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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fired Police Chief May Go to Jail

Should fired Stoughton Police Chief Manuel J. Cachopa go to jail?; take online poll
A 2004 recall election returning Manuel J. Cachopa as Stoughton police chief may have set tone that led to corruption - The Enterprise by Allan Stein - February 25, 2009

STOUGHTON, MA — It was a moment to rejoice. On Nov. 3, 2004, police supporters in Stoughton hoisted Manuel J. Cachopa to their shoulders and carried him around Club Luiz DeCamoes as they celebrated the voters’ recall of two town selectmen who had refused to renew Cachopa’s contract as police chief. It was also the beginning of the end, some say. Stoughton’s recall election was a show of support for Cachopa, who was widely known for his loyalty to friends and fellow officers. Out were selectmen Chairman Gerald Goulston and member Robert Mullen Jr., who had opposed extending Cachopa’s contract as chief. Goulston said the department was “poorly run” and had “no chain of command.” In were John Kowalczyk and Richard Levine, who joined with selectmen Antonio Sousa and Scott Carrara to reinstate Cachopa, who had been demoted to lieutenant. 

But that reinstatement, some observers say, ultimately proved his downfall because Cachopa ended up being the person in charge of the 55-officer department when allegations of public corruption erupted — allegations that implicated Cachopa and led eventually to his conviction on a felony corruption charge. Cachopa, 57, will be sentenced Thursday in Norfolk Superior Court. He could be sent to prison for up to seven years and stands to lose his pension. “As far as I am concerned, his friends did him in,” Goulston, one of the recalled selectmen, said when contacted at his vacation retreat in Puerto Rico. “If the chief had gone back in as lieutenant, under contract, and left the chief that we appointed, Joseph Saccardo, I think all of those issues would have gone away,” Goulston said. On Jan. 23, a Norfolk Superior Court jury convicted Cachopa of the crime of being an accessory after the fact to attempted extortion by a subordinate officer, Sgt. David M. Cohen, who is in jail on related charges. A third officer indicted in the scandal was acquitted. For nearly four years since his March 2005 indictment, Cachopa remained on paid administrative leave at his full yearly salary of $139,000 while awaiting trial. That ended with his firing on Feb. 13.

Unsavory tale of attempted extortion

Cachopa’s indictment came less than four months after he was reinstated to the top cop job following the divisive recall election. He was accused of trying to block a criminal probe involving then-sergeant Cohen. The case against Cachopa and Cohen stemmed from three-year-old allegations that Cohen, also an attorney, tried to pressure Timothy A. Hills, a Canton businessman, into repaying a business debt. In 2002, Hills complained he had been the victim of false arrest. Hills claimed that Cohen approached him at his office, attempting to collect $10,000 that Stoughton resident Peter Marinilli claimed Hills owed from a soured business deal. Marinilli had been to the police station to lodge a complaint about the bad debt. Cohen was on duty at the time and allegedly spoke to Marinilli about his complaint. Hills claimed Cohen initially approached him claiming to be Marinilli’s attorney, an allegation Cohen denied. At some point in the meeting, Cohen was alleged to have switched hats from lawyer to policeman, placing Hills under arrest and, for a brief time, cuffing Hills’ hands behind his back. Bad check charges against Hills were later dropped. A short time later, Hills brought his complaint to Stoughton police. When the allegations against Cohen first surfaced, Cachopa launched an internal investigation. A second probe by an independent investigator was also commissioned by the town. Both concluded without any action against Cohen. Grand jury probes corruption allegations

In June 2004, Cachopa was demoted to lieutenant after his contract as chief was not renewed. His temporary replacement, Lt. David Chamberlin, reopened the complaint and, at some point over the summer, turned the investigation over to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office. The DA appointed attorney George Jabour as special prosecutor, and Jabour presented evidence to the grand jury, which indicted Cachopa in March 2005. The case dragged on for nearly four years, with Cachopa finally going on trial last month. During the trial, former Stoughton police internal affairs investigator Lt. Michael Blount said in his testimony that Cachopa told him to “get rid of” Hills’ complaint of criminal misconduct against Cohen. Cachopa referred to Hills as a “nut” and later accused Blount of “digging too deeply” in the case, Blount said. Cachopa asked Blount, “Why are you trying to (expletive) this officer?” according to Blount. Blount also testified that Cachopa denied his request to bring his investigation before an assistant district attorney and to subpoena Cohen’s phone records. On Jan. 23, the jury found Cachopa guilty of the accessory-after-the-fact charge, a felony. The jury found him not guilty of a lesser corruption charge.

Back in 2004, had Cachopa stayed on as a lieutenant, most likely he would have retired unscathed by criminal charges and a possible jail sentence, Goulston said this month. “It’s a sad thing. I don’t think anybody should have to finish their career that way,” Goulston said. “In spite of everything, Stoughton has a lot of good police officers. We still have a fine police department.” The Stoughton saga will not end with Cachopa’s sentencing on Thursday. The town has been entangled in five civil lawsuits filed by police officers in connection with the scandal. In one of the lawsuits, a jury recently awarded Sgt. Robert Welch $164,000 in damages. He claimed he was removed as supervisor of detectives and harassed because he refused to participate in the 2004 recall election. The other four suits are pending. Town Manager Mark S. Stankiewicz has said taxpayers will end up paying legal costs from the five lawsuits not covered by the town’s insurance policy.

  • October 1984: Future police Chief Manuel Cachopa is hired as a patrolman. 
  • February 2001: Selectmen appoint Cachopa as chief after he had served as acting chief for 16 months.
  • June 2004: Selectmen deny renewal of Cachopa's contract as chief and demote him to his Civil Service rank of lieutenant.
  • July 2004: Special prosecutor George Jabour is asked to lead an investigation into alleged misconduct by Stoughton police officers. He begins to present evidence to a Norfolk County grand jury. 
  • September 2004: Sgt. David Cohen placed on paid leave. 
  • Oct. 26, 2004: Former state trooper Joseph Saccardo is hired as the town's new police chief, signs three-year contract.
  • Oct. 30, 2004: Town Manager Mark Stankiewicz places Cachopa, Sgt. Daniel McGowan and patrolmen Robert Emmett Letendre, John Owens, Lino Azul and Brian Holmes on administrative leave, claiming they were blocking the grand jury investigation. 
  • Nov. 2, 2004: Recall election ousts selectmen Gerald Goulston and Robert Mullen Jr. John Kowalczyk and Richard Levine, both supporters of Cachopa, are elected.
  • Nov. 24, 2004: Selectmen reinstate Cachopa as chief. 
  • Nov. 25, 2004: Cachopa resumes chief's position. 
  • March 4, 2005: Cachopa and Cohen are indicted.
  • March 18, 2005: Officer Robert Emmett Letendre, president of the patrolmen's union, and Cohen faced new charges stemming from the 2000 arrest of Randolph resident Jerard Viverito.
  • July 30, 2007: Cohen found guilty on four police corruption charges. Co-defendant Robert Emmett Letendre was acquitted.
  • Aug. 10, 2007: Cohen fired by the town.
  • March 20, 2008: Cachopa was found not guilty on two charges of civil rights violations.
  • Jan. 23, 2009: Cachopa convicted of felony corruption charge.
  • Feb. 13: Cachopa fired.
  • Feb. 26: Cachopa to be sentenced.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cop Jailed for Killing 92-year-old Woman

Atlanta policemen imprisoned for killing woman, 92
Reuters - February 24, 2009

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Three former Atlanta police officers, who shot dead a 92-year-old woman at her home in a botched drug raid and then lied about it to cover their tracks, were all sentenced to prison terms on Tuesday. The shooting of Kathryn Johnston at her home in Atlanta in November 2006 raised national questions about police corruption and brutality, as well as civil rights abuses. It led to the disbandment and reform of the city's narcotics squad. The officers received sentences ranging from five to 10 years for conspiring to violate civil rights resulting in death, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They are not eligible for parole under the federal justice system. The officers burst into Johnston's home to search for drugs an informant had wrongly told them were inside. They used a warrant obtained using false evidence that allowed them to enter without first knocking. Apparently thinking the officers were robbers, Johnston, who was armed, fired a shot through the door. The officers fired 39 shots in response, killing her. The officers falsified a story to cover themselves. But it unraveled in the face of a federal investigation and all of them eventually pleaded guilty. "Officers who think ... that the ends justify the means or that 'taking shortcuts' and telling lies will not be discovered and punished should realize that they are risking their careers and their liberty," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes sentenced Jason Smith to 10 years, Gregg Junnier to six years and Arthur Tesler to five years. They were also told to pay $8,180 in restitution for Johnston's funeral and burial. (Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Jim Loney and Eric Walsh)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Two cops go on trial in beating of drunk tourist

Two cops go on trial in beating of drunk tourist
The Associated Press - February 23, 2009

GARDEN CITY — It started on a hot August night with a drunk guy getting a ticket for throwing a beer glass from a Fire Island bar into the street at 3 in the morning. This week, the disorderly reveler's role will be as a witness, testifying in the trial of two village police officers accused in his vicious beating. The defendants in the case are acting Police Chief George Hesse, accused of both assault and gang assault; and part-time Officer Arnold Hardman, charged with reckless endangerment for failing to tell paramedics that Samuel Gilberd, who was initially treated as a drug overdose, had been beaten. Gilberd was at an Ocean Beach bar when a bouncer accused him of littering after he threw a glass onto the sidewalk. He was immediately taken by the bouncer across the street to the police department, where he was issued a ticket for littering. As he left the station, Gilberd, who admitted he was drunk at the time, kicked the door of the police station. That's when prosecutors say the beating by police occurred. Jury selection was expected to begin Tuesday afternoon, followed by opening statements.


