From one juror’s perspective, Erie County prosecutors appeared to have an “easy open-and-shut case” against a Buffalo man accused of violating his probation in November 2020 when police allegedly found a gun and drugs in a boarding house he shared with other parolees.
That is until the case against Anthony Davis began to crumble during cross examination of a state parole officer, who was accused of planting evidence.
Specifically, court records showed that parole officer Eliezer Rosario admitted that he dropped Davis’s prison identification next to a bullet found on the TV stand in the former state parolee’s room.
The Perry Mason moment was discovered on police body camera footage, unbeknownst to Rosario, by defense attorneys Nick Texido and Sean Kelly, less than 24 hours before the jury trial.
The scene on the body cam footage is a split-second, showing a hand in a blue glove dropping the ID next to the bullet.
Rosario also admitted that he wrote on a supporting deposition that he found both items next to each other on the TV stand.
False statements by law enforcement on supporting depositions are considered misdemeanors.
“I can say for myself, I found it incredibly shocking that the officer would jeopardize a case or his own standing,” said the juror, who asked not to be identified in the story.
As a result, Rosario is off the job awaiting outcomes of two separate investigations, one by New York State Police and the other by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s internal affairs division. DOCCS hired Rosario in July 2018. He also served as a seasonal reserve deputy for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office from July 2019 through July of 2022, when he resigned, a spokesman confirmed.
DOCCS confirmed that Rosario’s employment status changed from administrative leave with pay to suspended without pay after “information became available that allowed the Department to adjust Rosario’s personnel status.” DOCCS did not reveal what information became available.
The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office is the special prosecutor for the case, an agency spokeswoman confirmed. Rosario has not been charged but the investigations remain active.
Trial transcripts obtained by News 4 Investigates spell out the testimony of Rosario and questioning by Texido that confirmed that the parole officer had planted the evidence and provided incorrect statements on the supporting deposition.
Texido: “OK. It was a lie that the bullet was right next to his New York State DOCCS identification card, right? Yes?”
Texido: “OK. But since you thought it wasn’t being recorded, you planted evidence next to the bullet, right? Let’s call it what it is; is that what you did?”
Rosario: “Yes, I put the ID there, yes.”
Texido: “And then you swore in documents that you found the ID there, right?”
The juror said Rosario was “prickly” during cross examination, and occasionally evasive, before he provided “matter-of-fact” answers in a “stoic” demeanor.
The juror said state Supreme Court Justice Paul B. Wojtaszek, told the jury after the case got dismissed that neither he nor the prosecutors knew ahead of time about what the defense attorneys had discovered.
The drama that unfolded came as quite a surprise to everyone in the courtroom except Kelly and Texido.
But Texido figured prosecutors knew something was wrong when he and Kelly admitted evidence of two photographs snapped by Rosario during the November 2020 search: one of just the bullet on the TV stand and the other of the bullet next to the ID on the TV stand.
“Now, I think the prosecution had some idea that something was amiss because they did not enter into evidence the photo with the ID. We did,” Texido said during an interview with News 4 Investigates from July. “Because we wanted to show the contrast, and to further show that it was the [parole] officer who put it there.”
The juror said he has reflected on the case multiple times since a bailiff ushered the jury out of the courtroom when prosecutors decided to drop the case because of Rosario’s testimony.
“I find it extremely disappointing and disheartening,” the juror said. “Just from a standpoint of a person who believes in the justice system, and luckily in this case I feel like the justice system worked in the way that it was supposed to.”
What has the juror a little on edge, more than two months later, is what could have happened if the defense attorneys did not spot the less-than-a-second frame on the body camera video that showed Rosario had dropped the ID next to the bullet.
“Now, had it not been for the diligence of the defense team poring over all of that footage and finding that, we could have easily have found the defendant guilty on the merits, and then walked out and never been any of the wiser,” the juror said. “And that I find personally distressing.”
On June 23, Davis filed notices of claim against the City of Buffalo and its police department and another against the state and DOCCS, which signals his intent to sue over the incident.