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Friday, December 31, 2010

Police Commander Calls for Courage in Corruption Fight

Police Beat: Resolve this year to be courageous
The Sun-Times by KRISTEN ZIMAN - December 30, 2010

There is no shortage of bravery in the Aurora Police Department. I have worked alongside many men and women throughout my career who did not hesitate to run toward the sound of gunfire or to jump fences in pursuit of an armed suspect. I originally believed the law enforcement profession attracted these “fearless” individuals who think nothing of putting their own lives on the line for strangers in the name of preserving justice. Since bravery is the ability to persevere despite fear, pain and risk of danger, it would seem that those without bravery need not apply. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that bravery is not as difficult as it seems. Ask any person who has put themselves at risk to help another and they will tell you that they simply acted without thought. When a person falls, it is our instinct to extend an arm and help. This is why a soldier or police officer often refutes accolades after an act of heroism by responding, “I was just doing my job.” Because it is inherent in our nature to help each other, we are all just “doing our jobs” as human beings. The only difference between police officers and the common citizen is the hours of training that make officers more confident and equipped to face dangerous situations. As Aristotle pointed out, we become brave by doing brave acts. I’m sure many will dispute this belief by saying that they could never do the job of a police officer or firefighter. Over the years, I’ve heard many people say that confronting a suspect in a home invasion or running into a home engulfed in flames is not on their list of things to accomplish. I challenge that when confronted with a situation where you must act immediately in order to prevent a catastrophe or save a life, most would do so without pausing to consider the risk. Bravery is not as difficult as it appears to be. Courage, on the other hand, is quite rare. Bravery and courage are often used synonymously but they are not the same. Physical bravery is to act upon instinct while moral courage is the thing that sets the truly courageous apart from all the others. It can manifest in seemingly minuscule ways or it can be magnificent in magnitude. It is the strength to stand firmly grounded while those around you scurry to align themselves to the majority opinion.

The “Thin Blue Line” is an emblem representing the camaraderie of police officers signifying their unity and solidarity. Over the years, the term has taken on a negative connotation and may now depict corruption and cover-up of those officers who tarnish the badge. Fortunately, policing has evolved whereby the thin blue line of protecting those corrupt officers has faded considerably because of courageous police leaders who in their own organizations have declared it intolerable. Even more courageous are the line level officers who stand up in defiance of corruption and boldly police themselves and their comrades. Being courageous might simply mean thinking differently from everyone else and declaring as much. It is more common for a person to avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking for fear of being seen as foolish, to avoid embarrassing themselves or angering other members of a group. Cowardliness is choosing to protect one’s own interest rather than opposing an injustice. True courage means doing what you know is right, even at personal risk. Resolve this new year to practice more courage. Resolve to fight the urge to sit in silence when you know you should be speaking out. Resolve to stand up against a wrong when you know it would be easier to allow it to occur. Resolve to defend someone who deserves defending even if it will make you uncomfortable or unpopular. By practicing courage, you will become courageous. Aurora Police Cmdr. Kristen Ziman can be reached at

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Corrupt College Police Chief Sentenced to One Year in Jail

Former Mt. San Jacinto College police chief sentenced to year in jail
Southwest Riverside News Network by Jose Arballo Jr - December 28, 2010

Segawa, 40, has sought to withdraw the guilty plea he entered June 23, but Judge Helios Hernandez, after hearing testimony on the matter, rejected the request.

Former Mt. San Jacinto College police Chief Kevin Harold Segawa has been sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday after a motion to withdraw his guilty plea was rejected, said John Hall, spokesman for Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. Segawa, 40, has sought to withdraw the guilty plea he entered June 23, but Judge Helios Hernandez, after hearing testimony on the matter, rejected the request and sentenced the former police chief to the 12-month jail sentence, Hall said in an email. Segawa was to begin serving his time immediately. Segawa was also placed on three years’ probation. He was charged in December with one count each of bribery and destruction of evidence by a public official, and two counts each of perjury, submitting falsified documents and embezzlement — all felonies — as well as misdemeanor counts of concealing evidence and modifying a written notice to appear. Prosecutors said that between 2005 and 2008, Segawa sent 85 percent of the campus’s towing business to Pirot’s Towing, whose 40-year-old owner, Morgan Allen McComas, is charged with bribery and misappropriation of funds.Segawa received a motorcycle, rims and tires for his pickup truck, about $120 in free lunches at a Riverside restaurant, tickets for a box seat at the Del Mar Racetrack and $75 in food and drinks at a 2006 Christmas party, none of which he declared, according to the prosecution. Investigators estimate McComas’ company may have earned as much as a half-million dollars from towing fees.The case for the co-defendant McComas is still set for trial and the next court date is in February.


MENIFEE: MSJC's police chief arrested
The Californian - December 2, 2009

Mt. San Jacinto College's police chief surrendered to authorities Wednesday after the district attorney's office filed criminal charges against him alleging that he directed nearly all the school's towing needs to one company in exchange for gifts and free lunches from the tow company's owner. Kevin Segawa, 39, was charged with 10 felony and misdemeanor counts, including bribery, perjury and misappropriation of public funds, court records show. He was booked into Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside and his bail was set at $25,000. Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Segawa's arrest was the culmination of a 13-month probe prompted late last year by tips received from several disgruntled former officers of the college's police department. "We got the information and started looking into it very quietly until we started getting corroboration and more and more evidence," Pacheco said. Investigators ultimately uncovered a police chief who pretty much felt he was above the law, Pacheco said. "In a small department, every now and then, people say, 'Well hey, I am the law, and who is going to check me?'" Pacheco said. "That is why the district attorney has a bureau of investigations and has jurisdiction that covers the entire county." Mt. San Jacinto College founded its police department in 2002 with a $150,000 federal grant. It has since grown to an operation that includes 12 employees and an annual budget of $900,000. Officers are responsible for maintaining public safety and enforcing the law at the college's two campuses in Menifee and San Jacinto and are vested with full law enforcement powers. Segawa was hired in 2003 as a campus police officer and worked his way up the ranks, earning the role of chief of police in 2005. According to the district attorney's office, Segawa allegedly used that position to his own advantage. From 2005 to 2008, campus police officers had about 1,200 vehicles towed in and around the two campuses for various vehicle code violations, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney's office. Although an informal tow rotation existed involving four companies, 85 percent of the tows were directed to the San Jacinto-based Pirot's Towing Service, investigators say. That generated an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 in potential profit for the towing company, Hall said. Investigators say that, in exchange, Segawa received gifts from the owner of Pirot's Towing including a used motorcycle, used rims and tires for his personal pickup, tickets for a box seat at a Del Mar Racetrack event, and about $120 in free lunches, he said. Authorities say it was sort of an unofficial department policy of Segawa's to use that company. Several campus officers told investigators that Segawa directed or influenced them to not only tow vehicles, but use Pirot's Towing, Hall said. A December 2008 civil lawsuit filed by several officers who were fired from the college's police department also asserts as much. One plaintiff in the civil suit claims he was called into Segawa's office in April 2008 and told that "if he impounded 100 vehicles he would be able to ride a brand new Honda motorcycle as a patrol vehicle," the suit states. "Segawa stated (he) had to exclusively use Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto for all vehicle impounds, even the vehicles impounded at the Menifee campus, over 25 miles away," the lawsuit states. That case, which alleged wrongful termination, harassment and intimidation by Segawa, was dismissed by a judge in August. Nevertheless, Pacheco said, the quid pro quo between Segawa and Morgan McComas, 40, owner of Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto, was illegal. He said for a public agency to give exclusive towing rights to one company is a violation of state law, and receiving gifts in exchange for that arrangement amounts to bribery, he said. "We take public safety very seriously in our office," Pacheco said. "Bribery is not something we look away from." McComas, who also surrendered to investigators Wednesday afternoon, was charged with one felony count of offering a bribe to a public officer and two felony counts of being an aider and abettor in the misappropriation of public funds. In addition to the bribery charges, Segawa also is accused of failing to disclose the gifts on paperwork that public officials are required to submit annually to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, leading to perjury charges. Segawa also is facing two counts of concealing and destroying evidence, allegedly a supplemental police report that portrayed him in a negative light, according to the district attorney's office. Those charges involve a former college employee whom he arrested on suspicion of embezzlement. That employee, Tomorrow Horton, claims in a civil suit filed in April that Segawa pressured her to resign. That case is pending. Also in 2008, Segawa arrested an illegal immigrant who was selling ice cream from a cart in Menifee, not on the college campus, according to the district attorney's office. He cited the ice cream vendor, seized the cart, then turned the man in to immigration officers, who deported him, prosecutors say. Segawa reportedly took the ice cream home, gave what would not fit in his refrigerator to a neighbor, and never filed an arrest report with his department's records division, which is required by law. Segawa has been on paid administrative leave from his $103,508-a-year job since July, said the college's spokeswoman, Karin Marriott. She could not say Wednesday whether his arrest would prompt him to be put on unpaid leave. In Segawa's absence, the college earlier this year named Terry Meadows, a 30-year veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, as interim police chief.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ohio's Number 2 Top Highway Cop Retires Under Fire

