Charges dropped against drug suspect arrested by probed cop

Posted: May 16, 2009

City prosecutors yesterday dropped charges against a suspected drug dealer after a judge denied their request to continue the case pending the outcome of an investigation into the arresting officer, Jeffrey Cujdik.

Cujdik is at the center of an FBI and local police probe that arose after Cujdik's longtime informant, Ventura Martinez, said in a Feb. 9 Daily News article that Cujdik had instructed him to lie about some drug buys so that officers could obtain search warrants to enter homes of suspected dealers.

Cujdik obtained a search warrant for the Kensington home of Harold Cancel in December 2007, after asserting that he and fellow narcotics Officer Robert McDonnell observed Martinez purchase marijuana from Cancel, court records show.

Cancel, 34, was charged with a slew of serious charges, including drug dealing, gun possession, robbery and aggravated assault on an officer. Officer Thomas Tolstoy alleged that Cancel attacked him and tried to grab his police weapon after Cancel "dove" through a glass porch window. Cancel was taken to the hospital, where he received stitches in his leg, police said.

Cancel's case was slated for trial yesterday, but Assistant District Attorney Mark Levenberg said he asked for a continuance "to await the outcome of the ongoing investigation" into Cujdik and the narcotics officers who worked closely with him.

Cancel's attorney, Perry deMarco Sr., argued against a postponement, saying it would be unfair for his client to have charges hanging over his head, particularly because Levenberg couldn't provide the judge with a timeframe for the completion of the Cujdik investigation.

Common Pleas Judge A. Jack Snite Jr. agreed and denied the state's request to delay the case. As a result, Levenberg withdrew the charges.

DeMarco said he believed that both Snite and Levenberg "did the proper thing." Prosecutors have five years from the date of Cancel's Dec. 11, 2007, arrest to re-file the felony charges. *

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