Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams publicly apologized Tuesday to a former transit cop whose reputation he smeared with words and pictures after she accused members of a fraternal group he once co-led of cheating on a police exam.
In 1991, Adams attacked the integrity of then-Officer Lizette Lebron — labeling her a “scorned lover” of another cop and parading photos of her in a bathing suit to the press to undermine her claims of corruption by members of the Guardians Association, a fraternal organization of Black cops.
During a news conference on an unrelated topic Tuesday, Adams, a former cop and current Brooklyn borough president, apologized when THE CITY asked about the episode.
“Thirty years ago while being a spokesperson for the Guardians Association, it was inappropriate what we did, and so a clear apology: I was wrong and when I’m wrong, I’m wrong and I don’t have a problem acknowledging that I was wrong. I was wrong,” Adams said.
The apology came two days after THE CITY first detailed the mayoral frontrunner’s attacks on Lebron and a day after his Republican rival, Curtis Sliwa, held a news conference to demand that Adams tell Lebron he was sorry.
“He needs to immediately and publicly apologize to Lizette Lebron,” Sliwa said Monday.
“This was her life’s dream to be a member of the transit police of New York City and as a result of the character assassination waged by Eric Adams, calling her ‘a disgruntled lover’ — which she was not — he effectively drove her out of the transit police and he left her a destroyed soul,” he added.
When initially confronted by THE CITY last week, Adams issued a three-sentence statement expressing regret about his actions, but fell short of an apology:
“Over 30 years ago we attempted to get to the core of a testing scandal. The way we treated Ms. Lebron during that process was wrong, and I regret that it happened. I have evolved as a person, a father and a leader over time, and I will continue to evolve to improve myself and the city around me.”
A ‘Shattered’ Dream
Lebron did not immediately respond to THE CITY’s message Tuesday notifying her that Adams had said he was sorry.
But on Sunday, Lebron expressed anger about how Adams and the Guardians had treated her those many years ago, stating that they’d effectively driven her out of the police department and even out of the city. She now lives far upstate.
“This pretty much brought me to a dark place,” she told THE CITY. “I went through a lot with this. I’ve moved on and I really don’t want to go back there anyway. I moved four hours away to be away from New York City.”
She noted that her allegations were ultimately proven true, and criticized Adams for his attempt to hide the truth.
“He should regret what he did,” Lebron said. “They should all regret what they did because I was telling the truth and I backed up what I said. People went to jail.”
In 1991, Lebron went to the transit police internal affairs unit regarding the actions of a member of the Guardians, Lt. Michael Gordon, who was involved in drafting questions for an upcoming sergeant’s exam. Lebron told investigators he’d provided some members of the Guardians with the answers during a late night “study session” at his apartment.
Gordon and two other Guardians members were indicted and convicted of various charges related to the cheating allegations. Lebron was moved out of her post and into Internal Affairs, but quit the force soon after.
She filed a slander suit against Adams and other Guardian leaders, but eventually withdrew the legal action after she’d moved upstate and begun a new life far from the city.
In an affidavit filed in the suit, she made clear that the attack on her credibility forced her to abandon her dream of serving the city as a cop.
“I was taken out of my command, I was sidetracked to Internal Affairs without real opportunity to be mainstreamed and also lost my opportunity for advancement in the police department completely,” she wrote.
“My lifelong dream to be a New York police officer was shattered because of the actions of the defendants.”