Two former high-ranking commanders indicted in the NYPD corruption scandal have hired one of the city’s top private investigators to dig up dirt on the government’s star witness.
James Harkins, a retired decorated detective with a build like an NFL lineman, has helped criminal defense lawyers secure acquittals in federal and state trials involving murder, gangland killings and the U.S. Naval Academy sex assault case.
Harkins, 52, has been shaking the trees and beating the bushes on behalf of now retired Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant, who are charged with taking gifts and free vacations from shady businessman Jonah Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg in return for official favors.
“The fact that he is the go-to guy for high-ranking members of law enforcement when they find themselves in hot water, should tell you everything you need to know about how highly regarded and effective he is,” said a source with knowledge of the federal case.
Harrington’s lawyer Andrew Weinstein refused to confirm or deny whether Harkins is working for him in the corruption case, but praised his investigative assistance in the Naval Academy trial in which Midshipman Tra’ves Bush was cleared of sexual assault charges.
“I credit him and his tireless work ethic for many of my own professional successes,” Weinstein said.
Other lawyers say Harkins is a throwback to private eyes who get results by old-fashioned shoe leather and relentlessly knocking on doors, rather than punching keys on a computer.
Approached outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Harkins declined to comment.
His office is located in Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Center, and he is known to frequent a discreet table in the rear of the Tribeca Grill restaurant.
Harkins retired from the NYPD Intelligence Division after getting promoted to detective second-grade for his work with the feds nailing Vere (Joker) Padmore, the cross-dressing leader of a violent robbery crew that included dirty cop Anthony Trotman.