I didn’t think that I would have to update my “Allegations Against Mr. Portelos” list again, but unfortunately I did. Those who have been working tirelessly to end my career hit a new low. A new allegation came in through the NYC Police Department, not the Special Commissioner of Investigation, and led to me being handcuffed and spending 33 hours behind bars before I was released and the case was dismissed.
This graph looks even more ridiculous now as the number of allegations against me hits 33:
Here is what happened. Nuke some popcorn and sit down.
On Tuesday March 4, 2014, I received a voicemail from Detective William Connor of the “84 Squad.” I found out later that “84 Squad” meant “Detective Unit of the 84th Precinct” in Brooklyn. I called back not thinking too much of it and he tells me that there was a complaint made against me by Chief Information Security Officer Desmond White involving alleged hacking of the NYC payroll system. It had something to do with my satirical post from February How to “Hack” the DOE Payroll Portal and Give Yourself a Raise. Apparently some people can’t take a joke. I laughed and told the detective I did no such thing.
I believe the DOE lawyers put Desmond White up to this as I have been communicating with him since Spring 2012 and didn’t think he would do this on his own. I mean I hope the Chief Security Officer really didn’t believe I hacked the payroll system and gave myself a raise with the password “KittensRcute.” If he did, then perhaps we need to find a new Chief Information Security Officer. Detective Connor told me to come down and make a statement so he can close the case. I set up an appointment for Thursday March 6, 2014 at 4 PM. It was annoying to have to go there, but I figured I might as well just help close this ridiculous case. I should have known better after my experiences with SCI and OSI investigators. After I spoke to a few NYPD and lawyer friends about this, they all agreed this actually meant I was going to be arrested. “What?? I’m innocent!” I responded to them. I contacted the UFT as we are supposed to do when investigators want to speak to us. Even though it was not SCI, it was still an investigative body who was charging me as an employee. The UFT contracted out a criminal attorney who contacted Detective Connor. Connor stated that they believe I may have violated NY Penal Code 195 – Official Misconduct, but he has to speak to DOE Legal and NYPD Legal. DOE Legal? My lawyer was able to push the meeting to Monday March 10, 2014 at 10 AM in the morning. The idea was that if I am there early and it doesn’t go well, then at least I can make it in time for night court and be released. Plus by Monday all the weekend “troublemakers” would be through the system and out. “You can be there two to six hours.” I was told. That’s not how Detective Connor let it play out.
Going to jail was something I had obviously only seen in the movies and TV. I didn’t know what to expect and only had 30 years of TV to educate me on jail atmosphere. I think it started from C.H.I.P.S. So, over the weekend, I decided to do some heavy weight lifting and get a tattoo in preparation for my possible jail time. I practiced mean looks in the mirror to the point I scared myself. I was ready…
On Monday morning, I drop my wife off at work and my kids at my mother-in-law. I take my driver’s license, $25, a calling card and my MetroCard and I went on my way. Oh, I also had $10 in quarters, but I left it in a roll, just in case things got ugly in the cell. (Disclaimer: Lawyers, please do not use that as “intent to commit assault”…it’s a joke.) I took no cell phone so it would not be confiscated. I already felt powerless. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself reaching for my belt holster…no phone…ahhh…. I was already going crazy. When I got out of the Jay Street station I was already lost. I was going to pull up Google Maps and find my way, but again…no phone. I did it the old 1987 way and asked someone. A woman was nice enough to point me in the wrong direction. “Gold Street? Gold Street is that way, I tink.” she said, as she apparently pointed south. I walked an extra ten minutes in the wrong direction. It was a gentle reminder that we rely on technology too much.