On A Sad Note, an officer-- well-known and well-respected, has been killed by a drunk:

Motorist charged with DWI in officer's death

COMMACK — A Suffolk County police officer has died after his car was hit by another motorist charged with drunken driving. The accident happened at about 4:15 a.m. Sunday in Commack when the police officer's car was hit by a 2007 Dodge Magnum while he was responding to a call to assist another officer. His name was withheld pending notification of his family. The driver of the Dodge, 23-year-old Jose Borbon, of Plainview, was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated.

Off Duty Prank Gets One Cop Arrested, Three Fired

Off duty prank results in arrest of one Gretna police officer, termination of three others
The Times Piccyune - February 20, 2009

What started as a prank by off duty Gretna police officers and an acquaintance to hide a fellow bar patron's motorcycle ended up getting one officer arrested and three others fired. Officer Gustavo Rivera Jr., a 2.5 year veteran, has been arrested on charges of principal to theft on approximately $10,000 value, obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office. Rommel Figueroa, a two-year reserve officer; Doug Zemlik, an eight-year veteran; and James Gregoire III, who served four years, were fired for violating security of operations, duty to inform supervisors and for unsatisfactory performance. "It's never a good day in law enforcement when it comes to a fact that you have to arrest one of your own officers on an incident such as this where severe criminal activity has occurred and resulted in termination of several officers for basically poor judgment," Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said. "What started out as a practical joke ended up in a very, very bad situation."

The incident took place Dec. 18 at the Ivory Lounge on Franklin Street, where the officers and an acquaintance, Daniel Kempton, "exchanged glares, glances and stares," with the owner of the motorcycle inside the bar, Lawson said. The officers then persuaded Kempton to move the motorcycle, which was reported stolen the next day to Gretna Police Department. Rivera and Figueroa denied any involvement in an ensuing internal investigation, saying that they did not know Kempton, who took the motorcycle, or where it was. The investigation was turned over to the West Bank Major Crimes Task Force investigators, when internal affairs learned that the officers may have been involved in the incident. The task force obtained video from the lounge's surveillance system showing Rivera and Figueroa talking with Kempton, who then pushed the motorcycle away while Rivera followed in his car. Rivera is caught on tape returning several minutes later to pick up Figueroa. "It certainly is not a good day for the Gretna Police Department and law enforcement throughout the metropolitan police area," Lawson said. Kempton, of River Ridge, was arrested Jan. 9 for theft valued at $10,000. The motorcycle was recovered Thursday from Kempton, who may face additional charges of obstruction of justice. He has prior convictions for theft over $500 and possession of cocaine, and currently has two open domestic violence cases with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Possible New Information in 1962 French Connection Case

Mobster Makes Offer on French Connection Case
The New York Times by RALPH BLUMENTHAL - February 22, 2009

In prison, far from the Brooklyn haunts where his name was scrawled in blood, Anthony Casso stews. He stews over old vendettas. He stews over betrayals of the flesh — heart problems and prostate cancer. And Mr. Casso, the once fearsome underboss of the Lucchese family who is now serving multiple life sentences amounting to 455 years for murder, stews over his secrets: unsolved crimes that, he says in an outpouring of letters, he is eager to help close if only he could show the authorities where the bodies are buried (especially if it entails a trip outside the gates). “I would go out there in a heartbeat,” Mr. Casso said on Friday in a telephone call to a former detective seeking the mobster’s help in clearing his own name. But as much as he hopes for a taste of freedom, or a reduction of his sentence, prosecutors question what his information may be worth and what perils may lie in reopening contact with an antagonist some compare to the fictional monster Hannibal Lecter. Dangling as a prize is the answer to one of New York’s most scandalous mysteries: how 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine, much of it seized in the so-called French Connection drug bust in 1962, were spirited out of the police property vault for resale back on the street. By the time the record theft was discovered in December 1972, the drugs — then valued at $73 million — had been replaced with flour and cornstarch.

Who committed the deed? “There were four narcotics detectives,” Mr. Casso wrote the former detective, Pat Intrieri, in October, amplifying information he offered in his 2008 biography. “One worked inside the property clerk’s office.” One, he added, was later shot to death; Mr. Casso said he remembers where the gun was thrown. But Mr. Casso, 66, whose mob nickname was Gaspipe, says he is having trouble with exact locations. So, naturally, he would like to get out, if only for a day, to be helpful. Or at least win some leniency along the lines of a plea deal he says the government reneged on: six and a half years in prison. “Of course he’d like to get out — he’s serving 55 million years,” said Michael F. Vecchione, chief of the rackets division in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. Like other prosecutors, Mr. Vecchione has little stomach for Mr. Casso. But without any promises, he has arranged to visit Mr. Casso on Tuesday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., where he has been undergoing cancer treatment, although it would take corroboration far beyond the mobster’s word to make any case. “I bet you when the state guys come, they don’t know half the things,” Mr. Casso said on Friday to Mr. Intrieri, who relayed his remarks to The New York Times.

There is little chance that Mr. Casso, now 15 years behind the stoutest walls America can contrive, will ever see his release — not after pleading guilty in 15 murders and being tied to some 22 others. He has also been accused of plotting to kill a federal judge and prosecutors, and violating the terms of his agreement to turn informant as one of the highest-level mobsters ever to flip — becoming the only major Mafia defector to be thrown out of the federal witness protection program. Mr. Casso has also waffled on whether he corrupted an F.B.I. agent and hired two New York City police detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, as mob assassins. The former detectives are to be sentenced on March 6 on racketeering charges. If, moreover, he still wonders why the authorities are leery of his offers, Mr. Casso may have provided the answer to his biographer, Philip Carlo. In his 2008 book, “Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss,” Mr. Carlo, a longtime friend of the Casso family, outlined several of the mobster’s escape schemes, including the planned ambush of a van carrying him back from court after his capture in New Jersey in 1993.

“He’s where he should be,” said Gregory O’Connell, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who initially interviewed Mr. Casso with his late partner, Charles Rose, and called him “the most treacherous sociopath we ever dealt with.” But a man can dream, and for Mr. Casso, that means being back once again in the Brooklyn sunshine, pinpointing old Mafia execution grounds and the watery grave of a murder weapon. Not rising at 5 a.m. every day to meticulously clean his cell in a federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colo., that also houses the likes of the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski; the Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols; and such fellow mobsters as Gregory Scarpa Jr. and Salvatore Gravano, known as Sammy the Bull. “I think he got a raw deal,” said Joshua L. Dratel, the latest of Mr. Casso’s many lawyers. Mr. Dratel said Mr. Casso was “poor at playing the system” and threatened major cases by exposing Mr. Gravano and other government witnesses and federal agents as liars. Mr. Casso has long claimed that the records of his F.B.I. debriefings, never made public, would show that the government covered up his warnings of moles in its ranks and that to get out of their plea deal with him, prosecutors used other Mafia turncoats as witnesses instead.