Patrol's No. 2 retires
The Columbus Dispatch by Randy Ludlow - December 27, 2010
Lt. Col. Peyton Watts faced discipline

The second-in-command of the State Highway Patrol retired today while awaiting discipline for allegedly lying during an internal investigation of another officer. Lt. Col. Peyton Watts, 56, who was suspended with pay Dec. 13 following the release of a report by the state inspector general's office, retired effective today from his $120,536-a-year job, said Lt. Gary Lewis, patrol spokesman. A report released by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles found that Watts maintained inappropriate contact with an officer who came under investigation after he was discovered in his cruiser with a 16-year-old girl. Watts lied about his frequent telephone calls and personal friendship with former Staff Lt. Roger Norris in undermining patrol and criminal investigations and staining the patrol's integrity, the report concluded. The report and a Department of Public Safety investigation prompted Public Safety Director Thomas Stickrath to suspend Watts and begin disciplinary proceedings against the 33-year veteran. Watts' departure follows the resignation of former Col. David Dicken, who resigned as patrol superintendent effective Dec. 17 as Stickrath moved to discipline him for mishandling his duties. Dicken returned to his former job as a captain in the business services section. The next lieutenant colonel will be appointed under the auspices of Charles, who was named the next public-safety director by Gov.-elect John Kasich, and Maj. John Born, the next superintendent. Charles and Born begin their new duties on Jan. 10. Watts, who attended a disciplinary hearing a week ago today, had denied wrongdoing. A hearing officer had found cause to discipline Watts. Watts told investigators that he spoke with Norris by telephone only three or four times and denied that the two were close, despite widespread patrol knowledge of a friendship dating to 1987 and their days at the Zanesville post. Records show the men exchanged 94 calls between June 11 and Aug. 6, with 29 calls consisting of conversations of two to 41 minutes, often at key points of the investigation. Norris, 43, retired on Aug. 28 as patrol officials moved to fire him after investigating his on-duty meeting with the girl behind a building in rural Belmont County on June 8. A building caretaker who came across the cruiser told investigators that Norris was clad in a T-shirt but not wearing his uniform shirt or gun belt, as required by patrol rules. He did not see any illicit activity. Norris denied any wrongdoing. He faces a criminal investigation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Police Use Of Taser On Teen Prompts Lawsuit

Syracuse police use of Taser on teen prompts lawsuit
REUTERS - December 21, 2010

(Reuters) - A civil liberties group on Tuesday filed suit against the city of Syracuse and two police officers, arguing the use of a Taser against a high school student was unconstitutional. The lawsuit stems from a September 2009 incident when the boy, then 15, tried to intervene in a fight between two girls and was Tasered by a Syracuse police officer called to the scene. The officer used his Taser stun gun on the teen, identified only as A.E., without warning and without issuing any commands, according to the complaint filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the boy's mother. The police action constituted excessive force, false arrest and false imprisonment, all in violation of the U.S. Constitution and state law, the suit claims. The complaint seeks compensatory damages for A.E.'s family to cover medical expenses. A.E. was arrested and hospitalized after the incident but never charged with any crime. "I still don't understand why I got Tased; I was only trying to stop a fight," A.E. said in a statement. "This is one of the scariest things I've ever been through. I don't want any other kids to go through what I've been through." A spokesman for the Syracuse police department was not available for comment on the case. A Taser incident in 2007 gained national attention when a University of Florida student repeatedly tried to question Sen. John Kerry during an appearance, and campus police used a stun gun on the student when he refused to leave. A video of the incident spread widely on the Internet and prompted debate over Taser use. In Syracuse, police officers are routinely deployed to maintain order in and around city high schools. The NYCLU argues that Syracuse police policies make no distinction between using Tasers on children or on adults. Tasers use electric current rather than bullets. According to the lawsuit, police officers are not required to issue any warnings before using a Taser on a suspect. Warnings are required before using a firearm. "Monitoring children in a learning environment is much different than patrolling the streets and the Police Department's policies should address that distinction," NYCLU Attorney Corey Stoughton said. "Otherwise, more students will suffer frightening and unnecessarily violent encounters with police officers." (Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Citing Police Abuse, Citizens Just Leave

Citing police abuse, Hispanics leaving Conn. town
The Associated Press by Michael Melia - December 26, 2010

EAST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Santiago Malave has worked law enforcement jobs in Connecticut for more than four decades, but as a Puerto Rican, he says he cannot drive through his own town without worrying about police harassing him. Malave, a probation officer who works in New Haven, says the racial abuse is so bad that he only crosses the town line into East Haven to go home. He and his wife are now preparing to sell their house and move, joining an exodus of Hispanics who say police have hassled them with traffic stops, false arrests and even jailhouse beatings. The Justice Department has started a civil rights investigation, and the FBI recently opened a criminal probe. But that has not changed things on Main Street, where restaurants and stores that cater to Hispanics are going out of business. If the goal of police was to ruin East Haven's Hispanic community, some grudgingly say they have succeeded. "We can't tolerate the town anymore," said Malave, 64. "For us to leave our beautiful home is something that hurts, but we can't deal with these people." Racial profiling allegations began swirling about two years ago in East Haven, a predominantly Italian-American seaside suburb of about 28,000 people 70 miles northeast of New York City. Hispanics make up only about 7 percent of the population, but their numbers had been growing as the peaceful, small-town setting and thriving businesses attracted newcomers from Mexico and Ecuador.

Police Chief Leonard Gallo, who is on administrative leave, has denied the allegations. The office of acting Police Chief Gaetano Nappi referred calls to Town Attorney Patricia Cofrancesco, who did not respond to phone messages seeking comment. Hispanic business owners say police made a practice of parking outside their shops and stopping any Latinos. Some who complained say they faced retaliation. Luis Rodriguez, an immigrant from Ecuador who owns the Los Amigos Grocery, said he was arrested two months ago and jailed for five days after a woman pointed out to police that his 3-year-old son was unsupervised on the sidewalk outside the store. He said police were out for revenge because his wife had been videotaping them. He was charged with child neglect; the case is still pending. Meanwhile, his store is up for sale. Ecuadoreans used to travel from as far as Massachusetts for jalapenos, Ecuadorean sodas and other specialty products. But Rodriguez said police have scared customers away by threatening to alert immigration authorities if they ever saw them in town again. "If I had known the police in East Haven are so much trouble I never would have invested so much money here," said Rodriguez, 41, who has put more than $120,000 into the store. The Justice Department's civil rights branch began investigating the police force in September 2009. It is still looking into alleged discriminatory policing, but it identified preliminary concerns in April over issues including outdated policies and a lack of clear guidance on the use of force. The town's mayor, April Capone, revealed this month that the FBI was gathering evidence for potential criminal prosecutions of some of the officers. Her office declined to comment. Dermot Lynch, a student intern with Yale Law School's Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, said the problem goes beyond a few rogue officers.

"This is a systemwide leadership failure. It's going to need widespread reform," said Lynch, whose group filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of nine immigrants who say East Haven police abused them with beatings and unwarranted use of a stun gun. It also quotes officers using ethnic slurs. Until recently, East Haven was considered a refuge by Hispanics, a suburb with ample parking and less crime than New Haven. Malave, who has lived here since 1977, said he never had problems before late 2008 when police responded to a report by his wife that some money was missing. The couple had begun to argue. Malave, who was asked his nationality, said police arrested him for disorderly conduct the minute he said he was born in Puerto Rico. "I tried to talk to the sergeant, but he said, 'You spics don't have rights here,"' said Malave, a former New Haven police officer. Hispanics in East Haven say more than half their population — estimated at 1,900 by the Census Bureau — has moved away. Mario Marin, who was at work one recent afternoon in his family's empty restaurant, La Bamba, said two of his siblings moved to nearby Waterbury and another brother returned to Ecuador. He said one brother, like other Hispanic property owners, lost a house to foreclosure after his tenants moved away. "They destroyed our future here," Marin said of police. He said even out-of-town diners have stopped coming since officers launched raids on the restaurant's parking lot, towing away any cars with out-of-state license plates. Marin and others said run-ins with police have been less common since police came under federal scrutiny. But activist John Lugo of Latinos United in Action, who helped organize a march against racial profiling last year, said his group still advises Hispanics to steer clear of East Haven.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Former Police Chief Charged With Theft

Montesano police chief charged with theft over $10,000 in illegal credit card purchases
The News Tribune - December 24, 2010

MONTESANO, WA - Montesano officials say Ray Sowers has been charged with theft and falsification of accounts when he was the city's police chief. City Administrator Kristy Powell told The Daily World of Aberdeen on Friday that prosecutors followed the recommendation of Washington State Patrol investigators. They reported in August that Sowers had made more than $10,000 in illegal credit card purchases over a year-and-a-half. The charges were filed by the Thurston County prosecutor's office. Sowers was relieved from his job in June and resigned in September. He had been with Montesano force since 1987 and chief since 1994.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Whistleblowing cop slaps NYPD with $50 million suit for locking him up in psych ward
The New York Daily News by ROCCO PARASCANDOLA - August 10, 2010

