NY1 Exclusive: Police Sting Operation Lucky Bag Has Some Calling Entrapment
Should New Yorkers be arrested for picking up an unattended bag and not turning it in? The New York Police Department has a sting operation to do just that, but one couple caught up in it says they were doing nothing wrong. NY1’s Criminal Justice reporter Solana Pyne filed the following report.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
For Aquarius Cheers and Kia Graves, it started as a routine trip to Target Thursday night to buy their daughter diapers. They were waiting for a train at 59th Street.
“I look around and I end up seeing this bag,” recalled Cheers. “It was a Verizon bag. I took it, and look inside of it. I saw there was some electronics. Next thing I know the train is coming.”
They grabbed the bag and rushed for the train.
"I was like Îjust bring the bag,’ not thinking twice about it,” said Graves. “I was thinking Îoh we could find a receipt in there,’ and possibly go back to the phone company Verizon."
Then a team of undercover officers grabbed Cheers and charged him with petty larceny.
"I was like, Îwhat is that?’” said Cheers. “And the officer said, that what I did was basically akin to shoplifting. I was like, Îbut I'm not a shoplifter. I'm not a thief.’"
The NYPD calls the sting Operation Lucky Bag, where officers plant a bag and arrest those who take it and do not turn it into a uniformed officer posted nearby.
Cheers says he saw the officer but in the rush to catch the train did not think to give it to him.
"If I thought I was doing anything wrong, I wouldn't have run past a uniformed police officer to catch my train with the bag," he said.
The NYPD credits Operation Lucky Bag with having helped cut crime dramatically in the subways. They say it has led to the arrest of many career criminals.
"Law-abiding individuals return property all the time,” said the NYPD in a statement. “Those who take it away are arrested."
But more than half of the 220 people arrested in the program last year had no prior records. Civil rights attorneys say the stings may constitute entrapment.
"If the citizen was not going to commit the crime, but was tempted or enticed by police or law enforcement to do the criminal act, the courts will throw that out," explained Norman Siegel, a civil rights attorney.
A Brooklyn judge threw out one Lucky Bag arrest, pointing out that the city's personal property law gives people ten-days to turn in found property worth more than $20.
"The police should concentrate their noble efforts on behalf of a city on countering real crimes committed every day,” said Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino of Brooklyn Federal Court in his ruling. “They do not need to manipulate a situation where temptation may overcome even people who would normally never think of committing a crime."
Cheers agreed to a plea deal where he did not admit any guilt. If he does not get arrested in six months, the arrest will be wiped from his record. But, he says, not from his memory.
- Solana Pyne
Community Questions Latest Police Sting