Perhaps Mr. Casso’s staunchest pen pal is Mr. Intrieri, 79, a onetime decorated New York detective lieutenant who was convicted of tax evasion in 1976 in the aftermath of the French Connection drug thefts. Mr. Intrieri, who has drafted a memoir asserting his innocence, saw new information on the case in Mr. Carlo’s book and said he found Mr. Casso’s accounts of unsolved crimes credible. “He wants to get out a little bit, I guess; he’s going stir-crazy,” Mr. Intrieri said, after getting more than a dozen phone calls from Mr. Casso in recent weeks. “But his goal is a sentence reduction.” The drugs at the core of the mystery — popularized as “The French Connection” in a 1969 book by Robin Moore and an Academy Award-winning film that followed two years later — were secreted in compartments in a 1960 Buick loaded aboard the liner United States sailing from Le Havre, France, to New York. The car and its 112 pounds of heroin were later claimed by a Lucchese family underling, Patsy Fuca, who, as it happened, was being tailed by a pair of dogged New York narcotics detectives, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.

The drug bust in January 1962 was widely hailed as a record. But the heroics proved short-lived. In six thefts between March 1969 and January 1972, someone signing the register as Detective Joseph Nunziata, a member of the narcotics bureau’s widely corrupt special investigations unit, and using fictitious badge numbers, removed the French Connection drugs along with another 300 pounds of heroin and cocaine from the police property vault at 400 Broome Street (now a New York University dorm). Handwriting analysis and a discovered fingerprint never established that Detective Nunziata actually signed the police register. But eight months before the thefts were discovered, Detective Nunziata, charged with corruption in an unrelated case, was found shot to death in his car. It was ruled a suicide. Mr. Moore, the author, wrote that as far back as 1967, he and Detectives Nunziata, Egan and Grosso joked about stealing the French Connection heroin.

Many suspects emerged, including Vincent Papa, a major drug dealer; Frank King, a retired narcotics detective and private eye working for Mr. Papa; and Mr. Intrieri, who upon his retirement had joined Mr. King as a bodyguard for one of Mr. Papa’s sons — “the biggest mistake of my life,” Mr. Intrieri now says. (Mr. Papa’s lawyer was overheard on a wiretap asking Mr. King, “Do we have anything to worry about the handwriting analysis?”) After providing what he thought was confidential information on four corrupt narcotics detectives, Mr. Papa was stabbed to death in prison. Also under scrutiny was Vincent Albano, another former narcotics detective, who had served under Mr. Intrieri and had survived a mysterious hail of bullets in 1969, only to be slain in 1985. Thomas P. Puccio, then a Brooklyn federal prosecutor, focused on Mr. King and Mr. Intrieri, but failed to tie them to the drug thefts. Mr. Puccio charged them instead with tax evasion for unexplained income, winning convictions and five-year sentences for both, along with three years for tax evasion by Mr. Albano. But the case remained a puzzle, Mr. Puccio conceded in an interview. “We never really conclusively solved it,” he said.

Still indignant over his conviction more than 30 years later, Mr. Intrieri — who held 15 police citations for bravery and valor — saw in Mr. Carlo’s book that Mr. Casso had named Mr. Albano and a mob associate as two of the French Connection thieves. The book related how Mr. Albano had been shot to death in Brooklyn in 1985, and how Mr. Casso had supplied the gun and helped dump the body on Staten Island. Mr. Carlo, in an interview, said Mr. Casso had told him Mr. Albano had conceived the drug heist and asked Mr. Casso how to carry it out. Mr. Intrieri, in his own manuscript, “The French Connection: The Aftermath,” told of running into Mr. Albano several times over the years — including in 1980 while Mr. Albano was casing a Queens bank — and said that Mr. Albano had laughed at hearing that Mr. Intrieri was a suspect in the drug thefts. By opening an exchange of letters with Mr. Casso — a correspondence that grew to include this reporter — Mr. Intrieri elicited other details, and other crimes. Mr. Casso offered details of the 1986 car bombing aimed at John Gotti that killed his Gambino family underboss, Frank DeCicco; the killing of a Russian mob associate, Michael Markowitz, in 1989; and the apparently unreported killing of a Jewish drug importer near Mr. Albano’s office around 1980, among other crimes.

Officials at the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina did not respond to repeated requests to interview Mr. Casso by phone. “I’ll be here awhile receiving treatments for prostate cancer,” Mr. Casso wrote Mr. Intrieri in December. “Just my luck.” As for the gun that killed Mr. Albano, Mr. Casso supplied a hand-drawn map with imperfect punctuation showing, he said, where it had been thrown: “Its in Sheepshead Bay.” He also sketched a site where, he said, another mob victim was buried, calling it: “Drawing for the Colombians remains.” Mr. Intrieri said that his follow-up inquiries gave credence to Mr. Casso’s information and that it was worth giving the old mob boss a chance to hand prosecutors new evidence. “I sincerely believe that until he goes to the site, he won’t remember,” Mr. Intrieri said.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jail Guards Indicted for Misconduct

Rikers Fight Club
After indications for more than a year that guards were using inmates as enforcers, New York's jails are rocked by a pair of indictments
The Village Voice by Graham Rayman -  February 4, 2009

Eighteen months after the Voice first reported cases of jail guards using inmates as enforcers, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has made a criminal case that slices to the core of the problem. The indictment, unsealed January 22, alleges that guards Michael McKie and Khalid Nelson handpicked and oversaw a gang of inmates who beat and terrorized other inmates, and extorted money and privileges from them over a four-month period in a teenage unit at the Robert N. Davoren Center (RNDC), culminating in the murder by inmates of 18-year-old Christopher Robinson on October 18. They called their operation "The Program." The indictment lists at least seven teenage victims, but there were "scores" more who were victimized, Assistant District Attorney James Goward said at the arraignment two weeks ago. Numerous inmates gave information to investigators to help build evidence that showed a troubling pattern of misconduct right under the noses of jail officials.

"[McKie] was not simply the author of a crime," Goward told a judge. "He was the architect of a criminal enterprise that recruited and trained inmates to inflict violence. They turned jail into almost a nightmare environment." The blockbuster case forced Correction Commissioner Martin Horn, for the first time, to discuss the issue before the assembled media. But he took a defensive posture, saying that he had no inkling of the problem. "I don't know that any of us believed that anything like this could happen," he told reporters at the Bronx District Attorney's office.

In fact, Horn was well aware of the problem. The Voice had been writing articles on the subject long before Robinson's death. The newspaper first put questions to Horn and his aides about guards deputizing inmates (often members of the Bloods gang) as enforcers in the summer of 2007, and kept writing articles about the problem over the next year and a half—articles that some law enforcement officials credited with placing a public spotlight on the problem. Even though Horn was receiving information on these incidents during that entire period, it remains unclear whether he did anything to address the problem in the months leading up to the Robinson murder.

It was only after Robinson was killed that he took action: He suspended several officers, transferred several mid-level managers, forced the retirement of a chief, and reshuffled the roles of his senior staff. Horn told reporters that he installed video cameras in the jails and now has the right to monitor inmates' phone conversations. "We investigate every serious injury," he said, pointing out that the Robinson homicide was the first at Rikers in four years. "We train our officers to maintain a standard of care. If the allegations prove true, these officers have stained the good name of thousands of officers."

Rose Gil Hearn, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation, called the case "the worst" she has ever seen in the jails, and has recommended adding more video cameras and making changes to policies surrounding access to telephones and the commissary. Horn's spokesman, Stephen Morello, later provided the Voice with a list of things the commissioner has done and is doing to address the problem, including improving the staff-inmate ratio in high-risk teen housing areas to 1 in 25—a move that advocates have been demanding for years. Morello says Horn has also ordered guards to check inmates' torsos for bruises and other evidence of violence at RNDC. He has expanded a program that provides better training to guards who work with teens—another thing that advocates wanted. And, according to Morello, Horn has ordered staff members to investigate every serious injury, including apparent accidents. "While one inmate homicide is too many, the NYC jails compare quite favorably with other large city systems on this point," Morello says, citing federal stats that show the homicide rate in the city jails being far better than those of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

As for Horn's comment in the press conference, Morello tells the Voice that the commissioner "did not say that he was never aware, nor did he claim no prior knowledge of the possibility or even actual allegations" of officers deputizing inmates as enforcers. "He commented that the nature of the officers' complicity charged in the Robinson indictment and its consequences exceeded any such thing in his experience," Morello says. "In other words, he and we are, of course, aware of prior cases." According to the indictment, McKie and Nelson handpicked up to 12 inmates to act as enforcers on each of the two wings of the RNDC housing unit known as "One Main."