Memos in stationhouse weren't seeking quotas, Kelly says

A police whistleblower is suing the NYPD for $50 million for locking him up in a psych ward after he accused his bosses of tampering with crime stats. Brooklyn cop Adrian Schoolcraft claims his bosses wanted to wreck his reputation because he had proof they were fudging numbers at the 81st Precinct. "They wanted to intimidate and silence him," said Schoolcraft's lawyer, Jon Norinsberg. "And they wanted to destroy his credibility so that no one would believe him when he went public with his charges." The NYPD has portrayed the 35-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant cop as a bumbling, unstable officer. He spent six days under psychiatric observation at Jamaica Hospital after a confrontation with cops who came to his Queens home on Halloween. Cops say he went AWOL from work. The suit, to be filed in Manhattan Federal Court Tuesday, says precinct brass had plenty of reasons to want Schoolcraft locked away. The suit takes aim at Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, the former commanding officer of the 81st Precinct, and at Deputy Chief Michael Marino. The second-in-command for Brooklyn North, Marino was among at least a dozen cops who showed up at Schoolcraft's Glendale apartment. In 2006, an arbitrator ruled that Marino, then running the 75th Precinct, broke state labor law by punishing cops who did not meet ticket and arrest quotas. "Marino had a lot to lose if Adrian went public about the corruption at the 81st Precinct," Norinsberg said. Marino did not respond to a request for comment. The lawsuit says the hospital kept Schoolcraft against his will. "They did absolutely nothing to assess Adrian's mental state," Norinsberg said. "There were no tests done." After his release, the Daily News spoke to 10 of 14 victims whose names Schoolcraft had passed onto internal investigators. Seven said precinct cops refused to take their reports, downgraded felonies to misdemeanors or gave them wrong information about reporting a crime. A short time later, Schoolcraft released tapes capturing Mauriello and other supervisors pushing cops to meet quotas and greeting crime victims with skepticism, even not taking their reports in some cases. The NYPD initially stood by Mauriello, but Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly last month transferred him to Bronx Transit. Schoolcraft, an eight-year veteran, remains under suspension for leaving work without permission. He denies that charge.

Five Cops Charged With Tampering With Crime Reports."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Police "Abuse of Authority" Costs Big Bucks

NYPD lieutenant who ID'd wrong man as shooter has cost city $500G in settlements
The New York Daily News by William Sherman and John Marzulli - December 24, 2010

An NYPD lieutenant who identified the wrong person as the gunman who fired at cops has been named in eight federal suits that have cost the city more than $500,000 in settlements. Lt. Robert Henderson will soon be a defendant in a ninth suit - this one filed by Shane Rhooms, who prosecutors cleared of attempted murder charges this week. "The number of lawsuits and settlements suggest there's something troubling about this officer's history," Rhooms' lawyer, Brett Klein, said Thursday. Henderson has been sued in federal court in Brooklyn and Manhattan as far back as 2001, but he isn't the only cop accused in the complaints of false arrest, illegal search and seizure or other constitutional violations. In two suits, the city declined to cover Henderson's liability, and he was forced to cough up a total of $1,250 to the plaintiffs. The city forked over settlements ranging from $10,000 to $225,000 in other suits, court records show. "It seems clear to me he has made multiple false arrests in the hope of finding contraband," said lawyer Leo Glickman, who has sued Henderson on behalf of clients five times. Sources said Henderson is an active cop who has won commendations for taking illegal guns off the toughest streets in Brooklyn. "The lieutenant put his life on the line, which is more than a plaintiff's lawyer will do," said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne. The 13-year veteran told the Daily News he didn't know how many suits he'd faced, and declined further comment. Henderson, Lt. Robert Ortlieb and Sgt. Joseph Seminara identified Rhooms as the gunman who started shooting after they spotted him smoking pot on Lenox Road in East Flatbush on Sept. 6. Seminera later picked Rhooms out of a photo array, and all three identified him in a lineup. But the 22-year-old had an alibi: surveillance video caught him entering Webster Hall in Manhattan for a reggae concert. Phone records also confirmed incoming and outgoing calls from Rhooms' phone to a Manhattan transmission tower around the time of the shooting in Brooklyn. "The fact they could all be so wrong in the identification suggests there was collusion by the three [cops]," Klein said. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said investigators stand by the original identification and think Rhooms was the shooter regardless of what prosecutors say. If Rhooms had been convicted of the crime, he would have faced 45 years in prison. Henderson supervises cops in the 75th Precinct in East New York, one of the busiest police stations in the city. NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Marino testified in a 2006 deposition that Henderson's anti-crime unit in the 77th Precinct was receiving a lot of civilian complaints for "abuse of authority." Marino attributed the complaints to the officers "being too professional" during car stops.

Prosecutor Arrested, Again...

Suspended Montrose County DA Serra arrested again
The Daily Sentinel by Rachel Sauer - December 22, 2010

Seventh Judicial District Attorney Myrl Serra was arrested again Wednesday, this time on allegations of harassment, protection-order violation and violating bond conditions, a felony. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which is conducting the investigation, accuses Serra of contacting at least one of his three accusers in an ongoing sexual assault investigation against him. “He violated his bond agreement,” CBI Agent in Charge Collin Reese said Wednesday evening. “Originally, when he was first arrested, he had imposed on him a condition for his bond, and he also had a protection order imposed, and he violated those agreements. That’s why he was arrested today.” Serra first was arrested Sept. 30 on suspicion of unlawful sexual contact, official misconduct and indecent exposure. In November, he was charged with criminal extortion, unlawful sexual contact, three counts of indecent exposure, official misconduct and unlawful sexual contact. He is accused of victimizing several women who worked in the 7th Judicial District offices. A condition of his bond in that case, in which the preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 11, prohibits him from contacting his accusers or any witnesses in the case against him, or from entering 7th Judicial District offices. The Montrose Police Department arrested Serra on Wednesday, but declined to comment on the case because it is a CBI investigation. Serra was released on bond Wednesday evening. Montrose attorney Dan Hotsenpiller will take over as interim 7th Judicial District Attorney in January. Currently, the office is being run by Colorado First Assistant Attorney General Jean Woodford.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Cops Plea Guilty to Tampering with Evidence

Beaumont officers on paid leave following guilty plea
KYTX - December 22, 2010

Two Beaumont Police Officers accused of tampering with evidence are on paid administrative leave after they pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to tampering with government documents. Officers Brad Beaulieu and Eric Heilman each entered their plea before Jefferson County Court at Law #2 Judge G.R. "Lupe" Flores. The plea does not necessarily end their law enforcement career. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor and stems from a probable cause affidavit and supplemental report filed by the officers in a 2008 drug case. Beaulieu and Heilman will have to serve 100 hours of community service. and have been given 1-year probation. Defense attorney James Makin says the length of the officers probation could be cut in half. "If they do everything they're supposed to after six months we can petition the courts and the special prosecutor would not oppose them getting off early," said Makin. Makin went on to say the officers are expected to resign the Beaumont Police Department early in January. Beaumont Police Public Relations Officer Carol Riley told 12NewsNow.Com the news came as a bit of a shock this morning. "It is disheartening when these things happen. We will still continue to do our job and make sure the citizens of Beaumont are safe this holiday season," said Officer Riley. Both men could become peace officers again if charges are dropped at the end of their probation and reinstatement of their peace officers licence is approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Airport Customs Agent Nabbed in Mammoth Ecstasy Seizure

Airport customs agent nabbed in mammoth ecstasy seizure
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Christian Boone - December 16, 2010

13 people arrested in airport gun- and drug-smuggling ring

A U.S. Customs agent from Stockbridge and his wife, a Delta employee, face charges of helping funnel guns and drug money through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, federal officials announced Thursday. They were arrested along with 12 others after parallel investigations turned up $2.8 million worth of ecstasy, about 700,000 tabs of the amphetamine-like drug, stored at a residence in Chamblee. U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said it was “the largest ecstasy seizure in the country this year" and the ninth largest in U.S. history. Veteran customs agent Devon Samuels, aka "Smokey," was granted a secured bond with home monitoring Thursday morning, said Yates, who is appealing that decision. Samuels and his wife, Keisha Jones, are charged with conspiring to launder drug money, bulk cash smuggling and attempting to bring weapons onto an aircraft. The investigation into Samuels' actions progressed quickly after a tip from an unnamed source. According to the indictment, a federal agent, posing as a money launderer, met with Samuels on Nov. 3. Samuels was given $22,000 he believed was generated from drug sales, federal agents said. Samuels then allegedly used his security clearance to avoid screening checkpoints en route to Jamaica, where he delivered the money to a Jamaican police officer acting as an international drug trafficker. Samuels' wife accompanied him on the trip, officials said. Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott would not say what Jones' position was with the airline. "We actively participated in this investigation from its inception and will continue to provide our support," she said. The couple returned to Jamaica on Nov. 19 after accepting another $50,000 in alleged drug funds, according to the indictment. Samuels was given $20,000, along with five firearms, on Nov. 30 by an undercover officer who instructed the customs agent to deliver the package to the airport. There, he was met by another incognito agent, who told Samuels he was headed to Arizona for a meeting with members of a Mexican drug cartel. David D'Amato, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Samuels sold himself to the highest bidder. "By bringing down Samuels, we're cutting the head off the snake" of this organization, he said. The ecstasy and marijuana trafficking ring, allegedly led by Jerome Bushay, of Norcross, and Fnu Lu, known as "Otis" (address unknown), was responsible for "the lion's share of ecstasy coming into this region," said Rod Benson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Using his government clearance, Samuels, 45, ran periodic computer checks to determine whether he or his associates were under federal investigation. He's also accused of using his position to assist Carlton Ferguson and Dahlia McLaren, of Decatur, in deceiving immigration authorities about their sham marriage, officials said. He was allegedly paid at least $500 to help McLaren obtain U.S. citizenship. "The severity of Samuels' actions can't be overstated," D'Amato said.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Former Nashville police officer convicted of false statements in Guatemalan gun smuggling case
The Associated Press - December 20, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former Nashville police officer was found guilty by a federal jury of two counts of making false statements when purchasing guns intended to be smuggled to Guatemala. According to prosecutors, Edwing Ronal Morales was convicted last week and will face sentencing in April 2011. Each of the violations carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Morales was one of five people indicted last year on charges of conspiring to illegally purchase weapons that investigators say were smuggled to Guatemalan drug cartels. Prosecutors say Morales falsely represented that he was the actual buyer when purchasing the guns from a Tennessee dealer, but he was actually giving the guns to a co-defendant who was taking the guns to Guatemala.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Former Police Sergeant Found Guilty

