Former de Blasio NYPD security head pleads guilty in obstruction investigation

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By Dan Sears

The NYPD inspector who oversaw former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s security detail pleaded guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday afternoon to six charges related to his attempts to obstruct an investigation into de Blasio’s alleged misuse of the detail.

Howard Redmond was charged with two counts of tampering with physical evidence, two counts of second-degree obstructing governmental administration and two counts of official misconduct. The first crime is a class E felony, while the other two are misdemeanors.

Assistant District Attorney Samantha Dworken said in court that the conviction would remind New York City’s public officials that “no one is above the law.”

Redmond admitted to deleting text messages and refusing to cooperate with investigators looking into allegations that de Blasio wrongfully deployed his NYPD security detail for private uses, as well as on trips for his failed presidential campaign.

Redmond, who wore a dark suit and blue tie with close-cropped brown hair, walked into court around 2:15 p.m. with his attorney, Louis La Pietra. As he waited for the judge to appear, Redmond sat quietly in the pews and occasionally closed his eyes. He then walked to the stand, raised his right hand, stated his name and promised not to lie.

After La Pietra told the judge that his client planned to plead guilty, she asked a series of questions, to which Redmond repeatedly answered “yes, your honor,” in a quiet monotone.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Justice Laurie Peterson asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Redmond answered.

The NYPD did not provide any comment but confirmed that Redmond had been “dismissed.” Prosecutors said in court that he was terminated in late July as a condition of his plea deal.

The plea agreement also requires Redmond to perform 10 days — or 70 hours — of community service and to apologize for his actions, which he did in a brief, sentence-long statement in court. He also agreed to waive the time off he had accrued, which prosecutors said equates to a forfeiture of about $250,000.

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Redmond’s attorney told the judge his client had agreed to face unemployment and “public humiliation” in order to acknowledge his responsibility and “move on with his life.” La Pietra did not immediately respond to Gothamist’s request for comment.

‘A lack of candor’

During the de Blasio administration, Redmond oversaw the NYPD’s Executive Protection and Uniformed Operations units, which are responsible for protecting the mayor and locations such as City Hall and Gracie Mansion. Members of the security detail are NYPD employees, but they spend their time providing round-the-clock security to the mayor and the first lady. Sometimes other members of the mayor’s immediate family are also covered.

Redmond came under scrutiny in recent years when city watchdogs began looking into allegations that de Blasio had misused the security detail during his mayoralty and his brief run for president.

A 2021 report by the Department of Investigation found that de Blasio had cost the city about $320,000 in travel expenses for out-of-state trips with his NYPD detail during his presidential campaign. It also accused the mayor’s family of using the police detail to help his daughter move and to give his son rides to and from college, his job and other locations throughout the city.

The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board fined de Blasio $155,000 earlier this year — the biggest penalty it has ever imposed — and also ordered him to repay the approximately $320,000 in travel costs. De Blasio has denied wrongdoing and is disputing the order.

But this case is not about whether the former mayor broke any rules. It is about allegations that Redmond tried to obstruct the investigations.

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The 2021 DOI report devoted an entire section to “Inspector Redmond’s Cell Phone Communications and Obstructive Conduct.” Investigators described repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempting to access Redmond’s City Hall-issued cellphone. Eventually, he turned the phone over, but with missing messages. When asked to turn over his NYPD-issued phone, he gave it to the NYPD’s IT department in exchange for an upgrade and turned over the new phone, instead. The department had to track down the old phone from its technology recycling vendor in order to inspect its contents.

DOI investigators found that Redmond’s phone was set to automatically delete messages every 30 days. But newer messages had also been erased, according to the report. A calendar event named “Meeting Gracie” appeared in his calendar three days before the mayor and the first lady sat down for an interview with the agency.

One former NYPD detective told the DOI that Redmond had instructed members of the security detail to block the police department from reviewing their communications. The watchdog agency also found that many members of the unit were using encrypted texting apps, like WhatsApp and Signal, which made it difficult for investigators to see their messages.

The DOI also accused Redmond of trying to obstruct the investigation during a sworn interview with investigators.

“He demonstrated a lack of candor, repeatedly claimed he could not recall the facts around matters under his direct supervision, and gave multiple answers that were not credible in light of the objective evidence and the sworn statements of other witnesses,” the report stated.

The DOI report noted that the NYPD lacks written policies or procedures for its mayoral security detail and recommended that it set clearer guidelines for when it is or is not appropriate for the unit to provide protection. It also suggested that members of the security detail receive training on electronic retention, so that their communications are preserved in following with Freedom of Information Law requirements.

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Redmond joined the department in 1992, according to city payroll records, and earned more than $200,000 last year. He is the third member of the NYPD to be charged in recent weeks by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who served as the inaugural leader of a unit in the state attorney general’s office tasked with investigating officers who kill unarmed people.

Last month, former Staten Island NYPD Sgt. Adrian Dejesus pleaded guilty to several charges for beating a man in a holding cell. In a separate case the same month, Officer Salvatore Provenzano pleaded not guilty to a third-degree assault indictment on allegations that he hit a man in the face while attempting to remove him from an Apple store.

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