The enforcers were called "The Team." The guards taught them how to use wrestling holds, like a full nelson, to secure victims during a beating. They told them to punch the torsos of their victims so as not to leave injuries that would be easily seen by other staff. In exchange for performing beatings on their orders, the members of the Team had the right to extort phone privileges and a fixed percentage of the commissary account from the other inmates. What that meant is that they could use other inmates' phone accounts to make calls, force them to buy snacks for them, get extra food, and even choose where they sat in the day room. The members of the Team also got to roam the units freely, unlike the other inmates, and they had the power to tell inmates whether they were allowed out of their cells and whether they could go to the bathroom.

The practice evolved its own kind of slang. Inmates were asked, "Are you with the Program?"—or, in shorthand, "Are you with it?" If the inmate refused, he would be beaten. The beatings were called "spankings." Prosecutors say McKie and Nelson also developed a series of signals to warn each other that a supervisor was arriving in the unit. They also failed to report assaults, lied in reports they did file, ordered inmates to make false statements, and hid injured inmates in cells to avoid scrutiny from supervisors. The campaign climaxed on October 18, when several inmates beat Robinson to death after he refused to go along with the Program. Robinson likely bled to death internally over a long period, perhaps 12 hours. One of his ribs pierced his lung, causing the fatal bleeding, sources said.

Robinson might have avoided the fatal beating altogether had the department listened to the recommendation of a deputy warden and transferred the youth into a more secure area, following his involvement in a prior fight. He also might have survived had his injuries been treated in a timely manner. His family has asserted that he sought medical care in the jail's clinic, but was turned away because he did not have a pass. McKie, Nelson, and a third officer, Denise Albright, pleaded not guilty to gang assault, conspiracy, and corruption in their arraignment last week. They were not charged in Robinson's death. "This case is a web of lies built by inmates," said McKie's lawyer, Joey Jackson. "My client has a record of unblemished service. He has served with honor and justice. In an effort to save themselves, the inmates are pointing fingers."

Carolyn McKie told the Voice that her son won a basketball scholarship to Buffalo State, but returned home to care for his child. "None of this is true," she said. "He never had a record. What is going on here?" Norman Seabrook, head of the correction officers' union, said the department was scapegoating the officers to avoid taking responsibility itself. "This is just another case of the department looking to blame someone else for its own mistakes," he told the Voice. Sidney Schwartzbaum, union leader for deputy wardens and assistant deputy wardens, agreed with Seabrook. "Had they followed the recommendation, we wouldn't even be having this conversation," he said. "My mother used to say what gets done in the dark will come to light, and that will be true in this case as well." The Robinson case was only the latest example of a problem at RNDC and other jails that the Voice has been following since the summer of 2007.

There was the case of Camillo Douglas and Luis Soriano, two inmates in RNDC, who were assaulted by Bloods members after their cell doors mysteriously opened shortly before 11 p.m. on April 16, 2007. RNDC is the same facility where Christopher Robinson was killed. Douglas and Soriano both sustained stab wounds and bruising, but they also fought back against their attackers. The men who assaulted Douglas and Soriano had been part of the "house gang," inmates who were tapped to clean up the facility and were, in return, given extra privileges by the guards. While it has yet to be proven in court, the fact that their cell doors opened when all the other inmates were locked in, just before lights out, suggests there was guard involvement in the assault. The Voice found other examples that suggested guard involvement in punitive beatings of inmates at RNDC by other inmates. Paris DeSuze, 18, filed papers with the city, claiming two guards failed to stop inmates from breaking his jaw in three places on April 13, 2007. Afterward, a guard told him to tell investigators that he was injured in a fall.

DeSuze's lawyer, Michael Hueston, told the Voice: "Young people tell me when they go in there, the culture is such that the kids control the jail. The COs know this happens, and they look the other way." But the case that really should have set off alarm bells in the commissioner's office was the indictment in February 2008 of Correction Officer Lloyd Nicholson, who was accused of using teen inmates in RNDC to target other inmates. He, too, called his operation "The Program." The case allegations mirror the allegations made in the McKie and Nelson indictments. For example, in both cases, the inmates enforced order and, in exchange, had the officers' permission to extort commissary, telephone privileges, and property from other inmates. And in both cases, the motive was laziness—the inmate gang freed the officers from having to monitor the floor constantly during their shifts. "Basically, it was like the movie A Few Good Men," a source told the Voice last March. "Either you were in the Program or not. [Nicholson] thought the ones who weren't abiding with the Program were misbehaving, and he used other inmates to discipline them." If any inmates misbehaved, Nicholson told them, there would be a "moment of truth," where they would be taken into the day room and beaten. He allegedly also told his enforcers to avoid the face because it would leave tell-tale marks—another element which mirrors the McKie indictment.

One of the inmates suffered a collapsed lung, but was denied medical treatment for several hours, until he was finally transported to Elmhurst Hospital. He barely survived the assault, prosecutors said in court. Sources said Nicholson tried to delay reporting the injury until the next shift, but he finally relented when one of the inmates told him the injured youth desperately needed medical attention. Nicholson, the sources said, also told the inmates he would try to get the blame for the injuries pinned on them. "Some of you are going to go down for this," he told them, sources said. Nicholson also allegedly beat an inmate himself. "He both watched and participated," a prosecutor said during the arraignment. Last week, officials said Nicholson worked in another unit and was not connected to the McKie operation. In addition, Horn told reporters that when McKie and Nelson were not working, the practice did not extend to other officers. But some jail observers were skeptical of this claim, saying it had to be more than coincidental that both operations were called "The Program." "What they are saying is that One Main was a vacuum, which doesn't make a lot of sense," a correction source said.

Housing units typically include two hallways with about 30 cells each, with a "bubble" or glassed-in observation booth at the hub with a day room and television on either side. Three officers control security in these units—one on the left wing, one on the right wing, and one in the bubble. There are three officers per shift, so at least nine officers cycle through the unit on any given day. In addition, the unit is visited once or twice per shift by a captain. On top of that, assistant deputy wardens and other higher-level supervisors might pass through. What that means is that on any day, at least 18 correction employees might come through a unit. So it seems unlikely that no one other than the three implicated guards would be aware of the Program. "It's tragic that it took the death of an 18-year-old to bring to light this terrible scheme, but it has to be asked whether it was more extensive," said the Robinson family lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein. "Someone in a position of power and authority should investigate it."

Even the New York Post, which rarely devotes much space to jail incidents, wrote an editorial expressing doubt that the operation was limited to just three guards. The editorial pressed officials to continue their investigation: "How could only three guards organize such an operation—with at least 12 inmates involved—without more people knowing what was going on?" wondered the Post's editorial board. "It defies credulity to assume that this is all that was going on." And there were examples of the problem in other facilities dating all the way back to 2004, with the fatal beating of Tyreece Abney, 21, who was the last inmate murdered in the jail system before Robinson. Abney, a mentally disabled man who probably never should have been in general population, was stomped to death in the George Motchan Detention Center by Bloods members after he had a loud argument with a correction officer. About 30 minutes before the fatal assault, a guard told the inmates in his unit: "You men in the house, you need to speak to the new inmates—you need to get your house in order," court testimony showed. Shortly thereafter, three inmates cornered Abney and attacked him, with one inmate saying he better "fly right."

During the investigation, authorities learned that one of Abney's assailants had been receiving extra phone and mail privileges from a correction officer. In March 2007, the city agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit involving a near-fatal assault by the leader of a "house gang." Inmate Kirk Fisher hit Donald Jackson, and Jackson fell, his head striking a piece of protruding metal in the floor. Jackson almost died. Fisher later testified that a correction officer told him to assault Jackson. "Before you do anything [he said], I'm going to go to the other side, and do what you got to do," the guard told Fisher, according to Fisher's deposition. Describing his duties, Fisher said, "It was my job to enforce certain rules. Anybody that acted up in the house, it was my job to put them in line." "The inmates tell us it's a really common setup," said Jackson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, in the Voice's 2007 article on the case. "In a lot of the houses, the correction officers use the house gang as enforcers and pay them with cigarettes and extra commissary."

During the course of the Jackson case, Stoll was able to track down a former correction officer, Roger Cullen, who was on duty at the time of the assault. In his deposition, Cullen confirmed Fisher's claim: "It was like he was in charge," Cullen said in sworn testimony. "Any officer knows you're not supposed to do that. It's wrong." Cullen was fired before he could be vested as a correction officer. As he told the Voice in 2007, he blamed the firing on his efforts to report corruption in the jail. The department investigated his claims, but in a cursory manner, and closed the case without taking action. "I tried to do the right thing," Cullen said in his deposition. The McKie indictment has raised another issue. For many years now, the department has relied on statistics regarding stabbings and slashings in public testimony as its indicator of violence in the jails. Whenever the issue of violence is raised, officials trot out the low number of stabbings and slashings to show that the jail system is safe. Indeed, the figure has declined sharply over the past 15 years.

