Ex-Suffolk officer guilty of larceny, but acquitted of hate crimes against Hispanic drivers

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, March 4, 2016
Ex-Suffolk Co. officer guilty of larceny, but acquitted of hate crimes against Hispanic drivers
N.J. Burkett is live in Long Island with the details.

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- A former Suffolk County police sergeant was found guilty of stealing money from Hispanic drivers he pulled over but was acquitted of more serious hate crime charges.

Jurors convicted 52-year-old Scott Greene of larceny and official misconduct, but they found him not guilty of 17 other counts, including the most serious charge of grand larceny as a hate crime.

Greene, of Shirley, was held without bail following the verdict.

He was accused of targeting Hispanic motorists in Suffolk County to steal money from their vehicles and was caught during a 2014 sting operation.

At his trial, six Hispanic men testified that he searched them when they couldn't provide driver licenses and later realized money was missing from their vehicles.

Greene could have faced 7 to 20 years in prison if he had been convicted of the hate crime charges.

"After hearing all of the available and admissible evidence, the jury determined that Scott Greene was a thief with a badge," District Attorney Tom Spota said. "We are disappointed they did not believe Greene stole from his victims because of a belief or perception regarding their race, color, or national origin - as the hate crime statute requires. We respect their verdict. This defendant can no longer victimize anyone because of his position as a police officer and we will recommend the maximum term of imprisonment at sentencing."

Instead, he faces 1 1/3 to 4 years behind bars when sentenced on February 16.

The verdict drew immediate calls from Hispanic advocates for a federal takeover of the Suffolk County Police Department, which previously was the focus of a Justice Department probe following the 2008 death of an Ecuadorean man by a group of teenagers.

Greene's trial took place weeks after the police department's former chief, James Burke, was indicted on federal charges of abusing a burglary suspect and coercing officers to cover it up. The allegations in that case do not involve Hispanics.

"The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Suffolk County Police Department and the Latino community," said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. "For too long Latinos in Suffolk County have come under attack by police. It's time for the DOJ (Department of Justice) to step in and stop this continuous pattern of racial abuse."

Spota said in the Greene case that investigators from his office worked with liaisons in the Hispanic community to encourage victims to come forward.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office declined comment.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)