Feds: Ex-NYC officer charged with bribery sent racist text

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NEW YORK (AP) — A white New York City police officer once bragged about trying to scare Black people for kicks by randomly pointing his gun at them while on the job, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in announcing corruption charges against the officer and two others who worked together at the same precinct.

In court papers, prosecutors quoted a text that Robert Smith allegedly sent following his retirement in 2020 recounting how he would point his gun out his car window at people he described using a version of the N-word.

He would “watch their reaction and drive away,” he wrote. “Hilarious.”

Smith also exchanged messages about committing numerous robberies and shakedowns, or “shakes” as he called them, prosecutors said. “Bro I robbed everyone,” they said he wrote.

On video, he described himself as “the perp that got away” and “one of the most corrupt cops in the 105,” referring to the 105th Precinct in Queens, where the three defendants served, prosecutors added.

The texts and videos were not cited as evidence in the bribery case in federal court in Brooklyn. But prosecutors used them to argue that Smith should be denied bail.

The former officer pleaded not guilty on Tuesday at an arraignment where a judge agreed he should remain behind bars. His lawyer declined comment afterward.

The court papers accused Smith and current Officer Robert Hassett of hatching a scheme starting in 2016 to take thousands of dollars in bribes to summon a specific tow truck company to car accident scenes, instead of using a system meant to distribute the business at random. Smith allegedly recruited a second current officer, Heather Busch, to join the kickback scam after he retired.

Smith and Hassett also were accused of using restricted police databases to run the names of car accident victims and provide the information to a person who sold it to physical therapy businesses and personal injury attorneys to solicit business. The middleman paid the officers about $7,000 for information on more than 100 people, the court papers said.

“As alleged, the defendants shamelessly violated their oaths of office and the public trust by trading their badges for cash payments,” acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko said in a statement.

Smith, 44, was additionally facing charges he agreed to transport a kilo (2.2 pounds) of heroin for drug traffickers after his retirement. He was paid $1,200 in a deal to carry his gun and retired police identification for the task, prosecutors said.

Hassett, 36, and Busch, 34, were to appear in court by teleconference later Tuesday. The names of their attorneys were not immediately available.

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