But this case vividly demonstrates that the figure is a poor indicator of the level of violence in today's environment. For one, it does not count beatings, broken bones, smashed noses, broken ribs, bruising, and many other kinds of injuries. Christopher Robinson's murder, for example, will not be counted as a stabbing or slashing. Moreover, both the inmates and guards knew how to conceal injuries from the beatings, and they knew how to extort their victims into hiding the beating or lying about it. In other words, the system has evolved its own methods to avoid the heightened scrutiny that comes when a slashing or stabbing takes place. In the end, no matter what the stats show, the number does not provide an accurate picture of the level of violence in RNDC.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Navajo Nation police officer arrested for DUI

Navajo Nation police officer arrested for DUI
The Arizona Sun - February 20, 2009

A Navajo Nation Police Department officer was arrested in Flagstaff early Wednesday morning on super extreme DUI charges. According to Flagstaff police reports, an officer patrolling along North Fourth Street at about 1:30 a.m. noticed a vehicle traveling through a parking lot. The officer considered it suspicious. When the driver of the vehicle parked the vehicle, the officer illuminated the car and approached. The driver had an odor of intoxicating beverages on his breath. While the driver was performing tests, he mentioned he was a Navajo Nation police officer who worked out of Dilkon, was "screwed" and just wanted to go home. The Flagstaff officer stated that if he were indeed an officer, he should know better than to drive while intoxicated. The driver was taken to the jail and blew into an Intoxilizer. Carlyle Cooke, 26, of Winslow, was subsequently charged with a super extreme DUI, which means a blood-alcohol content above 0.2 percent. The Flagstaff police sergeant on duty called the NPD officer's superior to report the incident. The officer's police belt, duty weapon, police computer and other police property, seized from the vehicle he was driving, were placed into safekeeping. -- Sun staff reports

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tarnishing the badge

Tarnishing the badge
A decade of trouble for Schenectady police

The Albany Times Union by PAUL NELSON - February 19, 2009

SCHENECTADY — Two mayors, three police chiefs and two public safety commissioners have all tried to tame the troubled Schenectady Police Department over the past decade.
But regardless of who is in charge, there always seems to be one lowly common denominator: Schenectady cops being arrested, suspended and forced to resign. It's those chronic symptoms that prompted Mayor Brian U. Stratton to hire former State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett as his Public Safety Commissioner and later Police Chief Mark Chaires to burnish the department's image. Both expressed dismay Wednesday over allegations Officer Dwayne Johnson – who last year took home nearly $170,000 by racking up a prodigious number of overtime hours – may have shirked his duties by spending several hours on consecutive Tuesday mornings inside a Woodlawn apartment when he should have been on patrol. "He was high-profile as the high wage-earner, and now he's high-profile because he's apparently ripping us off," said Stratton. City Councilman Gary McCarthy said he is just fed up with bad news about officers' behavior.

"I'd like to go one week where we don't have a negative newspaper article about the department," said McCarthy, chairman of the panel's public safety committee. "It's just baffling that it just keeps happening. It's human nature that people are going to make mistakes, but this just seems so institutionalized." He faults what he described as poor management for the seemingly endless litany of problems that have rocked the 166-member department over the years. Fellow city councilman Joseph Allen blames the powerful police union. "These guys, because they are a part of the union, think they can do anything,'' he said. Police Benevolent Association President Lt. Robert Hamilton did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. While Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney refused to speculate on what criminal charges his office might pursue, Commissioner Bennett said disciplinary action could range from a written discipline to termination. But the allegations against Johnson pale in comparison to charges other Schenectady officers have faced since 1999.

Four cops – Lt. Michael F. Hamilton Jr. and officers Nicola Messere, Michael Siler and Richard Barnett – served prison time earlier this decade on federal corruption convictions. Another officer, Kenneth Hill, went to state prison for giving a gun to a drug dealer. Investigator Jeffrey Curtis is serving a prison sentence for stealing cocaine from the vice squad. Another vice squad investigator, Chris Maher, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was demoted to the road patrol in connection with allegations he told a friend about an ongoing State Police investigation of gambling. Earlier this month, ex-Chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek began serving a two-year state prison sentence for his role in a narcotics distribution ring. More recently, Officer John Lewis, whom the city has taken steps to fire, has been charged with harassing his former wife, driving while drunk and then getting into a fight with his brother who also is a cop. He is out on unpaid leave while Officer Sherri Barnes and Sgt. Joseph A. Peters IV are being paid while they are off the job pending separate internal probes.

She is suspected of abusing prescription drugs and he faces drunken-driving charges. Three other officers, cleared of charges related to a police brutality case, recently returned to work after being suspended with pay. Two other Schenectady cops, however, also face the prospect of losing their jobs for their role in that same case. Darren Lawrence faces charges in Colonie for allegedly leaving the scene of a 2006 accident after crashing a car on the Northway and fighting with his passenger over whether to report the crash. He is awaiting trial. Finally, Officer Ronald Pedersen was forced to resign in 2002 after a prostitute alleged that he brutalized her. And the controversy isn't limited to the past decade. In years past, a Schenectady cop was arrested for breaking into cars behind Proctors, and another officer served six years for raping a woman being held in the police station cellblock.

Two mayors, Albert P. Jurczynski and his successor, Stratton, have made attempts to reform the department. In efforts to change the culture of the department, Jurczynski in 2003 hired Syracuse police commander Daniel Boyle as public safety commissioner, and Stratton filled the position several years later with retired State Police Superintendent Bennett. Kaczmarek led the department when the FBI in 1999 launched a probe that led to the convictions of Hamilton, Messere, Siler and Barnett. He was followed in 2002 by Michael Geraci, a deputy chief from Colonie, and now Chaires, a former assistant chief. As part of the investigation into Johnson's on-duty whereabouts, officials will review radio transmissions and GPS records, and Stratton said he has ordered the department's Office of Professional Standards to look into if police commanders or the dispatcher were complicit. The department will also begin requiring that dispatchers to check with patrols every 15 minutes. Johnson was scheduled to work his regular midnight-to-8 a.m. shift. He could not be reached for comment. Paul Nelson can be reached at 454-5347 or by e-mail at

  • Officer Richard Barnett served 15 months in federal prison after admitting in 2000 that he gave crack cocaine to an informant. 
  • Officer Kenneth Hill served nearly two years in state prison after admitting he gave a gun to a drug dealer in 2004. 
  • Ex-Chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek is currently serving two years in state prison for a 2008 drug conviction. 
  • Schenectady police Officer John Lewis faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly drunk driving, stalking his ex-wife, and damaging property. 
  • Officer Darren Lawrence faces charges in Colonie for allegedly leaving the scene of a 2006 accident after crashing a car on the Northway and fighting with his passenger over whether to report what happened. 
  • Lt. Michael F. Hamilton Jr. served a four-year federal prison sentence after a jury in 2002 convicted him of tipping off a target of a drug investigation. 
  • Officer Nicola Messere served a two-year federal prison sentence after a jury in 2002 convicted him of giving drugs to an informant. 
  • Investigator Jeffrey Curtis is serving a four-year sentence in state prison after admitting he stole cocaine from the vice squad to feed his drug habit. 
  • Officer Michael Siler was sentenced to two years in federal prison after admitting he gave drugs to an informant. 
  • Officer Dwayne Johnson is under investigation for spending time inside a Schenectady apartment while he was supposed to be on patrol. 
  • Officer Ronald Pedersen resigned from the Police Department in 2002 after allegations he roughed up a prostitute. 
  • Vice Squad Investigator Christopher Maher pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with allegations he tipped off friend about a State Police gambling investigation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NJ Cop Admits to Crash Cover-Up

Clinton Township police officer admits role in hit-and-run crash cover-up
The Courier News/Home News Tribune by BRANDON LAUSCH - February 18, 2009

A Clinton Township police officer who on Wednesday pleaded guilty to obstruction in connection with the internal cover-up of another officer's hit-and-run accident is the third township policeman to lose his job over the incident. Bradley Stockelberg, 44, a former sergeant and a 19-year department veteran who was not on duty the day of the August 2006 crash, immediately forfeited his $90,132-a-year job and agreed to never again hold public office. He had been suspended from the township force without pay. In what was a last-minute decision to accept a deal with prosecutors — Stockelberg's defense attorney even assured Stockelberg in court that he was ready to go to trial "immediately, if not sooner" — the officer pleaded guilty to fourth-degree obstructing administration of law or other governmental function in exchange for the dismissal of the other seven charges in his February 2008 indictment. Assistant Prosecutor William McGovern said the state is not recommending Stockelberg spend time in prison and will leave sentencing up to the court. McGovern also said the state is taking no position on whether Stockelberg should be entitled to his pension. Superior Court Judge Roger F. Mahon told Albert Rylak, Stockelberg's attorney, that his client could withdraw his guilty plea if the sentencing judge determines that the offense warrants jail time. Sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 15. Although terms of probation also would be up to the sentencing judge — likely to be Mahon — Rylak said he will suggest in a presentence report that conviction itself is enough. Rylak declined comment after the court appearance.