I finally arrive at the 84th Precinct at 301 Gold Street. Before I stepped in I again reached for my nonexistent phone to take a picture and check in on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. I walk in and tell the desk officer I was there looking for Detective Connor. He makes a call and in a few minutes two detectives came down. “Somebody here for Connor?” one asks. “Yeah. I’m here for Connor.” I replied. “Follow me.” the big fella, who I later found was called “Wilson”, says as he holds the door open to go to the sergeant’s desk. “Nice hat.” I tell the other detective, who I learned was called “Roman.” He was also wearing a Sicilian-style cap like I was. Oh, by the way, I wasn’t wearing my usual suit and tie, but opted for laceless black shoes, black jeans and a button-down (to keep it a little classy) with black jacket. My comrade David Suker, a targeted teacher who has been arrested for peaceful protests, told me to wear something I can use as a pillow and my attorney told me to wear laceless shoes since they would take my laces away. Apparently, laces can be used as a weapon. Oh, I also brought a book with me to keep me occupied and focused. I would usually do eBooks and have “The Future of our Schools” by Dr. Lois Weiner, “Davonte’s Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag” by Laura M. Sturt or “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch, but no electronics. Therefore, I grabbed a paperback book from my library. I brought “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Professor Thomas S. Kuhn of MIT. I thought that book would help keep my mind off the situation and give the illusion that I am smart.
Anyway, I walk in past the open door to the sergeant’s desk and within a minute I was handcuffed and searched. Cool…calm…and collected I was. Whatever happens, happens. I didn’t say anything and neither did Detective Wilson. He only started asking me basic questions like Social Security and address as he filled out the arrest slip. “So this is what it’s like to be arrested.” I thought. I started taking mental images of everything…. Sgt. Fort at the desk and his badge number… Captain Maximo Tolentino’s name on a sign…Detective Wilson and his badge number that he repeated out loud etc. I also knew Roman’s name because Wilson said, “Roman…help me out here.” [Recorded] Sergeant Fort stated “Wilson, what’s your badge number?” and that is how I got that information. I didn’t need my phone after all…I had my gray matter.
I was then taken to another room where I was searched again. It had a few computers and a fingerprint scanning machine. It also had two small cells about 10′ by 7′. I was placed in one without cuffs, given my book, and as the bars slammed closed, I was told “Connor will be with you shortly.” by Wilson. That was at 10:15 AM. No one came to speak to me for the next four hours. I sat there and read, but I also reflected. At around 2 PM a guy came in and asked “Portelos?” I got up and responded. He never introduced himself and there was no eye contact, but I imagined it was Detective William Connor. He slightly opened the cell enough for me to hand him my driver’s license. He left with it and I never saw him again. I got it back later from someone else. A half hour later, Roman came in to fingerprint me and take my mug shot. As much as I tried to look innocent and smile (smirk) the picture on the computer screen looked bad. Maybe they have a “Menacing look” photo filter that goes over all the pictures. As the shutter opened and closed, I thought of the people responsible for putting me there. If that photo ever surfaces, know that is what I am thinking about when you look at my eyes.
I was able to make a phone call from a desk phone to my wife and told her to call my union-appointed attorney. I spoke to her twice and that was it.
By 9 PM, eleven hours later, I had a few cellmates. B and his girl were brought in together on alleged assault when her baby daddy followed them from Family Court and attacked them at a BBQ joint. For some reason, they were arrested and he was out free. She was put in a different cell and they conversed without being able to see each other. The windows were open, so it was cold. He asked the officer if he can give her his jacket because it was cold and she was anemic. I looked up from my book and thought “Chivalry is not dead after all.” J was brought in earlier for alleged armed robbery and fake ID. He was over 21, so the fake ID didn’t make sense to me. He was high on K2 and the three of us, B, J and I spoke a lot over the next 20 hours. I was too embarrassed to ask what K2 was as I didn’t want to look street dumb. Finally I gave in and said “Oh… K2 is umm…..” “..synthetic weed.” J finished my sentence. “Oh yeah, right.” I said as if I knew all along. “It is sold as potpourri, but is really bad for you.” he continued saying. “Try and get off that stuff, bro.” I preached pulling the teacher in me out.
At around 8 PM, an officer came in and took my book away. “It can be used as a weapon,” he said. It was 10 hours since I had it. “C’mon man…don’t take his book away,” yelled B. “Officer, the only thing dangerous about that book is the knowledge inside it,” the teacher in me spewed out. The officer smiled, but took the book away, anyway, since a new sergeant was on duty. His orders.
