The former head of the NYPD’s hate crime bureau filed a $1 million notice of claim against the city Friday, saying she was “defamed” by Mayor Eric Adams and bumped out of her job over false claims she didn’t take a report by an Asian American woman seriously, The Post has learned.
Inspector Jessica Corey, a 30-year department veteran, says that her encounter with Esther Lee, who was spit on and called a “carrier” in a subway last October, was mischaracterized and that she was wrongly criticized by Adams in a TV interview.
“[Corey] received and listened to Ms. Lee’s concerns with the utmost sensitivity,” the notice of claim asserts.
The attack on Lee came at a time when hate attacks against Asian Americans were at record highs.
But she told ABC that when she reported the incident, a detective accused her of exaggerating and an unsympathetic Corey told her she shouldn’t have recorded the suspect and the altercation wasn’t a hate crime.
During a sit-down interview with Adams that aired in part on Feb. 16, an ABC reporter confronted Hizzoner about Lee’s allegations.
“This is the first time someone has come to me with concerns,” Adams told the reporter after hearing Lee’s story.
“I don’t want a leader in that area that starts off with saying why something is not a possible hate crime. It would be troubling to me to see if someone is not clear on the direction I want my hate crime unit to perform. I don’t know what the criterias were under other administrations, but we have a new day, and we’re going to have a new way.”
That same day, the NYPD confirmed the 58-year-old had been reassigned to a different unit but said it wasn’t disciplinary in nature.
Corey claims Lee inaccurately characterized what had gone down and said Adams’ comments were “defamatory” and “slanderous” and made with reckless disregard for the truth.
After learning the facts of the case, Corey “patiently explained” why the attack didn’t fit the definition of a hate crime, her filing states.
“That same day, Ms. Lee sent a text message to [Corey] thanking [her] for ‘taking the time to look into this’ and ‘for explaining things to me,’” the notice of claim alleges.
Lee also told Corey her efforts were “so greatly appreciated,” the documents claim.
Corey asserts that she conferred with the NYPD’s Legal Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and even though Lee was called a “carrier,” “the facts of the case did not meet current hate crime statutes,” the claim states.
Generally, hate attacks can be tough to prove unless a suspect makes a bigoted remark during the incident or admits to police they hold biased views against the victim.
In the ABC appearance, Adams acknowledged it was the first time he’d heard Lee’s story and Corey’s attorneys claim that shows he made no effort to corroborate Lee’s story before making the defamatory remarks, the records state.
“[Adams] acted with complete disregard for evidence and information that was readily available, which contradicted Ms Lee’s version of events, and which showed that [Corey] had handled Ms. Lee’s complaint properly and professionally,” Corey’s attorneys wrote in the filing.
Corey also asserts she was defamed again on May 3 when City Council Member Julie Won said during a virtual meeting for the Committee on Public Safety that there’s “anecdotal evidence” Corey had dismissed “Asian hate crimes when they were reported.”
“Could you please… help me understand why there was no disciplinary action taken despite all the outcry of Asian Americans who have said that they reported or tried to report hate crimes, and they have been dismissed, mocked or laughed at,” Won said during the hearing, directing her question to members of the NYPD.
Corey claims those remarks are also untrue and in turn, she’s suffered “substantial and irreparable harm” to her personal and professional reputation.
“Jessica Corey has had a distinguished, unimpeachable career serving New Yorkers in the NYPD. She has received significant praise regarding her interactions with members of the public, including from members of the AAPI community,” Corey’s attorney Edward Paltzik told The Post.
“Unfortunately, her reputation has been slandered by a distortion of the totally appropriate manner in which she handled an alleged hate crime incident.”
City Hall, Won and the NYPD didn’t return a request for comment.