A 25-year NYPD veteran — who was acquitted by a Brooklyn federal jury today of charges he tried to hide money from the tax man — slammed the police department, which fired him last week without explanation, and vowed to go after the department for what he called a "vindictive" prosecution.
Former sergeant William Lewis was charged last December with "structuring" – trying to duck IRS reports that are automatically triggered when more than $10,000 is withdrawn from a bank account. He claimed that he was in fact trying to keep the money from his ex-wife.
"I’m finally vindicated," he said. "It was an absolute witch hunt."
Although it was the feds that brought the case against him, Lewis is convinced that it was driven by the NYPD after he beat the rap on a 2007 Internal Affairs Bureau investigation.
In 2007, the department accused Lewis of calling a Staten Island bar owner friend of his, to alert him to an ongoing gambling investigation at the establishment. Lewis was cleared after it was revealed that the department falsified records of phone calls between him and the bar owner.
The federal charges were an attempt by the police department to save face, said his lawyer Eric Franz. "This trial was the result of the vindictiveness of Internal Affairs after having been humiliated when they falsified evidence against him," said Franz.
A hulking man with a shaved head, Lewis, shouted "Thank God" when the jury foreman read the verdict this morning and slammed his fists down on the defense table as he broke down in tears.
"They ruined my life," he said outside the courtroom.
His lawyer vowed to go after not only his pension, which was forfeited when he was fired, but also his accusers within the police department.
"I plan on using all my resources to obtain Mr. Lewis’ pension for him and to pursue a civil rights violation against those members of the department who are responsible," said Franz.
"I don’t want my job back," Lewis told The Post. "I want my pension back, which I deserve."
During the two-day trial, prosecutors showed that Lewis made 25 withdrawals, all under $10,000, during a one month period. He then put the money in a safe at home to avoid his ex-wife getting her hands on it, he maintained.
But it was the other woman in his life that turned out to be the problem.
After a lover’s quarrel, his fiancé took the money out of the safe and hid it in a closet. Lewis called the police to report the money missing and when he found out that his current squeeze was responsible, he had her go explain herself to the Staten Island police.
By that time Internal Affairs had started asking questions and turned their findings over to the feds.
Jurors, however, had a hard time seeing the crime.
"I personally felt that there was not intent to defraud the government," said Juan Santiago, a juror from Staten Island. "I couldn’t figure out who the victim was. He should sue."
The NYPD did not respond to a call seeking comment.