At around 9 PM, two officers told the five of us in there that they are transporting us to Central Booking five minutes away to be processed and see the judge. They gave us the false sense that we were seeing the judge and set free that night. We weren’t. We were all taken out of the cell, one by one, and handcuffed together one hand to one hand. The sergeant saw this and said that we need to be handcuffed with both hands behind our back and then daisy-chained together. As much as we hated it, I knew he was right. A free available hand in a police van could be trouble. What wasn’t fun was being the second of five people handcuffed together and boarding a three–row van. We did it and I thought my shoulder was going to pop out of its socket as the van sped and turned through red lights with blaring sirens.
We arrived at Brooklyn Central Booking. Little did I know, but that cool air we breathed before entering the building was the last fresh air I was going to breathe for the next 20 hours.
The next three hours was a hundred or so detainees and I being corralled and searched and moved and corralled from cell to cell. There were a lot of pissed off people in there. We had more mug shots taken and they even did retinal scans. Luckily,there were no full cavity searches. The guy taking my mug shot looked at me and looked at his computer puzzled. “It says here that you are White Hispanic.” Everyone, officers and handcuffed detainees, looked at me. I’m not going to lie to you, I only saw about five White guys in there, but that is for another post all together. I was going to respond, “Si,“ but instead said “Nah…I’m Greek Italian.” That definitely built up my street cred.
After one last corral, 13 of us were put into a cell with several other cells full. We weren’t making it to court. “Time to sleep away the hours,” I thought, as I found the only available space on the floor next to the open–spaced toilet. My $10 roll of quarters had been taken apart by the officer that searched us. I forgot all 40 quarters were in my jeans, so when I laid down on the filthy floor, they all fell out, spinning on the floor. I started sweeping them up in my hand off the filthy floor and putting them into my jacket zipper pocket. “I’ll give you a dollar for four of those,” the big guy laying down above me on the bench said. “That’s a deal!”, I said, as I handed him four quarters. It was my first jail trade.
I converted my black Zara jacket into a pillow (Thanks, David!) and placed my cap over my eyes to block the light. As I tried to fall asleep, I ignored anything that felt like a roach and I ignored all the stains on the floor and wall. I tried all night not to kick anyone in the head, sleeping by my feet. As the guys started opening up to each other on why they were there and how many times they had been arrested, I started drafting this very post in my head.
I heard the big guy on the bench shuffling and I moved my hat to look. “Please don’t roll off on top of me,” I thought as I started dozing off. I think the last thought I could remember for the night was, “This is what the United States does to its educators?… No wonder we are screwed. The system is designed to fail all those sleeping around me.”
We were woken up around 6:30 AM. For me, it was 21 hours of wrongful imprisonment and 685 days of educator exile. For 685days, I have been paid not to teach because I raised concerns at my neighborhood school. Can’t lose sight of that. Those that are corrupt are free to do it again, and from coast to coast, teachers are targeted.
We were given the false hope that we were going to be brought up to court. Whenever we heard a lot of chains, we all sat up looking to see if we were being called out. The chains were the series of handcuffs they used to bring people up to court. It became sort of like a Pavlov’s Dogs scenario. Call after call, some would go and others would stay. They brought us out of the cell, two by two, to get an orange, a crappy peanut butter and jelly sandwich and warm milk. They also had Rice Krispies cereal. I realized that from 10 AM to 7 AM the next day, all I ate was a small bag of Doritos chips that the officer got me from the vending machine back in the precinct. I had slipped him money through the mesh. I wasn’t hungry, and even if I were, I was not going to eat. Not really a hunger strike, but rather the open toilet situation. Going number one was not the problem, but number two in front of over a dozen strangers was not something I was prepared to do. I’m glad I am an IBS survivor.
It was something like this:
I’m not the only one. Read about Lydia Howrilka: Bronx teacher thrown in jail after criticizing principal