Last summer, New York cops raided a Long Island home and unearthed an arsenal of assault rifles, ammo and alleged Nazi propaganda.
Suffolk County police arrested Edward Perkowski, 34, on charges including criminal possession of a weapon and marijuana possession. His younger brother, Sean, was cuffed for an outstanding public urination violation.
“Today’s search warrant might have prevented a deadly, violent incident like the one we recently saw in Orlando,” police commissioner Timothy Sini said at the time. Suffolk’s top cop was referring to the deadliest mass shooting in American history: a terrorist attack on a gay dance club in Florida that killed 49 people.
“To think that this was in the Town of Brookhaven is extremely disturbing,” Sini said, while raising a photo of the search-warrant haul that included a framed portrait of Hitler and flags with swastikas and SS bolts.
But one year later, jurors disagreed that Edward Perkowski was a threat. They acquitted him on eight counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one criminal possession of a firearm, the district attorney’s office confirmed.
After the May 5 verdict, the jury indicated they didn’t find the testimony of a detective and a confidential informant to be credible, a prosecutor’s spokesman said. The DA’s office declined to comment further on the acquittal.
“They made my guy look really really bad and he was innocent,” Matt Tuohy, Perkowski’s attorney, told Newsday after the verdict. “He really suffered. Everyone thought he was a Nazi and he wasn’t.”
Tuohy said the cops’ case torpedoed in part because the confidential informant turned out to be Perkowski’s ex-girlfriend.
“It was all about a scorned woman,” Tuohy told The Daily Beast.
When Perkowski dumped his lady friend, she allegedly went to police as revenge, saying she knew Perkowski had guns in his residence and that she was worried he’d do something bad with them, Tuohy claimed.
“It was a setup. All these jurors don’t acquit on that many charges in Suffolk County unless they think it’s bullshit,” Tuohy told The Daily Beast. “They just needed one gun on him. Nobody believed this girl.”
Jurors acquitted Perkowski after deliberating for two hours, the lawyer said.
“The DA’s office and the cops made him look like he was a Nazi and he wasn’t at all. He testified on the stand. His brother testified. He was innocent. He was made to look like something he wasn’t,” Tuohy added.
Meanwhile, other charges in the original 14-count indictment were dropped just before the three-week trial, Tuohy said.
The informant—who declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast—allegedly continued to pursue Perkowski romantically even after his arrest. Tuohy said it wasn’t until later that Perkowski learned that his former flame, who was allegedly an informant in other Suffolk County cases, had apparently set him up.
The Daily Beast previously reported that Perkowski, who goes by “DJ” and “Dale,” ran an online military-surplus store. While the media blasted him as a “neo-Nazi,” Perkowski’s friends defended him as a history buff, rather than a white supremacist.
Still, The Daily Beast did reveal Perkowski may have created Nazi trance music under the name DJ Ghost of the Reich. On Monday, Tuohy confirmed Perkowski was behind the “war trance” tracks, but claimed it’s not supremacist EDM but instead an homage to a video game called “Silent Hunter” about World War II submarines.
Police were no strangers to the Perkowskis’ Mount Sinai residence.
Feuds with neighbors resulted in calls to law enforcement, and a restraining order against one neighbor who tackled a Perkowski brother after an argument over a snow blower.
Perkowski’s father told The Daily Beast that his family lost their home and their savings because of cops’ high-profile pursuit of his sons. (The Town of Brookhaven condemned the home for safety violations around the time of Perkowski’s arrest, Newsday reported.)
“We were condemned before we even had a chance by everybody. It’s not right,” said Edward Perkowski Sr., a Vietnam veteran, of his reputation.
“They brand you right off the bat,” the father added. “When the [police] commissioner comes out and calls you guys ‘neo-Nazis’ and says he stopped us from doing another Orlando, what do you think people are going to think?”
Perkowski Sr. contends some of the firearms were owned legally. The Daily Beast was unable to reach Suffolk County police for comment on Perkowski Sr.’s claim.
The dad says others were legally owned until the passage of the New York SAFE Act, a law that broadened the legal definition of an assault weapon. Perkowski Sr. says he wasn’t aware of the new regulations until the police raid.
Authorities allegedly targeted his other sons too, although they weren’t charged in the raid. Perkowski Sr. claims police tried to get Sean Perkowski kicked out of Stony Brook University by writing to the dean of students. Another son, Michael Perkowski, allegedly had his child-custody visitation rights taken away. (Suffolk County Police did not return a message seeking comment on these allegations.)
Tuohy said the guns never belonged to Edward Perkowski but to his brother Michael, who in 2011 was acquitted of assault after he shot a man in the face, blinding him. In that case, the victim said Michael started the confrontation by yelling racial slurs. But Michael said he was protecting himself as a group advanced on his lawn and threatened him with an axe handle, Newsday reported.
As far as the Nazi memorabilia, Tuohy says the flags, white pride textbooks and other materials for Perkowski’s surplus business were locked away in storage. Police hung up some swastika flags at their press conference, as if to suggest they were found hanging in Perkowski’s room, Tuohy claimed to The Daily Beast.
More than $40,000 from the Perkowski home—most of it worker’s compensation belonging to Perkowski Sr.—was confiscated in the raid and not returned, the family claims. Police and prosecutors did not return messages seeking comment on Perkowski’s seized funds.
In an interview last fall, Perkowski Sr. told The Daily Beast the case against his son was trumped up by the police commissioner.
“You see all the stuff they took. They didn’t take any Russian stuff or Chinese stuff. He sells everything. They took my World War II memorabilia and his [Nazi] Germany stuff,” Perkowski Sr. said of the military surplus website, which does have a Russian gas mask for sale, though most of the wares appear to be German.
“It’s all about grandstanding,” he added. “That’s all it is.”