Wednesday's proceeding marked another milestone in a case that has claimed the jobs of two other township officers, including the off-duty officer involved in the hit-and-run crash and the one who responded to the August 2006 accident in the Finnagel's Restaurant parking lot on Route 31. Former officer Jason Peltack, who was involved in the crash and admitted guilt in the incident, lost his job and can never work again in New Jersey as a police officer. Christopher Szymanski, charged with participating in the cover-up by falsifying the accident report, was accepted into a pretrial-intervention program under terms of a plea deal. If Szymanski stays out of trouble until April, the charge against him will be dismissed, and he will not have a criminal record, his attorney has said. "It's always a sad day when a police officer in Hunterdon County pleads guilty to commiting a crime, but it's vital the residents of the county maintain trust in the many outstanding officers throughout the county that perform their duties at the highest level on a daily basis," said Dan Hurley, chief of detectives for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office. Hurley also assured residents that law enforcement is capable of policing itself and "will never intentionally turn a blind eye to any acts of corruption." Although Hurley said the Prosecutor's Office still has oversight of the township's force, he added that the supervision has consisted of periodic briefings since township Police Director Robert Manney was hired two years ago. Both Manney and Hurley, in separate interviews, said the police director soon will meet with Prosecutor J. Patrick Barnes to discuss ending the additional oversight. Manney on Wednesday said that the township's force has hired seven new officers since his appointment and is up to 26 officers, one shy of the maximum authorized level. He also said the department has increased training and has made promotions from within to bolster supervision. "It's just another area we can pick up on and continue on the path we've set for ourselves," Manney said of the hit-and-run incident, which occurred before his time with the township. Brandon Lausch- 908-243-6606,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cop Accused of Dodging Duties

Schenectady Cop Accused of Dodging Duties
FOX 23 News, Reported by Paul Merrill - February 17, 2009  -

Schenectady Police Officer Dwayne Johnson is accused of abandoning his patrol vehicle for hours while he was on duty. The Schenectady cop who raked in the most overtime last year is now being raked over the coals. Officer Dwayne Johnson is accused of spending hours at a time inside a city apartment while he was on the clock. Department leaders are trying to figure out what Johnson was doing, spending so much time in a neighborhood where he doesn't live. Officer Johnson spoke to FOX23 News last October after he helped to collar a New Jersey fugitive. Ironically, the interesting part of that story was that Johnson was off the clock when he spotted the alleged crook.

"As a police officer, you tend to have that kind of awareness on and off the clock," Officer Johnson told us back on October 10, 2008. Now, the eight-year department veteran is accused of being on the clock but off the job. Schenectady Police brass are looking into the claim that Johnson's been parking his patrol car in a neighborhood in the Woodlawn section of the city. Johnson's supervisors tell us GPS records indicate that his vehicle was parked in the neighborhood on several Tuesday mornings during the last four hours of his regular midnight shift: from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. "Right there, on the corner, he was parked," says Hilda Romines, pointing to the intersection of Queen Philomena Boulevard and Sir Benjamin Way. "I go to work early in the morning. I go at quarter-after-six." With overtime, Johnson nearly tripled his base salary last year.

His 2008 base salary was $57,478; overtime pushed Johnson's pay up to $168,921, making him the highest paid cop in the City of Schenectady. "If he was snoozing on the job, then that's a problem," says Kathy Miller who also lives in the Woodlawn neighborhood where Johnson is accused of shirking his duties. Officer Johnson remains on duty while his superiors investigation the accusations against him. Schenectady Police Commissioner Wayne Bennett explains, "We don't know exactly what we're dealing with here and we also don't know if it's just potential violations of the department policy rules and regulations or is there, indeed, something here that would constitute criminal behavior?" This issue is yet another black eye on an already battered police force.

The Schenectady Police Department has experienced corruption and scandal all the way up with the rank of chief. Former Schenectady Police Chief Greg Kaczmarek is currently behind bars for his role in an upstate cocaine ring. Bennett says the situation isn't fair to the other cops on the force. "This issue now becomes the matter of importance," Bennett tells us. "It's the only thing that's focused upon and forgotten about is all the good that got done this week and that's unfortunate." Bennett says the department is reinstating its practices of doing hourly radio checks during the midnight shift and reporting patrol officers whose vehicles stop for more than 15 minutes without a reason.

Monday, February 16, 2009

FBI: NYPD Cop Charged with Laundering Drug Money

United States Attorney
Southern District of New York



LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, JOHN P. GILBRIDE, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York Field Division ("DEA"), PETER J. SMITH, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), and RAYMOND W. KELLY, Police Commissioner of the City of New York ("NYPD"), announced the arrest this morning of YANIRIS BALBUENA, a NYPD officer, for conspiracy to commit money laundering. BALBUENA, 31, of Otisville, New York, was arrested by ICE Strike Force agents and NYPD Internal Affairs detectives earlier this morning. According to the criminal Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court: Since March 2000, BALBUENA has served as a NYPD Officer. During the time of the charged conspiracy, BALBUENA was the common law wife of a known narcotics trafficker who operated in the Bronx, New York. According to cooperating witnesses, BALBUENA received thousands of dollars in drug proceeds, and laundered the money by depositing the cash into bank accounts she controlled. Banking records for approximately nine accounts owed or controlled by BALBUENA evidence that during the charged conspiracy, she received and deposited more than $230,000 of unexplained cash into her bank accounts, an amount which far surpassed her legitimate income.

BALBUENA is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved in the offense. Mr. DASSIN praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement "Strike Force," which is comprised of agents and officers of the United States DEA, the NYPD, the United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police, the United States Marshals Service, the United States Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Mr. DASSIN also thanked the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau for its work in the case. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative. Assistant United States Attorney KENNETH A. POLITE is in charge of this prosecution. The charges set forth in the Complaint are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until found guilty.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Law enforcement: corrupting influence of drug prohibition

Law enforcement: corrupting influence of drug prohibition
The Examiner by Frosty Wooldridge, Denver Political Issues Examiner - February 14, 2009

Front page headlines scream out across America each time a cop gets busted for corruption. The rest proves a tragedy for the officer, the family and The Thin Blue Line. How many? The United States Department of Justice stopped keeping statistics in 1988, but experts agree that the drug trade ensnares half of police officers. Prison guards smuggle in drugs, customs officers waive truckloads of narcotics into the country while money corrupts too many. Even as citizens learn how much the officer took, the reader rarely hears of the most pervasive form of corruption; namely how often officers lie under oath. In this fourth part of a continuing series, I interviewed my brother, 18 year veteran police officer and detective, Howard Wooldridge (retired), with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, , now stationed in Washington, DC.

“The United States has been at war with its citizens in earnest since President Nixon declared a war on drugs/war on people in 1971,” Officer Wooldridge said. “Since then my profession has spent one trillion tax dollars to arrest 38 million Americans for drug offenses. Corruption has become pandemic across the US, as drug dealers offer huge amounts of money to conceal their valuable cargo. An ounce of cocaine is worth about 20 ounces of pure gold. Although police officers always start out with a ton of integrity that can go to zero all too quickly.” The bribe becomes the most dramatic form of corruption to protect a dealer from being arrested, his stash or his shipment of drugs. We read of officers paid $10,000 to protect the dealer and his dope. Often these officers go years before being caught. Cops do not want to even suspect that one of their own ‘brothers’ has gone bad.

