The Essex County Prosecutor's office and Newark Police Internal Affairs are confirming that there is an active investigation into official misconduct by one or more police office.
A Newark police officer is at the center of a potentially explosive scandal stemming from allegations leveled by a community counselor, Darryl Barnes.
He say, 'What would it be worth for you, if I bail you out? How much could you give me?'" Barnes claims the officer said.
This story of alleged extortion and theft began with an incident on a Newark street in the early morning of September 5.
Barnes says he had just gotten out of his minivan when three uniformed Newark cops pulled up in an unmarked vehicle, told him to put up his hands and started going through his pockets.
"I had $121.21 in my front pocket," Barnes said, who said the officers did not say he was under arrest. "They just told me to get in the car."
He says the officers drove around Newark, even stopped at McDonald's, before finally arriving at the 5th Precinct where Barnes says he was told he had an outstanding warrant, and that his bail would be $125.
"Right now today, I don't know what it was for," Barnes said.
Barnes says it got worse when his property was returned, minus $100 he says cops had taken out of his pocket.
"There was only $21.21. in there," he said.
He claims when he started to complain, he was approached by an officer at the precinct he later identified as Darryl Taylor who tried to make a deal for the bail money -- an extortion deal.
"He said, 'What would it be worth to you if I bond you out?' I said, 'I could give you $200,'" Barnes explained. "He said, 'It's gotta be worth more than that.' He said, 'How about 3.' It was like a loan shark. Give him $300, he would pay my bail and I could leave."
Barnes says Officer Taylor gave him his cell phone number. We have phone records to prove there were calls.
"He told me, when you get to your truck, call me and I'll tell you where to meet me on the said of the station to bring me my $300," Barnes said.
Barnes also says he told officers at the precinct he'd just cashed his paycheck and that there was nearly $900 in the glove box of his minivan. When he got to his truck, he claims the cash was gone.
He said there were no sign of forced entry and the police department had the keys while he was locked up.
Barnes contacted internal affairs, and us. We watched on a recent day as crime scene investigators dusted the minivan for fingerprints and removed the glove box to examine it.
Barnes recorded two telephone conversations with Officer Taylor. In one, Barnes offers to give back $125, the amount of the bail.
BARNES: "So you saying you don't want it back?"
TAYLOR: "It was a gift man. And uh, just watch yourself around here, you know next time. You know what I'm saying."
BARNES: "So, you just gave me the 125 on the house. I appreciate it."
TAYLOR: "Right, just move on. All right?"
In a second conversation Officer Taylor denies there was a shakedown and claims that a co-worker of Barnes, George Mitchell, posted the bail. We talked to Mitchell.
"He's lying because I didn't post bail and there's no bail slip with my name on it," Mitchell said.
There's one other thing. Officer Taylor admits on tape that he'd left the precinct to check on Barnes' van, but denied knowing anything about the missing money.
WALLACE: "You posted bail for him?. You gave him your cell phone number and we have you on tape telling him that was a gift and to forget about it. What would that have meant?"
TAYLOR: "No, it wasn't a gift. What happened, I can't speak to it now on camera because I'm a police officer. If you have any questions, you can refer that to the police department."
Taylor denied posting the $125 bail.
WALLACE: "Well, then, who posted it? And you told a friend of his who came down not to worry about it. Did you not, sir? Sir, you are accused of posting his bail then shaking him down for $300 after that. That's a pretty serious offense. Do you want to hear the tape we have, the cell phone call with him?"
TAYLOR: "No. Like I said, if you have any questions you can refer them to the police department."
"I feel bad about my money, and you know, I feel that with them doing me like this, how many other people have they done wrong and people are just afraid to go to anybody about it," Barnes said.
We've repeatedly asked the Newark Police department to clarify why Darryl Barnes was arrested in the first place, and we've gotten no response. Perhaps Barnes' attorney will have better luck. Civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby has now taken his case.
NEW INFORMATION (11/12/09): We've learned on Thursday that the FBI asked for a meeting to hear Barnes' allegations. Newark PD also confirmed to us there is an active internal affairs investigation. We know they dusted Barnes minivan for fingerprints and examined his glove box -- we watched it happen. And we know Barnes gave them the tapes of the phone conversations. A source inside the Essex county Prosecutor's office, which is also investigating, told us they are looking at the entire scope of the allegations.
And way was he stopped in the first place? He claims cops told him he had an outstanding warrant he says he knows nothing about. Barnes says that after cops learned about our investigation, he was notified by Newark police he faces a new arrest for failing to show up for a court date on that mystery warrant.
We'd like to hear from you if you have information about this or any other investigative story. Call our tipline at 877-TIP-NEWS or you can email us directly at email@example.com.