New York is an amazing state and city, but it is not without its problems. Just like the rest of the country, police corruption and racial tensions crop up regularly.
The latest decision from federal prosecutors speaks to this reality when it was announced that they would be seeking the death penalty against a former New York police officer charged with the kidnapping and murder of four men in 2016. New York State has outlawed the death penalty.
However, it is still available under crimes charged in federal court. Under the current administration, the U.S. Justice Department has been seeking the death penalty with more frequency than under President Obama’s last term, which slowed to a near moratorium. In this particular district, no one from the jurisdiction has been put to death since 1953, when the Rosenbergs were executed for spying on the government.
Nicholas Tartaglione is a former Briarcliff Manor police officer, in Westchester County just 30 miles north of the City. The government contends that Tartaglione and another man lured one man, Martin Luna, to a club because he was owed money from a previous drug deal that had gone wrong.
They ended up killing Luna and his three companions who he had brought for his own protection, although they had played no role in the drug deal. Tartaglione is also accused of being part of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine since June 2015, and the deaths are connected to his actions with that role.
The four individuals had not been heard from since April 18, 2016, when their bodies were recovered several months later from a farm property, where Tartaglione was a tenant.
He has been charged with four charges of murder as well as conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. According to media reports, Tartaglione has had several scrapes with the law in his time as a police officer.
In 1999, he was suspended after he was arrested on perjury charges after he was accused of lying to prosecutors regarding a drunk-driving arrested he had made. While he was acquitted at trial, he was fired on departmental charges. He later successfully sued to get his job back.
Gerard Benderoth was a close friend of Tartaglione and it has been questioned whether or not he played a role in the crime, which has not been confirmed by the FBI. He served over ten years in the NYPD and was a 9/11 responder.
He was pulled over by the FBI and shot and killed himself as they approached his vehicle. Media reports state that he and his wife had defaulted on their mortgage and were facing foreclosure in April 2015 – right around the same time that Tartaglione became involved in his cocaine ring.
Of course, this is all speculation, and the truth may never come out about why Gerard Benderoth took his own life. Mr. Tartaglione’s own defense lawyer has simply stated that he was on a long list of individuals they wanted to talk to, and could only theorize about what led to his death.