“Another type of corruption is caused by the large amounts of cash narcotic officers use for their buy/busts,” Officer Wooldridge said. “A sergeant in Clinton County, Michigan (where I worked) had access to the money and ‘borrowed’ about $2,000. After an audit showed the loss, he ended up confessing and leaving in disgrace. South of Fort Worth, Texas a lieutenant in charge of a narcotics squad took $9,000 a few years ago. The morning the audit was being conducted, he blew his brains out. Death before living in dishonor! He left a wife and children. Two narcotics officers in Dallas paid an illegal alien to hire other illegal aliens to drive vans loaded with cocaine. After the bust was made, the narcs field tested the 20-30 kilos of coke and reported it positive for cocaine. After 80 such busts defense attorneys finally had it tested by the DPS Lab. It was ground up sheet-rock. The two officers had skimmed six figure money off the top of the buy money. They were convicted. The assistant district attorney, who prosecuted the cases and knew that the arrests were bogus, was scheduled to testify before a grand jury. He blew his brains out that morning. In his early 40s, he left a wife and kids.”

In 2006, a case in Atlanta demonstrated the most pervasive form of corruption; lying under oath and falsifying a police report. Three narcs swore to a judge they had positive information about a dope house and obtained a ‘no knock’ warrant. As they pounded on the door, the 92 year old grandmother fired a shot in the air to warn the intruders she was armed. Upon entry, they shot her full of holes. Realizing their mistake, they planted marijuana in the house. Their house of cards came apart. Two have already pled guilty to murder and home invasion. They lied on the search warrant and then used their police report to justify the completely bogus operation. “Less dramatic but nonetheless common, a sergeant in DeWitt City, Michigan appeared in court to testify on a drug bust,” Officer Wooldridge said. “He was there to establish venue. After providing that information, he went on to testify as to seizing drugs, scales, etc. The narcotics officer told the district attorney that the testimony was false. The district attorney dropped the charges on the spot. The judge ordered everyone into his chambers and learned the truth. The sergeant was forced to resign for lying under oath. NOTE: the officer had worked 20 years in Detroit where officers routinely testify to things they did not do or see on drug cases. This officer did not realize that the rest of the states’ cops took the oath to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ seriously.”

The most common form of corruption finds the officer lying in order to search a person or car. If a driver does not give permission to search, the officer sniffs the air, declares he smells marijuana and orders the occupants out of the vehicle. If he finds the dope, he lies on his report that he smelled the marijuana which justifies the warrant less search. If he does not find anything, well, no harm done right? Wrong! That officer had no more right to enter the car than he does a person’s home and it is a violation of trespassing. Almost never is an officer caught, let alone prosecuted for such a crime. And they know it. “As long as the United States continues this New Prohibition, my profession will continue to suffer massive corruption,” Officer Wooldridge said. “Between the glory of the drug bust, the need to lie to search vehicles, the vast sums of money paid to protect the movement of drugs, law enforcement is being torn apart. I am sure many officers fell to their knees in 1933 and thanked God that the nation had ended its Alcohol Prohibition. Many will do the same when this nation becomes as wise as our grandparents by ending the New Prohibition.”

Today, my brother Howard Wooldridge heads up a task force in Washington, DC to educate and enlighten congressmen at the highest levels. He works for a better future for all Americans. He can be reached at: Education Specialist, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, , Washington, DC. He speaks at colleges, political clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs across America. He presents at political conferences in Washington. The mission of is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition. “Envision a world where crime is cut in half, terrorists don’t make money selling drugs and kids are not employed in the drug trade,” Wooldridge said. “Envision a world where the police focus on DUI, child predators and terrorists. Imagine a world where if you have a drug problem, you see a doctor not a judge. All are possible, when we find the courage to end our Prohibition.”

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Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents – from the Arctic to the South Pole – as well as six times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis in America: and what you can do about it” to civic clubs, church groups, high schools and colleges. He works to bring about sensible world population balance at his website

Lawsuit Filed by Politician for False Arrest

Green Bay officers backed on stopping alderman
Vander Leest sues city, others for $1 million

The city and police department "stand behind what the officers did" when they stopped Alderman and Brown County Supervisor John Vander Leest in March on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, Green Bay City Attorney Allison Swanson said Wednesday. Vander Leest filed a $1 million lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court against the city, several current and former members of the police department and the insurance company that owns the city's liability policy. Swanson said Wednesday the city has not been served with the complaint but she has read it. "We think there's no merit to the complaint," she said. "There's a lot of quotes in there, and I think they're out of context and just not true. There are people who are friends of Vander Leest's who are hurt by the complaint." Vander Leest's blood alcohol level was 0.03 percent, well below the state's 0.08 legal threshold of intoxication for drivers in Wisconsin, when he was stopped on South Monroe Avenue early March 16 after leaving a downtown bar. Three preliminary breath tests were taken before Vander Leest was arrested and taken to St. Vincent Hospital for the blood test. The citation was dropped when the test revealed he was not drunk. Vander Leest said he was targeted by police because of his votes involving police wages, overtime and benefits. He also said city officials failed to help clear his name when the blood alcohol level was known. The Milwaukee law firm of Gunta and Reak is representing the city in the case. Swanson said she asked the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board whether Vander Leest has a conflict of interest because of his elected position. But she was told a conflict would exist only if a settlement came before the City Council.

Named as defendants are Police Chief Jim Arts and officers who responded in the case, then-Lt. Jerry Johnson and officers Jeff Brann and David Steffens. Also named are former Lt. Colleen Belongea, former officer Daniel Schmechel, the city of Green Bay, and the Cities & Villages Mutual Insurance Company of Brookfield, which has a liability policy with the city. Schmitt and the police department have referred all questions to Swanson. In addition to $1 million, Vander Leest is asking the defendants to publicly apologize and ensure the apologies receive widespread media coverage. Vander Leest's complaint alleges false arrest, illegal seizure, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. He also says he was warned by an unidentified member of Mayor Jim Schmitt's staff that he should "drop this matter or political damage would occur."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cop Accused of Laundering Drug Cash

NYPD Officer Yaniris Balbuena laundered drug money for boyfriend, say feds
The New York Daily News by ALISON GENDAR AND THOMAS ZAMBITO - February 14, 2009

An NYPD cop moonlighted as a money-launderer for her drug-dealing boyfriend, picking up cash from his heroin operation and making bank deposits, prosecutors charged. Officer Yaniris Balbuena, 31, wept as she was hauled into Manhattan Federal Court Friday. She was released on $200,000 bond and suspended from her $60,000-a-year NYPD job. Her lawyer said her longtime boyfriend, the father of her two children, was killed in the Dominican Republic last year. His name was not released. "She's surprised that she's bearing the weight for his criminal activity," defense lawyer John Tynan said. The feds say that starting in 2002, Balbuena laundered $238,000 in cash, picking up bags at locations across the Bronx - including a car audio store near the 44th Precinct stationhouse. The nine-year veteran put the cash into eight different bank accounts, limiting deposits to $10,000 or less to avoid federal reporting requirements, they said. An informant told the feds he overheard Balbuena telling the boyfriend he "needed to change his lifestyle and live an honest life with a normal job," according to a criminal complaint filed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jared Murphey.


Police Officer Is Accused of Laundering Drug Cash
The New York Times by BENJAMIN WEISER - February 14, 2009

A New York City police officer was accused on Friday of conspiring to launder thousands of dollars in drug proceeds in what the authorities said was a large-scale heroin organization in the Bronx that the officer’s companion ran until his death last year. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged that the officer, Yaniris Balbuena, 31, who was arrested on Friday, took deliveries of drug money, sometimes on Jerome Avenue near the station house of the 44th Precinct, where she worked. The prosecutors, citing an informant’s account, described her as being nervous during one such exchange, as she instructed the informant to drop money on the floor of her private car before driving away. Officer Balbuena controlled nine bank accounts, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan. It said she deposited more than $230,000 in unexplained cash in her accounts, an amount that “far surpassed her legitimate income.” The officer, who joined the force in 2000, was suspended after her arrest, a Police Department spokesman said. A federal magistrate judge ordered her released on bond late in the day. She said nothing during the hearing and did not enter a plea, dabbing her eyes and crying as she left. Her lawyer, John Tynan, declined to comment.

