Instead of simply asking Quick what he knew, Boyce, according to his own account, told Quick what he was investigating: whether detective Zahrey provided information used to rob drug dealers. And Quick, as if he were feeding a starving man, gave Boyce enough nourishment to keep him going. Quick said he participated in fourteen robberies based on information from Zahrey, and that the detective's take was $200,000.
Six more months passed and Boyce still hadn't built a case. But he wasn't willing to let it go. So he decided to take one more run at Quick. By then, Quick was in Sing Sing, a dismal maximum-security prison, and when Boyce called him, he suddenly had more information, better information, to give the investigators about Detective Zahrey.
Primed with promises from Detective Boyce of a brighter future, Quick dramatically amped up his story. Though in his initial accounts he accused Zahrey only of providing information, he now, on tape, described him as a full participant: going on the robberies, using drugs, even disposing of the gun used to murder J.R. by dumping it in the East River.
Finally, after a whole year of coming up empty, Internal Affairs and the Brooklyn district attorney's office had something to propel their investigation forward. Perhaps because they were all overwhelmed by their exuberance, no one appears to have been sufficiently skeptical about Quick's new information. Cops and prosecutors I talked to said it's common for a witness looking to make a deal to strategically parcel out information a little at a time.
But the Sing Sing tape shows the detectives either spoon-feeding Quick or attempting to wring things out of him. And what about his record? Shouldn't this have been reason enough to carefully examine his account of what happened? After all, Quick, who began a life of drug abuse when he was 9, was a violent criminal with a history of manipulating the system.
He had robbed dozens of vulnerable people at knifepoint and gunpoint. In one instance, he slammed a car door on a victim and drove away, dragging her hanging from the door. And he was never out of jail for more than a few months before he would begin yet another violent rampage to feed his drug habit.
When he was 17, he was arrested for stealing a car and quickly got the charge reduced to a misdemeanor by cooperating with the Brooklyn D.A. A few years later, while locked up at Rikers, he faked a suicide and lied to a prison psychiatrist to get placed in a better dorm. At a parole hearing several years later, after he'd been sentenced for seven armed robberies, he spun a tale of remorse for the women he'd hurt. After all, he pleaded, he had a mother, too, and would never want anything to happen to her.
However, when he talked about these crimes on the Sing Sing tape to the Internal Affairs investigators, his tone was a little different: "Every fucking time I get locked up, it's for some bullshit for a fucking pocketbook."
Six months later, a full year and a half after Supreme was murdered, Zahrey was working behind the counter at his family's grocery store one morning when he realized he'd better go to the bank and get some change. While he was standing in line, two guys in suits grabbed him, identified themselves as Internal Affairs cops, and led him outside the bank. They told him to turn over his gun and his badge -- he was being placed on modified duty.
"They wouldn't even let me go back in the store," Zahrey says. "I yelled to someone out front and my sister came out and took the money from me. Then they took me to the 81st Precinct, put me in a room, and closed the door. I was totally in the dark about what was going on. I kept asking what it's about and all they'd say was it's a very serious criminal investigation."
The next day, as instructed, Zahrey reported to One Police Plaza and got his new assignment. He was no longer in Narcotics. He was now stuck in Central Booking, where he'd fingerprint suspects and feed them bologna sandwiches and Kool-Aid. This lasted for fifteen months, with no official word from the Police Department as to why he'd been modified.
"All they have to say," Zahrey says, "is that it's for the good of the department. And as long as you're getting a paycheck, they can do what they want and they don't have to tell you anything."
Finally, on October 16, 1996, two and a half years after he had walked into the 68th Precinct, Zahrey was arrested at a little after seven in the morning in the back of 100 Centre Street. He had just come into the street from a cops' locker room when half a dozen cars screeched up and surrounded him.
Because the U.S. Attorney was prosecuting the case, Zahrey was fingerprinted and booked at 26 Federal Plaza. His belongings were taken and he was strip-searched: "I was processed like a freakin' perp. I was treated like shit, and it was humiliating."
The union sent him a lawyer who'd never been inside a federal court. "It was like a runaway train, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. And then when they read the charges in open court, man," Zahrey says, exhaling heavily, "I was just stunned. I mean, I couldn't believe it." Neither could his family. The arraignment was at four in the afternoon, eight hours after his arrest, and many members of his family were in court, sobbing. "I was just in shock," says his wife, Nahla. "The day he was arrested was our daughter's birthday, and I was stuck in court all day. Zack loved being a cop, it was something that was in him, and I knew he couldn't have done any of those things they accused him of."
It is rare in serious federal cases for a defendant to get bail. At the very least, the government has the right to hold a defendant for three days while deciding on a strategy. "It's best to try and work out a deal with the prosecutors," says Zahrey's lawyer, Joel Rudin. "Because if you fight, you usually lose."
Rudin got the prosecutor to agree to $500,000, fully secured. Zahrey's family owned several houses worth enough to cover it. But his freedom was short-lived.
Prosecutors went back to court and asked that bail be revoked. They claimed Zahrey threatened the relative of a witness. Hannah Quick, the mother of Sidney Quick, charged that Zahrey called her and said that if her son cooperated, "you're dead." She said she recognized the cop's voice from an encounter they'd had several years earlier. Then she changed her account and said he identified himself on the phone.