Former police sergeant found guilty
The Bucks County Courier Times by LAURIE MASON SCHROEDER - December 18, 2010

BENSALEM, PA- A jury found that Michael Marren, former head of Bensalem police's Special Victim's Unit, sexually assaulted a woman. Michael Marren, a former Bensalem police sergeant who spent much of his career arresting sex offenders, joined their ranks Friday after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman. Marren, who oversaw the force's Special Victims Unit, will now be a registered sex offender under Megan's Law for the rest of his life and could serve more than 10 years in prison, although his attorney said he will argue for less. "Hopefully the court will realize that this was an aberration," said defense lawyer Jack McMahon. "We're hoping that his background, his character and his service to his country will be taken into consideration." Marren, a married father of four, wept silently and turned around to look at his wife and supporters after the verdict was read. There was no other reaction in the courtroom. Marren was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault - a felony - and indecent assault. The jury of nine men and three women found him not guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault. The verdict capped a weeklong trial in Bucks County Court in Doylestown. The victim, a volunteer emergency medical technician who worked alongside Marren at his part-time job at the Bensalem Rescue Squad, told the jury that Marren attacked her in a bathroom at the squad's headquarters. The incident occurred in the early morning hours of March 9, after Marren and the woman had been out drinking with several other squad members who were mourning the death of a paramedic. The woman told the jury that she had asked Marren for a ride back to the squad, where she planned to stay the night, and that he forced himself on her when she went in to use the bathroom. She testified that Marren groped her and put his mouth on her body, then forced her to her knees and made her perform a sex act. She said she tried text-messaging friends for help during the assault, but did not call 911 because she feared other police officers might sexually assault her too. Jurors saw photos and heard testimony about the woman's injuries. Marren's DNA and saliva were found on her breast. Coworkers found the woman hiding in a mechanic's closet after the assault. They called police. On the witness stand Thursday, Marren denied assaulting the woman. He told the jury that she drunkenly tried to kiss him, then reached into his pants. He said he rebuffed her advances, and said she was behaving erratically. He said he was driving home after dropping the woman off when he began getting cell phone calls about the allegations. "I'm seeing my whole life unravel before me," he told the jury. In a 2-hour closing statement to the jury Friday morning, McMahon accused the woman of creating "fake ass drama" and crying rape to get attention. He questioned the validity of DNA evidence and said prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Marren assaulted the woman. McMahon said the woman should not be believed, calling her testimony that she texted friends in the midst of the attack "absurd," and described her account of the incident as "a scatter-shot, erratic, schizophrenic rant." First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry said she'd never witnessed such a "trashing" of a sex assault victim in court. She argued that Marren, with his knowledge of sex crimes, crafted an account of the evening to fit the evidence he thought police had. She noted that Marren had no explanation for his DNA being found on the woman, a piece of evidence that he didn't know about when he gave his statement to county detectives. "It was damage control," Henry told the jury. Henry said the victim was pleased with the verdict. "The defendant and his attorney attempted to put her on trial. The verdict clearly shows that the jury rejected that," Henry said. "This has been a long, hard process for her. She feels that justice was served." Marren was fired shortly after the incident, following an internal investigation. He had worked for Bensalem since 2001 and had headed the Special Victim's Unit for three years. Prior to that he was a Philadelphia firefighter and a Bucks County corrections officer. Marren will be sentenced in about 90 days, following a Megan's Law evaluation. Laurie Mason Schroeder can be reached at 215-694-7489 or Follow Laurie on Twitter at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inmate Seeks Release in Police Drug Plant Probe

Inmate seeks release in police probe
Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - December 16, 2010

Tulsa, OK - A Tulsa judge has scheduled a hearing for an inmate asking to be freed from prison because one of his arresting officers allegedly planted drugs on him and has admitted planting drugs on people in a police corruption probe, court records show. Edward D. White, 32, appeared in Tulsa County District Court Wednesday seeking post-conviction relief for a 2010 drug conviction. District Judge Kurt Glassco scheduled a hearing Jan. 27 to determine if White should be freed. White was sentenced to four years in state prison after pleading no contest June 11, 2010, to possession of a controlled drug, court records show. The case was filed July 24, 2008. If released from prison, White would be the 26th person to be freed from prison, have a case dismissed or have a prison sentence modified because of a grand jury investigation involving police corruption, a World investigation shows. White also pleaded no contest in June to a second case involving possession of a controlled drug. White received a four-year sentence, which ran concurrent with the first case, records show. Both of the cases involve former Tulsa Police Officer Eric J. Hill, who was fired after he admitted planting drugs on defendants and stealing drug money, records show. In a telephone interview with the Tulsa World on Tuesday, White said he was transported from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite to the Tulsa Jail for his court appearance. He remains in custody pending his hearing.

In court records filed Oct. 25, White accused Hill of planting drugs on him July 20, 2008, records show. "How do I feel being locked up for something I did not do?" White asked. "I want my integrity back. I think they robbed me of my integrity. I want my family to know I was telling the truth from the start." White said that Hill planted drugs on him in July 2008 and November 2008 during separate traffic stops. "I went to Internal Affairs and filed a report after the first time and after that he pulled me over a few months later (November 2008) and planted three bags of weed on me," White said. White has a felony record, including convictions of assault and battery of a police officer and unlawful possession of marijuana in 2001, records show. In 2004, he was convicted of possession of a controlled drug. White's attorney, James Linger, said White has talked to federal agents believed to be involved with the grand jury investigation of police corruption. Linger said he would speak to U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke to seek information that could benefit his client. Duke, who is the U.S. attorney for eastern Arkansas, is the special prosecutor overseeing the police corruption inquiry. Hill was hired by the Tulsa Police Department on July 5, 2005. He was fired Aug. 18 after admitting that he planted drugs and stole money during drug arrests. Hill has prosecutorial immunity and is cooperating with Duke's office, a World investigation shows. During a June 7 interview with the FBI and Duke, Hill admitted to criminal activity, a Tulsa Police Department personnel order states. The order indicates Hill told Department of Justice officials that more than once he "replaced" narcotics that had either been destroyed or disposed of by a suspect with narcotics that he or another officer brought to the scene. The order also says Hill told federal officials he received $500 stolen during a drug investigation. During the FBI interview, Hill admitted that he and three officers shared $10,000 stolen during the drug bust, federal court records state. Before Hill was fired, he was assigned to the Gilcrease Division. Hill was arrested July 19 on an unrelated complaint of domestic assault and battery. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Former Cop Wants to Keep PD In Line

Former police officer wants to keep the Fairfax Police Department in line
The Washington Post by Tom Jackman - May 13, 2010

Nicholas Beltrante is an unlikely candidate to take on one of the nation's largest suburban police forces. He's 82, a World War II veteran, a former D.C. police officer, longtime private investigator, lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and frequent appointee to criminal justice advisory boards. But the Mount Vernon resident was troubled by the police crash that killed teacher's assistant Ashley McIntosh on Route 1 in 2008, and then bothered by the fatal shooting of unarmed motorist David Masters on Route 1 last November. In both cases, Fairfax police disclosed little information about the events, did not release the names of the officers involved and would not discuss any internal discipline, for various long-standing policy reasons. Now his dogged efforts and growing disillusion have created a groundswell, and some county residents have launched an effort to create a citizens group to oversee the Fairfax Police Department. Fairfax police and politicians say they're open to the idea. Mary Ann Jennings, a police spokeswoman, said her department is researching oversight groups around the country and "we want to closely examine the most successful among those to ensure fairness" to officers as well as civilians. Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, said she had heard of Beltrante's effort and discussed it with Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer. "There could be a place for some kind of a citizen body that could be a constructive forum for these issues," Bulova said. Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said he would present the idea to the board for consideration. "When Dave Masters got killed," Beltrante said, "I said, 'I've got to do something about this. This is too much.' The police are sort of out of control. Not all of them. A small number. I think mostly they do a great job. We need them, and they need us, the citizens." Citizen groups overseeing police departments are not a new idea. The Office of Police Complaints in the District often is cited as a national model. Reestablished by the D.C. Council in 2001, it has subpoena power and independent investigators. Its work has resulted in departmental discipline including reprimands, suspensions and termination. Philip K. Eure, executive director of the D.C. Office of Police Complaints and president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, said there are 150 citizen groups involved in police oversight around the country, including in most large cities. Fairfax's police force is "one of the largest law enforcement agencies without any form of public review," he said. "You think of Fairfax County as being this 'best practices' county government, which is why it's somewhat shocking they're behind the curve on this idea."

