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November 30, 2018

District Attorney McMahon:

By now you must be aware of the charges brought by your office against Mr. Lasou Kuyateh for
possession of a lit marijuana cigarette in a public place. The New York Times recently published
video footage of the arrest made by Officers Kyle Erickson and Elmer Pastran.

The video makes clear that officers repeatedly searched the area where Officer Erickson later
claimed to have found a burning marijuana cigarette, with Officer Pastran ultimately declaring
the car “clean” of any substances. Just after remarking, “We gotta find something, you know
what I mean?,” Officer Erickson’s camera turned off. The camera was reactivated at the precise
moment that Officer Erickson reached behind the driver’s seat and produced a joint.

The body worn camera recording further captured Officer Erickson placing empty glassine
envelopes in Mr. Kuyateh’s center console prior to “discovering” marijuana. Additionally, while
Officer Erickson’s own body worn camera was deactivated, Officer Pastran’s camera captured
Officer Erickson placing an item in the back seat of the vehicle.

The video footage detailed above is troubling to watch, to say the least.

We are confident that your office takes the integrity of its prosecutions seriously. The
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, U.A.W. 2325 (ALAA) is aware of at least 82 arrests made
by Officers Erickson and Pastran based on their own observations since 2017. The vast majority
of these observation arrests were based on alleged minor traffic infractions, much like the case of
Mr. Kuyateh. Alarmingly, in 90% of these traffic stops, the drivers were identified by NYPD as
people of color.

Since 2017, Officers Erickson and Pastran have made at least 15 arrests based on street
encounters. Of these, an overwhelming 93% were of people of color.

These officers have made at least 37 arrests for marijuana possession. Of these, 89% were people
of color. This is troubling, given the vast literature that indicates white individuals consume
marijuana at similar rates to people of color.
The above arrest numbers are grossly disproportionate to the demographics of the 120th precinct,
with approximately 40% of its residents identifying as white. ALAA calls upon your office to
fully investigate the integrity of these convictions.

While your office did ultimately move to dismiss the charges against Mr. Kuyateh, this was not
until he had made 12 court appearances. These court appearances cost him lost wages from
work. He further spent 14 days in jail based on Officer Erickson’s allegations and was only
released after he paid bond. At all but the final court appearance, your office recommended that
Mr. Kuyateh be sentenced to 60 days in jail for marijuana possession, based on these false
allegations and fabricated evidence. ALAA calls upon you to revise the marijuana prosecution
policies of your office. Lasou Kuyateh is only one example of a young black man’s life being
upended over an accusation of possessing a minimal amount of marijuana.

Officer Erickson also testified falsely under oath. This clear perjury undermines the trust that the
People of New York place in the NYPD and the city’s District Attorneys. ALAA calls upon your
office to fully investigate this incident, and consider what criminal charges should be brought
against Officer Erickson.

Pursuant to your office’s legal obligation under Brady, ALAA specifically requests prompt
disclosures be made regarding these officers in any case in which they are involved, should your
office choose to continue to prosecuting such cases.

We trust that your office will take all necessary actions to remedy the injustice suffered by Mr.
Kuyateh, and, based on the statistics herein provided, to address the likelihood that Officers
Erickson and Pastran have engaged in similar misconduct disproportionately affecting people of
color.

Respectfully,

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys


50 Broadway, Suite 1600
New York, NY 10004
646-598-4226

Enclosures (2)
(Among arrests based on officer observation)

(Among arrests based on officer observation)