New York Officer Gets 20 Year Sentence for His Role in Drug Trade

When Merlin Alston, a New York City police officer, decided to take a second job in 2010, he offered his services to a longtime friend and drug dealer, prosecutors charged. Mr. Alston eased into the drug trade, at first driving his friend on trips to the Bronx to sell pounds of cocaine.

But over a four-year period, Mr. Alston assumed a larger role in a world of guns and drugs that was clearly at odds with his police work. He carried his police-issued handgun to deals, tipped off his friend to law enforcement raids and flashed his badge to his fellow officers to get him out of trouble.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Mr. Alston, 34, to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the drug trade. A jury convicted him in October on several charges, including conspiracy to distribute narcotics. He faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Merlin Alston betrayed his city and his shield,” Joon Kim, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “Instead of serving and protecting the citizens of New York City, as he swore an oath to do, Alston served and protected drug dealers.”

Mr. Alston disputed the charges during the trial and told the judge, Colleen McMahon, in a letter last month that his longtime friend lied during the trial. He wrote that the friend, Gabriel Reyes, whom he met during their freshman year in high school, had sabotaged his successful career as a New York City officer and that he was “put to shame and sold as a headline for the newspaper and television.”

In the trial, Mr. Alston’s lawyer, Jeffery Greco, said that Mr. Reyes could not be trusted because he was testifying only to try to reduce his own sentence in the case.

Mr. Reyes’s case has not yet gone to trial.

During Mr. Alston’s two-week trial in October, Mr. Reyes explained how Mr. Alston first got involved in distributing drugs in the areas of the Bronx that he patrolled as an officer. It started informally one day in 2010, Mr. Reyes said, when Mr. Alston was hanging out with him while he divvied up and packaged several pounds of cocaine.

“I had to go make a delivery of some cocaine,” Mr. Reyes testified in October. “He told me he’ll drive — that it will be safer if he drive.”

From the first drug deal to Mr. Alston’s arrest in 2014, Mr. Reyes said, the former officer helped transport cocaine and other drugs, including ecstasy, about 30 times. The deals totaled about 90 pounds of cocaine, Mr. Reyes testified.

Mr. Alston also served as an armed bodyguard and lookout, prosecutors said. On several occasions, Mr. Alston saved his friend from being arrested by the police with drugs in his car, Mr. Reyes said during the trial.

In the closest call, Mr. Reyes said he was pulled over in his Range Rover by a police officer in the Bronx. Mr. Reyes said he tossed a bag with cocaine into the back of his car and called Mr. Alston to speed over in his own police car.

“I was nervous as hell,” Mr. Reyes said. Within a few minutes, Mr. Alston arrived and flashed his badge to the other officer.

“The officer gave me back my I.D. and my license and my registration and let me go about my way,” Mr. Reyes said.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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