A new calling

Beltrante retired from the D.C. police as a sergeant after 14 years and opened up Beltrante and Associates. The Washington Post once called him "the dean of Washington's private investigators." After the Watergate break-in, the Democratic National Committee hired him to de-bug their offices in 1972. Married for 35 years, he is the father of three, grandfather of six and great-grandfather of one. As he followed the cases of McIntosh and Masters, he began to put his investigative skills to work. He researched civilian oversight panels, read books on the subject and called various police oversight officials around the country. Next, he rounded up support from groups such as the local NAACP branch, the ACLU, the National Police Accountability Project in Boston and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. The Fairfax branch of the NAACP appointed one of its members to help, although it recently posted a statement on its Web site saying it has not decided whether to become involved. Branch President Olivia Jones-Smith did not respond to requests for clarification. Beltrante named the group the Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability. And he did it all without the Internet -- no computer, no e-mail account, no BlackBerry. Beltrante used his phone, his fax machine, and a typewriter with the all-caps key apparently stuck. In April, Beltrante convened the Citizens Coalition's first meeting at a public library in Mount Vernon. Representatives from the NAACP and the ACLU's Racial Justice Program and Immigrants' Rights Project attended and offered their support, as did Gail Masters, the still-grieving ex-wife of David Masters, and Cindy Colasanto, the mother of McIntosh. Beltrante said that Fairfax officers had shot and killed nine people since 2006 and that a 10th person recently was shot twice in the chest at close range but survived. He said the group had two goals: holding police accountable for their actions on duty and making more police reports and records open to the public. He noted that Fairfax recently paid $1.5 million to McIntosh's family to settle the lawsuit filed after Officer Amanda Perry ran through a red light and killed McIntosh. "What is the cost to the taxpayer of this police abuse?" Beltrante said.

Getting organized

With the NAACP's help, Beltrante set up an e-mail address and is creating a Web site. He wants to begin taking complaints and investigating them, and he has sent a letter to Rohrer asking for cooperation. He also has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the name of the officer who shot Masters -- a shooting ruled justifiable by the Fairfax prosecutor. Beltrante said if the police reject his request, he will challenge it in court. Samuel Walker, the author of two books on civilian oversight of police, said there are two models of police review panels. One involves the panel doing its own investigations with its own staff. The other, which Walker gradually came to favor, simply oversees the results of police internal affairs investigations to look for patterns or problems. "When you focus on individual cases," Walker said, "you don't focus on the underlying causes." The Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability can be reached by e-mail at

Friday, December 17, 2010

Former Atlanta Cop Sentenced for Corruption

Former Atlanta police officer sentenced for corruption
The Examiner by Todd DeFeo - December 16, 2010

ATLANTA, GA – A former Atlanta police officer faces 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to drug and corruption charges. Lucius T. Solomon III, 32, of Atlanta, also faces five years of supervised release after his prison term. In addition, the former officer must perform 200 hours of community service. “This police officer took an oath to protect the public from criminals. Instead, he protected the criminals from law enforcement. Now he is headed to federal prison,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. According to federal officials, Solomon three times offered protection for what he thought were “multi-kilogram cocaine deals” in exchange for money. For two of the “deals,” the ex-officer was in uniform and on duty, authorities said. “The public simply must have confidence in its police officers,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said in a statement. “While I believe this incident is not indicative of the vast majority of hardworking, honest and dedicated officers out there on the streets of Atlanta day in and day out, today’s sentence sends a strong message to those who would stray from their mission to uphold and enforce the law. Solomon pleaded guilty on Sept. 2.

Compelling Police Accountability

Compelling police accountability
The Washington Post - OPINION - December 17, 2010

FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE enjoy a long-standing reputation for professionalism and scandal-free dealings with the public they are sworn to protect. However, the department's recent track record for accountability in a few cases involving shootings by police officers suggests there is room for improvement. In one such case, the county police have remained tight-lipped about the fatal shooting 13 months ago of David Masters, a carpenter and former Army Green Beret with bipolar disease. The police have been conducting an internal investigation into the shooting for a year, and they have yet to release findings. The officer who shot Mr. Masters has remained on the force at full pay, though he is limited to administrative duties. The department has not adequately explained why the investigation has taken so long. The incident involved just a handful of officers, one of whom fired the shots that killed Mr. Masters as he sat alone and unarmed in his vehicle. Police officials, when asked when they might reach some sort of conclusion, have reacted with what amounts to a shrug. Some of Mr. Masters's loved ones are furious. A group calling itself the Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, founded by a retired District police detective who lives in Fairfax, has urged the county to establish a citizens board empowered to review questionable incidents involving the police - particularly in cases of lethal force used by officers. The proposal has support from members of the county Board of Supervisors, which asked Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer to look into establishing a review panel. The next step is unclear, as is the county's approach. Fairfax police have made no effort to contact the national association that serves as a clearinghouse for information about how citizen review boards work. Nor have they contacted the Office of Police Complaints in the District, a 10-year-old body with considerable expertise and resources. Dozens of police departments nationally, including plenty that are smaller than Fairfax's, have such oversight mechanisms. The most effective ones function independently of the police chain of command and have investigative muscle - even, in the case of the District's office, the power to issue subpoenas. Judging from the less-than-forthright behavior of the Fairfax police in the Masters case, there is every reason to think that creating an external review body would be helpful, both as a means to shake loose information in response to reasonable allegations of police error, misconduct and abuse, and to encourage accountability.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cop Guilty of Assaulting Wife Resign

Cop guilty of assaulting wife resigns
The Albany Times Union by Tim O'Brien - December 14, 2010

COLONIE, NY -- A town police officer has agreed to resign from the force and will be sentenced Wednesday on a charge of assaulting his wife. Edward Weber broke his wife's nose during the incident last May near Albany's Washington Park. He pleaded guilty Oct. 21 in Albany City Court to a domestic violence charge that left him unable to carry a gun. Weber pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault. Under the plea deal, he will be sentenced to three years' probation and will have to attend a batterers intervention program. An order of protection also was issued barring him from illegal contact. Last week, the Town Board OK'd a settlement of disciplinary charges that included Weber's resignation. Weber punched his wife at 11 p.m. May 29 as the two drove near Henry Johnson Boulevard and State Street in Albany, Albany police said at the time. Weber, who had been on the Colonie force since 2000, was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Police Set To Appeal Cop's Reinstatement

LR police set to appeal officer’s reinstatement
The Democrat-Gazette by C.S. Murphy - December 15, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Little Rock Police Department leaders say they will appeal last month’s Civil Service Commission ruling that reinstated an officer who had been fired after being caught on camera using a racial slur. “We believe the right decision was made in terminating officer [David] Edgmon’s employment,” police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said Tuesday. Chief Deputy City Attorney Bill Mann said Tuesday he was notified by e-mail on Dec. 8 that police “management” wanted to appeal the reinstatement. Private attorney Jess Sweere will represent the Police Department in the matter because the city attorney’s office represents the commission, Mann explained. In a Nov. 18 decision, the commission decided 3-2 to give Edgmon his job back. In reversing his dismissal, commissioners handed him a 30-day suspension. “We respect the Civil Service Commission’s decision, but we also have a right to appeal that decision, just as an officer can appeal the decision of the commission,”Hastings said. “Chief [Stuart] Thomas and City Manager Bruce Moore discussed the issue and believe the appeal is the correct thing to do in this case.”

