At the Pittsfield Massachusetts police station, criminal suspects are charged and booked behind closed doors. When questions of propriety arise, regarding specific procedures or behavior, answers boil down to the word of law enforcement versus the word of an arrestee. Such a covert and collusive environment invites Pittsfield police to place personal agendas and career goals ahead of law and policy.
This is where veteran criminal defense attorneys rise to the occasion. All too familiar with the immoral, unethical, and illicit activity perpetrated by the Pittsfield Police Department, attorneys scrutinize every document and record pertaining to their client’s booking.
Unless that attorney happens to be Leonard H. Cohen.
According to Lawyers Weekly, Cohen served as the criminal defense attorney in more than 5,000 cases, including 50 first-degree murder cases and hundreds of high-profile proceedings. Yet, subsequent to my 2005 arrest, if I had known then what I know now, I’d have gladly traded Cohen for any second-year law student. Even the greenest of lawyers would have discovered the blatant booking discrepancy, in my case, that Cohen ineptly overlooked.
On the evening of February 23, 2005, I was taken into custody and booked on misdemeanor charges. While cloistered in the bowels of 39 Allen Street I fell victim to the antics of booking officer David Granger. Just moments before I was to be fingerprinted, Granger launched into a not so convincing act; announcing that the police station’s Live Scan fingerprint machine had “suddenly malfunctioned.” He claimed that, as a result, he couldn’t electronically scan my fingerprints. Rather, he’d have to ink roll my fingerprint card.
Unbeknown to me at the time, Granger’s ruse was perpetrated in order to procure my fingerprints without leaving trace of having done so. Had Granger electronically scanned my prints, the booking software would have automatically time stamped the ten print card. He’d then be afforded no choice but to file the prints and officially record them in A.F.I.S.
By manually creating ink rolled prints — an outdated procedure not used by Pittsfield police in decades — Granger could secretly pass them off to a detective, who would later alter the left index finger and use it to fallaciously connect me to a four-month-old felony that he’d embarrassing failed to solve.
Less than an hour after my ink rolled ten print card was created, someone secretly ran it through the very electronic scanner that Granger had declared out of service. The scanner didn’t know the difference, it simply scanned the ink rolled prints just as it would have scanned my actual fingers — had my booking been legitimate. After receiving a time stamp, the scanned prints were properly filed, then recorded in A.F.I.S.
No one but police knew that two sets of my fingerprints existed — one set slated for illicit activity. But comparison of my arrest report to the electronically scanned fingerprint card reveals the following discrepancy:
date/time recorded on my arrest report: 02/23/2005 @2041
date/time recorded on my fingerprint card: 02/23/2005 @2128
There is a 47-minute time lapse between my booking activity and the date/time stamped ten print card. This would be impossible if things were on the up-and-up. An individual’s fingerprints are scanned and processed in the midst of being booked, not 47 minutes after being booked. I couldn’t have been fingerprinted at 2128 if my arrest report was initiated at 2041. By 2128, I’d long since finished being booked. By that time I was sitting in a cell awaiting arrival of the clerk magistrate.
After scraping together $30,000 of hard earned money, my family gave it to Cohen in good faith, thinking he would provide me with the best possible defense. In turn, Cohen never bothered to analyze my booking documentation. When I told him about the feigned electronic scanner breakdown, Cohen couldn’t have cared less. He never bothered to investigate, and he failed to find a 47-minute discrepancy in paperwork that any newbie attorney would have found instantly.