Brooklyn federal judge finds stop-and-frisk of parolee illegal

A few days after Manhattan Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s landmark stop-and-frisk ruling in Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., a Brooklyn federal judge entered a ruling on Aug. 15 that the stopping and frisking of a Brooklyn parolee constituted an illegal search.

In the Floyd ruling, Judge Scheindlin ruled that the New York City Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking people who police officers reasonably suspect have committed or are about to engage in criminal activity has led to unconstitutional stops.

In the incident leading to the Brooklyn ruling, on April 4, NYPD Officers Konrad Zakiewicz and Salwa Jwayyed and Sgt. Kwame Kipp observed Ronald Mayo Jr. walking along a well-lit stretch of Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. Zakiewicz reportedly told his colleagues, “I want to stop that guy,” and he and his colleagues proceeded to do so.

When the officers stopped Mayo, they asked him to raise his hands above of his head. This revealed that Mayo had a firearm in the waistband of his pants, which was not evident before to the stop.

Mayo -- son of Ronald Mayo Sr., who was sentenced to 16 years behind bars for running a Brooklyn drug distribution ring -- was out on parole after serving four years in prison for felony assault.

“The seizure of Mayo by the police was unjustified,” Brooklyn Federal Judge John Gleeson definitively ruled.  

Officers Zakiewicz and Jawayyed testified that for a “split moment,” a firearm was visible on Mayo prior to the stop and that they “saw something that appeared like the handle of a firearm.”  

Gleeson noted that Mayo was wearing a zipped hoodie and that the firearm was on the left side of his waistband. “Even if the sweatshirt was unzipped,” Gleeson observed, “it would have draped down over the gun handle.”

Furthermore, Gleeson noted, the officers’ statement about observing a weapon prior to the stop had a number of flaws—namely that the complaint against Mayo did not mention Jawayyed’s observation of a gun prior to the stop. In other words, Jawayyed did not state in the criminal complaint that he observed a gun in Mayo’s waistband before he stopped him on Marcy Avenue. The only time the Jawayyed noted that he saw Mayo’s weapon prior to the stop was during testimony in the case.

Gleeson also discounted Zakiewicz's testimony and assertions. “A firearm on the scene is a big deal,” Gleeson wrote in his ruling. Court papers show that Zakiewicz, who claimed that he saw Mayo’s weapon, did not tell the other officers about it before the stop. It is common practice for the safety of other near the scene, for police officers to notify their colleagues when a weapon is present.

When questioned why he did not inform his fellow officers at the time, Zakiewicz said “Everything happened so fast,” an excuse Gleeson discredited.

It was Zakiewicz who initiated the stop of Mayo when he told his colleagues, “I want to stop that guy,” without any mention of Mayo’s weapon or the reason he wanted to stop Mayo. “It doesn’t take much longer to say ‘I want to stop that guy because he’s carrying a gun’ than it does to say ‘I want to stop that guy,’” Gleeson wrote.

“Zakiewicz decided that he wanted to stop Mayo, but he had no lawful basis for doing so,” Gleeson ruled. Therefore, Gleeson continued,  “The observations of the firearm by the police were the result of the seizure, not its cause.”  Ruling that the stop was unlawful due to a lack of cause for the search, Gleeson held that the “firearm is the fruit of an unlawful stop and must be suppressed.”

“The officers’ testimony was inconsistent, unreasonable and implausible,” Mayo’s defense attorney, Chase A. Scolnick of Federal Defenders of New York Inc., told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Scolnick noted disappointment “in the officers’ lack of candor while testifying under oath in federal court.”

Gleeson was the same judge who sentenced Mayo’s father in 2006.