Sweere, who has been representing the department in Civil Service Commission matters for four years, said such an appeal is unusual. It’s also rare, he said, for the commission to overturn a termination. Robert Newcomb, Edgmon’s attorney, said his client has returned to work without incident. “He says he hasn’t had one person say anything negative to him since he came back to work,” Newcomb said. Newcomb, who has been representing police and firefighters for more than 30 years, said he can recall only one other time the city appealed a Civil Service Commission decision. In a letter last week, Little Rock Black Police Officers Association President Terrell Vaughn called for the resignation of the three commissioners who voted to reinstate Edgmon. On Tuesday, Vaughn said he was pleased to hear of the appeal but added, “If the civil service commission had done their job in the beginning, we wouldn’t be discussing the issue.” Edgmon, 24, was fired in August for conduct unbecoming an officer, being intoxicated in public and for engaging in activities that “could result in the justified criticism” of the officer and the Police Department. Thomas launched an internal investigation after Edgmon was caught on amateur video in March using the term “jigaboo” to a group of young black men in the River Market. On the video, recorded by a group called Ill Legal Productions, Edgmon flashes his police badge after one of the men asks to see it. It’s unclear whether Edgmon, who is not in uniform, mentioned beforehand that he was a police officer. In subsequent comments to the men, Edgmon uses the racial slur once. At the November commission hearing, Edgmon testified that he didn't know the word “jigaboo” was a racial slur but conceded that he knew the term was derogatory. Overcome with emotion more than once, Edgmon told the commissioners that the incident and his termination prompted him to make changes in his life, spending more time with his family and refraining from drinking to excess.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grand Jury Adds More Charges Against Deputy Sheriff


HOUSTON, TX—A federal grand jury has returned a six-count superseding indictment against Harris County Deputy Sheriff George Wesley Ellington, 38, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers and Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. The superseding indictment incorporates charges of accepting bribes in return for protection of loads of Ecstasy from the original indictment returned in late October 2010 and adds four additional charges, including two counts of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy—with one count adding his wife, Katrise Tania Ellington, 31, as a defendant—and two counts of carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to the drug trafficking offenses charged. George Ellington, arrested following the unsealing of the original indictment in October 2010, was later released on bond. He is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010, for arraignment on the new charges. Katrise Ellington surrendered to federal authorities this morning and after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeshner has been ordered released on a $25,000 unsecured bond pending trial. George Ellington is charged in Counts 1 and 2 with accepting a total of $1000 in bribes in February 2010 and April 2010 in return for using his position as a Harris County Deputy Sheriff to provide protection for two loads of 3, 4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly called Ecstasy, and with unauthorized access to confidential law enforcement databases; Counts 3 and 4 accuse Ellington of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy on the same dates in February and April 2010; and Counts 5 and 6 charge him with carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crimes alleged in the previous counts. Katrise Ellington is charged along with her husband in Count 4 with aiding and abetting the possession with the intent to distribute Ecstasy in April 2010. Each of the two bribery charges and two drug trafficking charges carries a maximum penalty, upon conviction, of 20 years’ imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine. The two firearm charges carry a potential 30-year sentence—that is, five years upon conviction of the first count and an additional 25-year sentence if convicted of the second charge—which must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Rodriguez. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Prosecutor's OK Drunk Driving For Politically Connected Drunks

Plea deal by Niagara DA's nephew is source of questions in DWI case
The Buffalo News by Thomas J. Prohaska and Scott Scanlon - December 13, 2010

District Attorney Violante role denied in expedited leniency

Nineteen months before the Niagara County District Attorney's Office helped the daughter of a North Tonawanda alderwoman get off easy on a drunken-driving charge, the nephew of District Attorney Michael J. Violante plowed his Subaru Impreza into a snowbank in Lewiston. State troopers responded to the crash and charged Timothy L. Violante with driving while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit for intoxication. The younger Violante was never convicted of any alcohol-related offense. Instead, less than three weeks after the crash, he was allowed to plead guilty in Lewiston Town Court to driving at a speed not reasonably prudent and disobeying a traffic device. He was fined $200 and got five points on a driver's license that he was never forced to surrender, according to public records. "Is that normal? No," said State Police Sgt. David Martek, the traffic supervisor for Troop A in Western New York and a 22-year police veteran who has handled hundreds of DWI cases. Timothy Violante is the son of Lewiston dentist Mario J. Violante Jr., of Porter, the district attorney's brother. Drivers charged with DWI are not supposed to be allowed to plead to any offense lesser than driving while ability impaired unless the district attorney finds a good reason and places it on the record, according to state law. All the lawyers who were involved in the Timothy Violante case -- defense attorney Robert Viola, Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner and then-Assistant District Attorney Mark J. Gabriele -- said that Michael Violante played no role in the outcome. "The district attorney recused himself. It was my decision," said Brenner, the staff's DWI specialist. "Right away, Mike said, 'Listen, I've got no role in this. You guys handle it,'" recalled Gabriele, a former part-time prosecutor whose specialty for 20 years was prosecuting drunken drivers in town courts. In a statement, Brenner wrote, "I concluded that anyone else similarly situated, that is, with a clean record, a 0.09 reading, no crash other than sliding on ice into a snowbank, and where there were no witnesses to operation [of the car] would be offered a non-alcohol disposition. I decided not to punish the defendant for being the district attorney's nephew. That decision was mine and mine alone." An investigation by The Buffalo News shows that the district attorney's nephew got a rare break when it comes to DWI cases.
  • The News was able to identify 20 cases in Niagara County since Michael Violante became district attorney in January 2008 in which a DWI arrest resulted in part from a borderline blood-alcohol reading from 0.08 percent, the legal minimum for a DWI charge in New York, to 0.11 percent. Only three of the drivers in those cases were allowed to plead guilty to charges that were not alcohol-related, and two of those drivers had their licenses suspended as part of the cases against them.
  • In Erie County in 2008, the year Timothy Violante was charged, there were 240 DWI arrests involving borderline blood-alcohol level readings. Four of those drivers -- or 1.67 percent -- ended up with convictions that were not alcohol-related.
2nd questionable case

The latest revelations are the second to come to light this year over the way the District Attorney's Office has handled DWI cases for young people with connections to officials in the county. In July, Sara E. Donovan, 23, daughter of North Tonawanda Alderwoman Nancy A. Donovan, was charged with driving while intoxicated after her car struck two parked vehicles on Payne Avenue in North Tonawanda in the early morning hours of July 11. She registered a 0.13 percent blood-alcohol reading and was allowed to plead guilty to speeding and a parking violation. Brenner also handled the Donovan case. He is a holdover from the staff of former Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, now a county judge, and, like all county prosecutors, serves at Michael Violante's pleasure. Michael Violante, Nancy Donovan and North Tonawanda City Judge William R. Lewis, who approved the Sara Donovan plea deal, are all Republican elected officials. Sara Donovan's defense attorney was former Niagara County Republican Party Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek, who endorsed Violante to run for district attorney in 2007. Lewiston Town Justice Hugh C. Gee Sr., who presided over Timothy Violante's case, also is a Republican. Gee did not return calls seeking comment on the case. Asked why there was no effort to seek a special prosecutor, with no perceived conflict of interest, to handle his nephew's case, Michael Violante responded, "I didn't think it was necessary." The district attorney declined to comment further. Three messages left with Timothy Violante and his parents went unreturned. State Troopers William L. Persinger and Ryan C. Burns, who have 10 and 13 years' experience, respectively, responded to the crash involving the younger Violante at about 2 a.m. Dec. 20, 2008, on North Ninth Street in the Village of Lewiston, according to a police report obtained by The News through a request to the State Police under the Freedom of Information Law.

Blood-alcohol content

Timothy Violante had crashed his compact car into a snowbank. Persinger, the arresting officer, reported that Violante, then 22 and of Porter, appeared to be impaired by alcohol when they arrived. He wrote in a DWI deposition that Violante "was insistent with me about not having anything to drink." After Timothy Violante "was swaying" during a field sobriety test, missed his nose with his finger four times and aborted an effort to recite the alphabet at the letter "I," he acknowledged that he "had a few drinks and that he is probably over the legal limit," Persinger wrote. He was taken to the State Police barracks in the Town of Niagara and registered a blood-alcohol reading of 0.09 percent. He was charged with driving while intoxicated, driving with a blood-alcohol content above 0.08 percent and driving at a speed too fast for road conditions, Persinger reported. Lawyers involved with the case said Timothy Violante was treated the way he was because of his blood-alcohol reading. "My client had consumed beers just before his operation of the vehicle and within less than five minutes of his stop," Viola wrote to the District Attorney's Office. "I would contend that since it normally requires in excess of 20 minutes from ingestion for alcohol to be diffused through the stomach, that the [blood-alcohol content] was below 0.08 percent at the time of operation."

Both requests granted

In a letter from Viola to Gabriele that was forwarded to Brenner, the defense attorney asked for a nonalcohol plea and a fast resolution to the case. He got both. The plea was entered at Violante's first Lewiston Town Court appearance Jan. 6, 2009, 17 days after the arrest. Viola said Timothy Violante, then a senior at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa., needed to be able to keep driving and avoid a license suspension that would have occurred at his first court appearance with an attorney. Alcohol breath tests can be off by 0.01 percent, said James J. Faso, a Niagara Falls defense attorney who said he has tried hundreds of DWI cases. "When you can't get a plea, you try the case and let the judge decide. There are judges who will give you an impaired at a 0.14," Faso said. Faso said he could not recall ever winning a nonalcohol-related plea deal on a DWI charge. He did say he has been able to get judges to dismiss such cases, however. The News asked Brenner and Michael Violante to provide other examples of drivers who have been given nonalcohol-related pleas during the last three years, but the request went unanswered. Public records available indicate that Timothy Violante's plea deal on his DWI charge was anything but common. A database involving all borderline drunken-driving cases in Niagara County does not exist, according to the State Police and the county's STOP-DWI Office. But by using its archives and other public records, The News was able to identify 20 cases in the county since Violante became district attorney in which a DWI arrest resulted in charges that a motorist had a borderline blood-alcohol reading from 0.08 percent to 0.11 percent.

