N.Y.P.D. Officers Charged in Champagne Theft at Electric Zoo Festival
Three New York City police detectives were charged on Monday in the theft of nearly $3,000 worth of Champagne from a V.I.P. area at a popular electronic dance music festival where they had been assigned to stop drug-related activity.
Two of the three, Jonathan Gonzalez and Wojciech Czech, are accused of stealing pricey bottles of “Ace of Spades” Champagne at the Electric Zoo festival on Randall’s Island last fall, according to court documents. The third, Warren Golden, is accused of failing to stop them.
“Public confidence in the criminal justice system depends on members of law enforcement acting with the utmost integrity while on duty and following the same rules that apply to everyone else,” Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement.
As laid out in court documents, the detectives were part of a narcotics-enforcement detail on Sept. 3 during last year’s version of the annual festival, which draws tens of thousands of electronic dance music fans and dozens of top acts over several days.
The detectives, court documents say, were stationed in a V.I.P. area where people at one table had ordered bottles of the Champagne, which is officially named Armand de Brignac but is better known as Ace of Spades because of its logo. (The brand is owned by Jay-Z and the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.)
At one point, the people who had ordered the Champagne stepped away, and Detective Gonzalez took two of their unopened bottles and put them on a different table near where he, Detective Czech and Detective Golden had been standing, according to court documents. The bottles had a combined value of $2,900, the district attorney’s office said.
Detective Gonzalez then retrieved a backpack, returned to the table and put the bottles into the backpack after Detective Czech handed them to him, court documents say. One of the people who had ordered the Champagne saw what was happening, and when he and the rest of his group returned to their table, the detectives quickly left the area, court documents say.
With the backpack in tow, court documents say, the detectives tried to enter a restricted, staff-only area, where a festival security officer stopped them. Detective Gonzalez identified himself as a police officer and insisted that he and his colleagues should be allowed pass through, court documents say.
The people who had ordered the Champagne confronted the detectives in front of the security officer, who removed the bottles from the backpack, returned them to their owners and contacted his employer, who in turn contacted the police, court documents say.
Detectives Gonzalez and Czech were arrested on Monday, the police said. They are charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, both felonies, according to a news release from Mr. Bragg’s office. Detective Gonzalez is also charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor, as is Detective Golden, the release says.
The charges arose from a joint investigation by the district attorney’s office and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. The department said in a statement that Detective Gonzalez, 33, and Detective Czech, 44, had been suspended from duty and that police officials would “initiate further discipline where appropriate.”
Detective Gonzalez and Detective Czech pleaded not guilty at arraignments on Monday. Detective Golden, 31, is to be arraigned later this week.
Oliver Storch, a lawyer for Detective Czech, said his client was “shocked” by the charges. “We ask that the public withhold judgment until these charges can be addressed in the appropriate forum,” he said.
Peter Brill, a lawyer for Detective Gonzalez, said his client would ultimately be cleared of the charges, and he accused Mr. Bragg of engaging in a “rush to judgment.”
Detective Golden’s lawyer, Jacob Weinstein, said that his client had “done nothing wrong” and was being charged with “guilt by association” and that the case had “no basis in the facts or the law.”
The company that promotes the Electric Zoo festival, Made Events, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.