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CASES AND PRESS

'BRIBE' POLICE FIGHTING BACK

LAURA ITALIANO - June 14, 2006

They were on the take on the cheap, prosecutors say - selling their police badges for street-vendor jackets, Coach bags, perfume and other knock-off trifles.

But yesterday, two Chelsea detectives came out swinging in Manhattan Supreme Court during powerful opening statements that tried to poke holes in the DA's felony bribery case. It accuses them of agreeing to take cheap counterfeit goods in return for speeding a peddler's arrest processing.

The DA's case fails to show, either by wiretaps or surveillance video, that the cops ever got anything - or even the promise of anything - in direct return for an official favor, their lawyers argued.

"Detective Brian Bartlett never sold his detective's shield," his lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, insisted to jurors on day one of the cops' joint trial on bribe receiving and receiving unlawful gratuities.

"He never even approached the line of being a dirty cop," said Eric Franz, lawyer for the second cop, Detective Rodney Lewis.

Bartlett, 39, and Lewis, 41, were arrested and stripped of their guns to much fanfare last summer, along with three fellow officers from the 13th Precinct.

In announcing the arrests, prosecutors said their two-year joint DA-NYPD investigation caught the five officers taking cheap counterfeit merchandise as bribes from an enterprising Broadway $2 belt peddler, Jamil Faied.

So far, the case has been proven against only one cop, Jashua Penalo, who was caught cold on wiretap warning Faied about an upcoming search warrant.

Penalo pleaded guilty last year, and is serving three years' probation.

The remaining two cops, Officers George Santiago, 39, and Jaime Albertelli, 32, are awaiting trial later this year, as is Faied, who is accused of bribing all five.

Bartlett is on trial after wiretaps caught him asking a peddler to get him "two pink Coach pocketbooks," and, on another occasion, some "Crystal Ball" perfume - an apparent reference to the designer scent "Cristobal."But the cops could have planned to pay for the items, or the goods could have been gifts with no strings attached, the defense lawyers argued.

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