Case quickly resolved

Defendants in 14 of those cases ended up with convictions to alcohol-related offenses: 12 for driving while ability-impaired by alcohol and two for DWI. Three of the cases involve drivers charged with DWI this year who have had their driver's licenses suspended while they await the outcome of their cases. Two of the three drivers who were allowed to plead to nonalcohol-related offenses had their licenses suspended -- one for three months, the other for six -- while they awaited the outcome of their cases. The average time to resolve the 17 cases no longer pending was 77 days. Four of the cases were resolved more quickly than the one against Timothy Violante, two with convictions for DWAI and one for DWI. For several years, The News has kept closer track of DWI cases in Erie County. At least 3,264 drivers were charged with misdemeanor DWI in Erie County in 2008. Twenty-three motorists -- seven-tenths of 1 percent -- ended up with convictions that were not alcohol-related. The average case took 143 days to resolve in court. State Police Capt. Craig S. Hanesworth, zone commander for Niagara County, said that it's not unusual for defense lawyers to attack the reliability of equipment that takes blood-alcohol readings in DWI cases but that the tactic is rarely successful. Hanesworth said lawyers have the added burden of disputing officers who are trained to look for signs of intoxication at an arrest scene. "When we make DWI arrests," he said, "[we look at] multiple things." It's up to officers to provide the best evidence they can to back up an arrest, he said. As for plea bargains? "The reasoning for that," he said, "is a question for the district attorney's office." News Staff Reporters Patrick Lakamp and Nancy A. Fischer contributed to this report. and

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Puerto Rico Cops Convicted in Drug Sale

Two Puerto Rico police officers convicted for participation in drug transaction - December 11, 2010

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On Wednesday, two Puerto Rico police officers, Raquel Delgado-Marrero and Ángel Rivera-Claudio, were convicted of three counts each for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, attempt to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. The defendants were immediately incarcerated, and are facing a minimum of 15 years in prison. The defendants were charged in a four-count indictment on September 9, 2010. This indictment is part of Operation Guard Shack, in which 133 defendants were indicted as the result of 125 undercover drug transactions conducted by the FBI in several locations in Puerto Rico from July 2008 until September 2010. The defendants’ participation in one drug transaction on July 24, 2009, consisted of providing armed protection to a drug dealer during the sale of seven kilograms of cocaine. In exchange for their security services during the drug transactions, the defendants received $2,000 each. “These convictions demonstrate the commitment of the Department of Justice and the US Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico to eradicate corruption in our law enforcement ranks. We cannot help but be appalled at the criminal conduct that was presented during trial against these two individuals who had sworn to serve and protect the citizens of Puerto Rico, but instead were protecting drug transactions,” said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ex-Prison Guard Sentence

Ex-prison guard sentenced
The Advocate by Bill Lodge - December 10, 2010

Ecknozzio Jackson, a former state prison sergeant, was sentenced to a federal prison term of 21 months Thursday after he admitted providing cell phones to an inmate for a promised bribe of $10,000. Jackson, 40, of Baton Rouge, never received a dime of the money promised by identity thief and scam artist Robert Thompson, 44, of Zachary. But he provided the phones. “You did that in return for a $10,000 bribe from the prisoner,” Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson said. The judge said Jackson knowingly helped Thompson commit crimes. Jackson, who worked at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, tried to share in Thompson’s stolen profits. But FBI agents arrested Jackson as he attempted to withdraw $3,000 that had been wired to an account at a Baton Rouge bank. “I accept full responsibility for what I’ve done,” Jackson told the judge. He also apologized to his family and all of Thompson’s victims. Tyson sentenced Thompson to a prison term of 309 years earlier this year. Thompson had admitted engineering the theft of approximately $100,000 from a series of prison cells while he was serving time for other financial crimes. But prosecutors introduced evidence that he had attempted to steal more than $20 million. Prosecutors contend the inmate used cell phones to call people outside of prison. Those people then called financial institutions, car dealerships, electronic stores, even churches to steal identities, credit card numbers and other information. Thompson posed as other people during those three-way calls. U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. noted in a written statement that Thompson is serving his three centuries in a special communication-management unit at the maximum security federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill. Tyson ordered Jackson to report to federal prison on Jan. 10. That facility has yet to be identified by the Bureau of Prisons. Tyson sentenced another former prison guard, Barbara J. Thomas, 46, of Tallulah, in September to three years of probation.

Other people previously convicted and sentenced in the case include:

Charlene B. Jackson, 38, New Iberia, 15 months in prison.
Sedric L. Jackson, 37, Baton Rouge, five years in prison.
Zelbony O. Taylor, 34, Baton Rouge, five years in prison.
Dacobia L. Hamilton, 33, Baton Rouge, 30 days in jail.
Murkell L. Parker, 35, Baton Rouge, five years of probation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

3 New Orleans Cops Convicted

3 New Orleans cops convicted; man shot, burned in car
The Washington Times by Jerry Seper - December 9, 2010

A jury on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, convicted McRae of burning the body of 31-year-old Henry Glover after he was shot dead by police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Three current and former New Orleans police officers have been convicted by a federal jury in connection with the post-Katrina shooting death of a Louisiana man who was shot in the back and left to die in the back seat of a car, which later was burned by police with the man's body still in it. The jury on Thursday found former Officer David Warren guilty of a civil rights violation, resulting in death, for the Sept. 2, 2005, shooting of civilian Henry Glover. It also convicted him of using a firearm during a crime of manslaughter. Warren, who was convicted of shooting Mr. Glover in the back as he was running away from the officer, faces a possible life sentence for the civil rights shooting crimes and up to 15 years imprisonment for the firearms manslaughter.

Also convicted were current Officers Greg McRae, on two counts of civil rights violations, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of using fire in the commission of a felony, and Lt. Travis McCabe, on charges of obstruction of justice by submitting a false report about the Glover shooting, lying to the FBI and committing perjury before a federal grand jury convened to investigate Mr. Glover's death. McRae faces a possible sentence of 50 years in prison, while McCabe faces a maximum sentence of 30 years. "Instead of upholding their oath to protect and serve the people of New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina, these officers violated the law and the public trust," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "And while some officers broke through the thin blue line and told the truth under oath, others were rightly convicted for obstructing justice. Today's verdict brought a measure of justice to the Glover family and to the entire city." Prosecutors said at trial that Warren, while stationed on a second floor lookout, shot Mr. Glover, who was a floor below him and running away. Mr. Glover's brother and a friend flagged down a passing motorist, William Tanner, who put the wounded man in his car to try to get medical attention for him. But the prosecutors said that when the group drove up to a makeshift police station seeking help, police officers surrounded them at gunpoint, handcuffed them and let Mr. Glover die in the back seat. Prosecutors said McRae then drove off with Mr. Tanner's car with Mr. Glover's body inside, and burned both the body and the car with a traffic flare. "Today's verdicts send a powerful message that no one is above the law, and that those who are sworn to protect our citizens are never, under any circumstances, relieved of their sacred responsibilities under our constitution," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans. "We will continue to do everything in our power — and use every law and weapon in our arsenal of justice to make certain that our police never abuse power they wield." The jury acquitted Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, accused of aiding and abetting the burning of the car, and Lt. Robert Italiano, accused of participating in the cover up. During the course of the month-long trial, jurors heard from 65 witnesses, including all five of the defendants, and deliberated for three days before returning their verdict.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Integrity Squad Disbanded

Pittsburgh's "Integrity Squad" Disbanded
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Bobby Kerlik - December 7, 2010

