With House in Play in 2024 Elections, NYPD Record of Rep. Anthony D’Esposito Called Into Question

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

NEW YORK (Daily News/TNS) — Rep. Anthony D’Esposito has made his police career a central piece of his tough-on-crime image, but a closer look at the Long Island Republican’s time with the NYPD suggests his carefully cultivated portrait isn’t as true blue as it might first appear.

D’Esposito is locked in a general election battle with Democrat Laura Gillen, whom he defeated in 2022 for a then-open congressional seat.

In the current contest, Gillen has made the argument that one term is enough for the GOP incumbent and that — with control of the House of Representatives hanging in the balance — the 4th Congressional District, which includes portions of Nassau County, is “the #1 most flippable seat in the country.”

Gillen’s criticisms include aspects of D’Esposito’s career as a cop.

A Daily News review of police and court records shows that in April 2011, when the federal lawmaker served as detective in Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct, a defendant named Donald James claimed D’Esposito seized a white gold chain from him during his arrest and that it wasn’t returned.

James made a complaint, which was assigned an NYPD internal affairs tracking number and labeled a “corruption case,” according to department records obtained by The News. A year later, the complaint was “partially substantiated,” though it is not clear if any consequences accompanied that finding.

During his time at the same Brownsville precinct, D’Esposito faced another complaint in 2007 stemming from his bartender moonlighting gig, which The News reported in 2022. Previously unreported is the allegation that, while moonlighting, he was “known for flashing his gun around” and being “reckless.” That complaint found its way to the internal affairs division, too, and was filed under “misconduct.”

While records list the “disposition” of that situation as “unsubstantiated,” the allegations are described as “partially substantiated.” Records show D’Esposito was ultimately docked 15 vacation days for “wrongfully” working as a disc jockey and serving alcoholic beverages “without authority or permission to do so.”

That same year, internal affairs also began looking into another misconduct complaint alleging D’Esposito was “sometimes driving while intoxicated and disgracing the uniform,” but records show that claim was ultimately determined to be “unsubstantiated.”

In the context of police personnel records, the term unsubstantiated roughly translated means there was not a preponderance of evidence to prove the claims were true.

More recently — just last year — the city settled a lawsuit alleging D’Esposito lied in 2011 to a grand jury and then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. about a suspect named Gregory Crockett residing in a house where illegal weapons were kept. Two years later, in 2013, after Crockett had spent 22 days in jail, all of the charges against him were dropped. Later that year, Crockett sued the city and D’Esposito. As part of the settlement, the city had to pay out $250,000, but admitted no wrongdoing in the case.

Joel Berger, a veteran criminal defense attorney who’s won more than $9 million from the city in lawsuits alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force, said D’Esposito’s history suggests cause for concern.

“It’s not the worst, but it’s not good either,” Berger told The News.

Prior to D’Esposito’s 2022 election win, the seat he now occupies had been held for nearly a decade by Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat.

D’Esposito — who has endorsed former President Donald Trump and whose NYPD personnel report boasts of skills like “feature writing,” “journalism” and “firefighting” — has made the case voters should keep the seat Republican and grant him a second term, citing his efforts to roll back bail reform and secure the U.S. border.

On immigration, the Nassau County GOPer has notably praised fellow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for busing migrants to New York, a policy that’s weathered criticism in New York for costing local governments billions of dollars and spreading social services infrastructure thin.

“I would rather the migrants not be shipped to New York, [but] when you’re elected into office, your job is to find solutions to problems and that’s exactly what he did,” D’Esposito said of Abbott in April.

Gillen disagrees with D’Esposito on that issue — as well as on other fronts — including how he’s framed his law enforcement experience to voters.

“During his time in the NYPD, on the Hempstead Town Council, and now in Congress, Anthony D’Esposito has shown a pattern of corruption, dishonesty and incompetence and exposed his extremism along the way,” Gillen told The News. “Long Island families deserve better.”

D’Esposito’s campaign spokesman Matt Capp shot back that “unsubstantiated claims often parroted by anti-police progressives cannot deny the fact that Congressman D’Esposito served with distinction as a decorated NYPD detective.”

“Instead of working to reverse the deteriorating public safety situation in New York ushered in by Democrats’ disastrous bail reform legislation, anti-police activists choose to weaponize a flawed NYPD complaint process in a failing attempt to tarnish the reputation of law enforcement professionals like Congressman D’Esposito who work tirelessly to eradicate violence from local communities,” Capp added.

An NYPD spokesman did not directly respond to questions seeking clarity about D’Esposito’s personnel records, noting only that he retired in July 2020.

The internal affairs probes into D’Esposito, which have not been previously reported, aren’t the only examples of past NYPD conduct that has been called into question.

As first reported in The News, aside from the $250,000 the city had to cough up as part of the Crockett case, it also paid out $82,500 in taxpayer funds to settle two other lawsuits filed in federal court.

In one of those lawsuits, plaintiff Vaughan Bethea of Brooklyn accused the ex-cop and several other officers of illegally stopping and frisking him on Dec. 3, 2013.

The charges against Bethea were ultimately dropped, but according to the lawsuit, he was locked up at Rikers Island for six days after failing to make bail. The lawsuit was settled in October 2014, and records maintained by the city Law Department show the city paid out $45,000 to Bethea.

In the other lawsuit, three plaintiffs claimed they were falsely arrested and detained, and they named D’Esposito, the city and two NYPD sergeants as defendants. That suit was ultimately settled in March 2016 with a payout of $37,500, according to records kept by the Law Department.

In addition to that, in 2015, D’Esposito “failed to safeguard” his department-issued firearm, which was stolen from a vehicle he left it in. The former cop was later found guilty in an administrative hearing of failing to secure the gun and was forced to forfeit 20 vacation days as a result.

Mike Deery, D’Esposito’s former campaign spokesman, said his boss “had his police firearm stolen from a gun safe that was bolted to the chassis of the vehicle he used as the volunteer chief of the Island Park Fire Department.”

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