growing and selling marijuana). We found this out through discovery.

Second, the investigating officers knew the CI had a real past history via civil court cases against us, over my sons parental rights to his three sons....

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**** ******* ** ***** *** *** ** ***** *** ******* government ***** ** *****.

**** ********* ***** **** **** **** ** ****:

*** ***** **** **** ****** *** ** ****** *** *** have *** *****/*** ** *** * **** ******? ********* ***** money.

* **** ***** ***** ************* *** * ***-*** **** *** Federal ********** ** $**,*** *** *** ***** ****** **** **********. Is **** ****? ******* *** ******** ******** ** **** ********** can ****** **** ********. ***** **** ** ** ********* ** encourage *** **** ** ***** ********* ***** ** ******* ****?

*** **** ** ** *****, * ***** *** ******(** *** lower *** *****....***** *****) ** ** ****** ********* *** ********* folks, **** ** ** **** ***** **** *** ******** ******** in **** **********. * ***** * ***** **** **** *** was ******* **** ***** ** *** *** ** **** * hour ******. **** **** **** ***** ***** ***, ** **********.

** *** ****, ** ******** *** "**********" ****** **** **** $100,000. *** ** ********* ******* ***** ****** **** ************. ** do **** * **** ******* **** *** *** **** *** settled *** ** *** *** *********, ******, ******* *** ******** records ******** ** ** **** ** **** *** ***** ****** of ******** ***** **** *** ***** ** **. **** **** already ******** *** ***** *** ********* ** *** **** ********.

******** ******* *** *** **** ** ********* *** *** *** the **** ******* ** *** ***.

This is a great discussion. Thanks all for the excellent comments!

I've made this post publicly available so you can share with all your friends and colleagues.

Message to Steve Cobb:

What I wouldn't give to know or believe that more people in your profession (law enforcement) possessed a similar amount of integrity and core morals as you obviously do. I will concede there are many like you who still do, but I am afraid in total you have been overtaken in percentage by those who do not share or practice your type of integrity or beliefs....

**** '**' ***** ** ***** **** * ***** ****** (***** I ********** *******), *** * ******* ** ***** *********** ******* on *** ***** ** ******* ***** *** *** **** ********* if *** ******** **** *******, **** **** *** **** ******* or ***** * **** ** * '****' *******. *** ****** system *** *** * **** ** *** ****** ***** *** culpable ** **** ******** **** *** *******, *** * **** it **** ** ***** ** ****** **** *** ** **** system *** *** ******** ** ***** *********, ** *** ****** pretty *********** ** ***** ** *** *** '** *** ***** thing' ** *** **** ******** ***** * *** ** ****** practicing * **** ********* ******. *** ************* ** *********** *** Grand **** ** ******* ** ********* **** ***** ***** * perfect *******. *** ***** ** **** ***** ********* *************? ********, I ** **** ****** **** ***** ****'* **** **** * mysterious *** ******** ***** ****** ** ***** **** ** ******. Stories **** **** ****** ****, **** ********** *** ****** **** country, *** ******* ** ***** ****. **** ****** ***** ***** believe **** * ***** ..... **** ** ***** ** ******* to **** ** ******* ***** ** ***. **** ...........

***** ***** **** ***** ** *** ********/********* ****** **** *** face, *** *** **** *** *** ******* ******** ** ******* perfectly *** ** *** ****. ***** **** ***** ** ************** why ***** ***** ** ** *********** ** *** ** ******* to ***** **** * ******* *** ******** ** **** *** dash ** ***** ********* **. **** ********** ******** ** ********** that's * **** ** **** ******** ***** ** ** ****, unless ***** ****** *** ******** *** ******* ** ** **** to *** **** ******** ** ***** ************ *****. ** ****** they ****'* *******, ***** ** *** *** **** ********* *** its *****.

* ** ** ********, *** **** ****** ** ********** ********* I **** ****** ****** **** ***. ***** *** ********** ******* to ****** ********** ***** ****** ** *******, *** **** ***** this ****** ** ****** **** ** *** ********* ** *** deeds ** ****** **** ***. * **** *** **** *** will ******** ** ****** *** ******* ** **** ** *** noble **** *** *** *********, *** ****** ********* ** **** beliefs **** ***** * *** ** ****** ********** * **** different ******.

***** *******

******, *****

The informant in this case was sentenced to 6-12 years in prison yesterday. At sentencing, he had this to say about his time working for the police:

“No one here understands the pressure that you’re put on by those people, how you’re haunted every day, texted every day ......

** *** ** **** ***** **** ***** **** *** **** outside. ***’** ******* ****** ** ** ** ******** ***. **’* not * **** ** *** ****. **’* *** ** **** they ***** *** *** ****, ****’* *** ** **."

The rat is whining about the smell of the cheese? :)

But keep in mind that this goes well beyond just being a rat....

This piece of garbage ruined other peoples lives for his (and his handlers) benefit.

Die rat.

Agree Marty.

In my own "path to freedom", I had to go through a "probation orientation" meeting. One of the specific rules we were told to follow is DO NOT make any deals with other LEO regarding ratting out someone, EVER. When I asked about that rule(since they are all LEOs), I was told "we are here to keep you safe and get you out of your mess. If you mess with...

******', *** *** ***** ****".

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