A decade ago, a $5 dollar bill left on a table in the Hill District police station could sit untouched for a week because officers feared it was an internal sting. Word had spread among Pittsburgh police officers that such tests were the work of then-Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr.’s Office of Special Investigations, an internal affairs unit known as the “Integrity Squad.” “It helped weed out a lot of officers who shouldn’t be there,” McNeilly said. The small unit didn’t actually run such random integrity tests, acting more on tips from within officers’ ranks about dirty fellow cops. The arrests last month of city Officers Ken Simon and Anthony Scarpine on corruption charges reignited a debate about how effective the squads are. The city axed the squad about five years ago as part of budget cuts when the state declared Pittsburgh financially distressed under Act 47, according to Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson. The city had the civilian-run Office of Municipal Investigations, which investigates all city employees, including citizens’ complaints of police misconduct. “Currently, integrity checks are routinely undertaken, or they are triggered by an allegation or suspicion of police misconduct,” Donaldson said in a prepared statement. “The investigation is performed by OMI, or in some instances by the FBI. Our present methods are sufficient, and both agencies are thorough and professional.” A sergeant and five officers are assigned to OMI along with civilian investigators. McNeilly, who served as Pittsburgh chief from 1996-2006 and is the chief in Elizabeth Township, said the Integrity Squad was far more effective in combating corruption. “There were a lot of things the Integrity Squad was able to investigate that OMI couldn’t,” he said. McNeilly says pressure from the police union ultimately was responsible for the squad’s demise. Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 attorney Bryan Campbell denied the union had a hand in disbanding it, and union Vice President Chuck Hanlon blasted the idea of starting another one. “(Simon and Scarpine) haven’t even been convicted, and here we are again. We’re already cash-strapped and low on manpower. If you want (crime) to get out of control, keep stripping the streets of officers,” Hanlon said. “If you start an Integrity Squad, it’ll be guys sitting on their hands. There’s nothing wrong with the department.” Simon, 49, and Scarpine, 58, are accused of fabricating charges and wrongfully arresting two men during a July drug bust in the North Side. Prosecutors charged the officers after video surveillance contradicted the officers’ account of what happened, authorities said. Lawyers for the pair say the officers stand by the arrests. Larger departments such as those in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans have integrity units that help deter corruption, experts said. “It’s a matter of resources. Obviously, departments cannot ignore the complaints of citizens, but to test how officers respond in certain situations costs money. Five or six detectives costs a few hundred thousand dollars a year,” said Maki Haberfield, a professor who specializes in police ethics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “The pros are that it keeps officers on their toes, but on the other side, it’s sort of demoralizing. It’s effective if you have a department with extensive corruption.” Steve Rothlein, a retired deputy chief and 30-year veteran of Miami-Dade police who works as a police training consultant, oversaw an internal affairs unit in Miami that did targeted stings. “(Integrity units) can be effective in those departments that have a big problem,” Rothlein said. “But in most departments 99 percent of the officers are honest. Why run around and test honest officers?” Mona Wallace, who retired from Pittsburgh police last year, worked on McNeilly’s squad. She said 70 percent of the cases the squad worked came from other officers. “The rumor was that we did random integrity tests, but we never did that. The people we did test, there was a reason to do it,” Wallace said. Wallace said the squad was effective with its four or five investigators. “They knew we were out there and that we were proactive. Truthfully, if it made somebody think twice, it was effective.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cop Charged With Revealing Confidential Information

Frenchtown cop charged with revealing confidential DYFS information
The Hunterdon Democrat by Teresa Fasanello - December 6, 2010

FRENCHTOWN, NJ — Patrolman Randy Groff of the borough police department was arrested by state troopers on charges of official misconduct. He’s been suspended without pay. He was charged Nov. 4 with official misconduct for revealing confidential information about a pending home visit by a Division of Youth and Family Services officer, a spokeswoman from the state Attorney General’s office said today. Groff obtained the information about the DYFS visit while exercising his official duties, but acted contrary to law when he revealed the information without authorization in order “to obtain a benefit for himself or another,” according to the charges. He was scheduled to appear in Delaware Valley Municipal Court on Nov. 8, but his case was transferred to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office because it is an indictable offense. This means the matter may be taken before a grand jury to consider returning an indictment. Frenchtown Police Chief Al Kurylka said Groff returned his gun and other equipment to the police department. He was hired full-time last year through a $204,618 grant from the federal Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Police Services program. The borough was to receive 100% of Groff’s entry-level salary and benefits for three years, with the requirement that Groff continue to be employed by the borough for at least one year after the grant ended. Kurylka said Groff’s suspension will not jeopardize the grant. “We don’t want to lose that,” he said. Councilman Brad Myhre, who heads the Police and Fire Committee, said the administrators of the grant have been “fully informed” of the situation and the funds are “secure.” “I will absolutely hire another full-time police officer when I am allowed to,” Kurylka said. For now, part-time officers have increased their hours, but Kurylka said some reduction in total hours worked by the force is inevitable. “We are trying to do our very, very best,” he said. Groff, 47, worked as a Roxbury Township police officer for 13 years, retiring in 2004, said Roxbury Chief Mark Noll. He worked next as a crusher operator at the Oxford quarry in Warren County before he joined the Frenchtown police force, and was a part-time patrolman in Frenchtown for three years before being hired full-time through the grant.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

FL State Attorney Keeps Pushing For Ethics Reforms

State attorney keeps pushing for ethics reforms
The Sun Sentinel by Andy Reid - December 5, 2010

After championing the Palm Beach County ethics reforms endorsed by voters in November, State Attorney Michael McAuliffe is readying to step up prosecutions and spread the reach of new anti-corruption efforts for scandal-plagued "Corruption County." That includes calling for the School District and local governments to voluntarily come under the oversight of a new county ethics code, Ethics Commission and Inspector General. That also includes McAuliffe's proposal for the county board with top law enforcement officials, the Criminal Justice Commission, to re-think the way it does business. The goal is to stay in line with Florida's open-meetings and public-records laws. McAuliffe has long served on the Criminal Justice Commission but is now proposing that he and other law enforcement officials change its makeup and step down to avoid potential conflicts with Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law. The Sunshine Law concern comes from the frequent conversations that McAuliffe says he and the sheriff and other top law enforcement officials who serve on the commission need to have outside of public meetings. "I can't be the enforcer of those laws and not adhere to the spirit and the letter of them," said McAuliffe, who was elected in 2008.

After a string of Palm Beach County public corruption scandals that began in 2006, voters approved expanding the reach of the county's new Ethics Code, Ethics Commission and Inspector General to all 38 cities, towns and villages. As local communities and the county coordinate the final approvals needed to get those measures in place by April, McAuliffe is working with the county's new Inspector General to prepare for prosecutions that are expected to surface. Voters will have to "keep the pressure on" to spread the measures to other branches of local government, said Bob Newmark, of the Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County, which was among the groups that pushed for the ethics reforms. That includes the School District as well as independently elected officials such as the tax collector, clerk and comptroller, sheriff, property appraiser and supervisor of elections. "If any area in the country needs ethics reform … you know we need it in Palm Beach County," said Newmark, who credits McAuliffe with leading the effort. "The Ethics Code and Inspector General['s jurisdiction] should be expanded." Since 2006, four Palm Beach County commissioners have resigned and pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to misuse of office. Two former West Palm Beach city commissioners were also swept up in federal corruption investigations. A state grand jury led by McAuliffe's office last year issued recommendations for ways to clean up local government. Chief among them was creating the inspector general office to serve as a full-time government watchdog against waste and corruption. A year ago, the County Commission agreed to create the inspector general position. The County Commission also approved tougher ethics rules and the creation of an independently appointed Ethics Commission to rule on suspected ethics violations.

Voters in November agreed to extend the reach of those ethics reform measures from just County Commission-controlled departments to the governments of all cities, towns and villages. That gives the inspector general, Sheryl Steckler, the power to scrutinize county and municipal governments, looking for fraud, waste and abuse in contracts or the actions of elected officials, government employees and those doing business with local governments. When Steckler and her investigators find suspected criminal wrongdoing, they pass the case to McAuliffe's office for potential prosecution. "Numerous" referrals from Steckler, who started work in June, are under active investigation by the State Attorney's Office, McAuliffe said. "I regularly talk to Sheryl and we meet to make sure our efforts are coordinated," he said. The County Commission's most recent scandal also drew renewed local attention to Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law. After an investigation by McAuliffe's office, Jeff Koons resigned his seat on the County Commission and pleaded guilty to extortion as well as violating Florida's public records and meetings laws in his push to stifle opposition to an environmental project he supported. Now McAuliffe is suggesting changes to the Criminal Justice Commission, which he serves on, because of Sunshine Law concerns. The county created the Criminal Justice Commission in 1988 to coordinate law enforcement efforts and suggest how to direct funding for everything from victims services to youth programs. Its guidelines call for the State Attorney, sheriff, public defender, chief judge and other top officials to serve on the board.

The Sunshine Law calls for advisory boards and committees of local governments, such as the Criminal Justice Commission, to discuss public business at public meetings. That can be a problem for some members of the Criminal Justice Commission who often need to talk during the course of day-to-day law enforcement efforts, McAuliffe said. When those topics start to stray into issues that could be coming before the Criminal Justice Commission, McAuliffe said he and the other board members either need to stop talking and wait for the next meeting or risk running afoul of state law. Instead of seeking an exemption to the Sunshine Law, which would have to be approved by the Florida Legislature, McAuliffe proposes that he and the other top law enforcement officials step aside and appoint representatives from their office to serve on the Criminal Justice Commission. The County Commission would have to change the authorizing guidelines for the board to changes in representation. "It's sort of a natural time to review the issue," McAuliffe said. "We are in this window of reform. … It's naturally a part of this conversation." But the changes to the Criminal Justice Commission may need to go deeper than who serves on the board, according to County Commission Chairwoman Karen Marcus. She stepped down from the Criminal Justice Commission, and has also raised Sunshine Law concerns. In addition, Marcus has questions about possible "duplication" of efforts among the entities involved with the Criminal Justice Commission. The County Commission has called for the Criminal Justice Commission to give a report about its activities and to look for efficiencies. During a time of budget cutbacks due to the struggling economy, the goal is to ensure that the Criminal Justice Commission is "doing what we need to do," Marcus said. "We can't keep doing it the same," Marcus said. Andy Reid can be reached at or 561-228-5504.