The authorities did not identify the officer’s companion in court documents, but said they had lived together and had two children. He was killed, apparently in a drug-related homicide, an official said. Officer Balbuena’s deposits of unexplained cash into her accounts stopped after his death, another official said. The complaint said that the drug-trafficking operation generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that her companion lived luxuriously, driving expensive cars and buying property in the United States and the Dominican Republic. The complaint is based in part on claims from people described as confidential informants who had been charged with crimes and were now assisting the government. One of those sources, the complaint said, told the authorities that Officer Balbuena once told her companion that he “needed to change his lifestyle and live an honest life with a normal job.” He replied that he “enjoyed the criminal lifestyle and did not want to work a regular job,” the complaint said. C. J. Hughes contributed reporting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Off-duty cop arrested, charged with exposing himself

Off-duty cop arrested, charged with exposing himself
Newsday by ROCCO PARASCANDOLA - February 6, 2009

An off-duty police officer was arrested Friday for exposing himself in the bathroom of a Queens subway station, New York City police sources said. The 9:30 a.m. incident occurred at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue station, two stops from the Van Wyck/Briarwood station, where Transit Bureau Capt. Jeffrey Klimas was arrested in May and accused of exposing himself to a young man. Both stations are known as spots where men sometimes gather looking for other men, police sources said. In Friday's incident, police conducting a routine bathroom inspection found Officer Denton Lewis, 42, and another man, Felicio Balo, 28, exposing themselves, apparently to each other, police said. Lewis works at police headquarters on the extended leave desk. The suspects were charged with public lewdness, and Lewis, who lives in Jamaica, was suspended from the force. In the May incident, Klimas, a 25-year veteran, pleaded guilty to public lewdness and is awaiting sentencing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Former Cop Admint to Child Pornography

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
February 11, 2009 Ralph J. Marra, Acting U.S. Attorney
District of New Jersey -  Contact: Greg Reinert, (856) 757-5233

Former N.Y.P.D. Dispatcher Admits to Traveling to New Jersey
for Purpose of Having Sex with a Minor and Distributing Child Pornography

CAMDEN –A former New York Police Department dispatcher pleaded guilty today to a two-count Information that charges him with traveling to the Deptford Mall in Gloucester County for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with an individual whom he believed was a 14-year-old female and distribution of child pornography, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced. Ira Shimshi, 56, of New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas, who scheduled sentencing for May 22. Shimshi, who has been held in federal custody since his arrest on Aug. 15, 2008, will remain detained pending sentencing. At his plea hearing, Shimshi admitted that from September 2007 until Aug. 15, 2008, he communicated via email and telephone with an individual he knew as "Angie" and believed was a 14-year-old girl. Shimshi stated that he later learned that the individual was actually an undercover law enforcement officer. Shimshi admitted that during the communications he discussed his wish to engage in illicit sexual conduct with "Angie." During the course of their communications, Shimshi arranged to meet "Angie" at the Deptford Mall on Aug. 15, 2008, he admitted. In anticipation of the meeting, Shimshi admitted that he reserved a hotel room in the area of the Deptford Mall.

On the day of the scheduled meeting, Shimshi drove a rental vehicle from New York to the Deptford Mall and then proceeded to an area inside the mall where he and "Angie" had arranged to meet. Shimshi admitted that he brought condoms, personal lubricant and a digital camcorder from New York. Furthermore, on Feb. 6, 2008, Shimshi sent two separate videos containing child pornography via email from his computer to "Angie" in New Jersey, he admitted. The charge contained in Count One, distribution of child pornography, carries a statutory mandatory minimum prison sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of $250,000. Count Two, which charges traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a person whom he believed was a minor, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

In determining an actual sentence, Judge Irenas will consult the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, if any, and other factors. While the judge is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence, he is bound by the statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years for the charge of distributing child pornography in Count One. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all that time. Marra credited Special Agents of the FBI's South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle of the Criminal Division in Camden. Defense Attorney: Christopher J. O'Malley, Esq. Assistant Federal Public Defender


The New York Post by LARRY CELONA and DOUGLAS MONTERO - February 11, 2009

A disgraced NYPD cop is expected to turn himself in today on charges he beat a handcuffed suspect with his baton in the lobby of an Upper West Side building - then tried to cover it up, The Post has learned. Surveillance cameras allegedly caught Officer David London, 43, repeatedly whacking Walter Harvin, 28, as he lay on the ground in the vestibule of the De Hostos Apartments on West 93rd Street on July 18. Harvin had been stopped for acting suspiciously and was asked for proof he belonged in the building. The veteran cop has already turned in his badge and gun. He faces charges of assault and filing a false report, the source said. "I just remember the beating and that's about it," said Harvin, an Iraq war veteran who proudly showed off his dog tags yesterday in his mother's apartment in the building where the assault took place.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sheriff's Staffers Sentenced in Corruption Case

Judge scolds, sentences two Ramsey County sheriff's staffers in corruption case

TwinCities.Com by David Hanners - February 7, 2009

Cops don't flinch, even when being sent to prison.

After getting a stern lecture from a federal judge for his "staggering" abuse of trust, former St. Paul police officer Timothy Rehak refused to give up even a hint of emotion Friday as he was sentenced to 35 months in prison on his conviction in a police corruption case. Moments later, his co-conspirator in the case, former Ramsey County sheriff's spokesman Mark Naylon, showed similar stoicism as the judge lectured him and then sentenced him to 30 months for taking $6,000 in an FBI sting operation.

"This isn't about the money. It's never been about the money," U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz said. "What this is about is an egregious, shameful betrayal of the trust placed in you. You weren't some junkie who stole copper pipes out of a federal building. You were a police officer." Society endows "staggering" powers on police officers, the judge said, "and when they abuse those powers, the harm is staggering." "That makes the job of all the good cops that much harder, and that makes all of us less safe," the judge said. Schiltz gave both men a chance to speak before he sentenced them; both men declined. As they were sentenced, family and friends — who filled the St. Paul courtroom and overflowed into an adjoining courtroom — remained quiet, except for the occasional sound of a sniffle amid tears.

Attorneys for both men had asked for probation, while prosecutors had sought the harshest sentences federal guidelines allow for the crimes; in Rehak's case, that was 41 months, in Naylon's case, 33 months. Rehak and Naylon, both 48 years old and close friends and confidants of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, were convicted last summer of taking money they'd been told had been left in a St. Paul hotel room by a drug dealer. They were part of the sheriff's special investigations unit (even though Naylon isn't a licensed peace officer) and were following up on a lead from one of the informants Rehak had developed in more than two decades as a St. Paul street cop. In reality, the informant was working for the FBI, and agents had placed the money in the room as part of an "integrity test" to see whether the men were honest. There was $13,500 in the room, and the two men took $6,000 of it, leaving the rest to be recovered by their supervisor. Later that night, Rehak and Naylon called the supervisor and reported they'd gone back to the room and found an extra $6,000 under the mattress.

At trial, Rehak testified they were playing a practical joke on the supervisor, who they said had a reputation for leaving work early. The joke: They'd let the man get home and in bed, then call him and force him to trudge down to the office to inventory the newfound money. Instead, according to testimony, he told them to log in the money in the morning. Prosecutors painted a different picture of the men's behavior. They said they'd grabbed the money with the intent to steal it, but when they couldn't find the drug dealer's name in any law enforcement databases (the FBI had forgotten to create a record for the fictitious dealer), they began to suspect they were being set up. Only then did they turn the money in, prosecutors argued. Jurors didn't buy the practical-joke story and convicted them of theft of government funds and conspiracy to violate civil rights. Schiltz made clear he didn't buy the practical joke defense, either, saying that no policeman "in his right mind" would mishandle evidence the way Rehak and Naylon did.

Rehak's attorney, Paul Engh, made an impassioned plea that his client had been convicted of violating a law that doesn't exist. In a lengthy legal argument, Engh argued there had been no theft because the FBI's bait money was returned, and that, because the money didn't belong to anyone, nobody's civil rights had been violated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Dixon retorted that Engh was missing the point. "This is not a theft case," he told the judge. "This was a law enforcement officer, a police officer, who was using his position to do what he was sworn to protect against." Dixon's colleague, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marti, had harsh words for Naylon when it came time for his sentencing. He noted that Naylon often engaged in police work but lacked a license.

"Mr. Naylon exercised police powers, but at every step, he worked to avoid accountability," Marti said. "Mr. Naylon wanted to operate outside the law. He wanted the power. He did not want the accountability." Both men resigned from the sheriff's office on the day they were convicted. A spokesman for Fletcher did not return a call for comment Friday. Schiltz also fined both men $7,500, and each must spend two years on supervised probation after they're released from prison. The judge allowed both men to remain free, and they are to turn themselves in to the U.S. Marshals Service on March 9. Schiltz said he would recommend that both men serve their time at the federal prison in Duluth. David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.

Deputy Cleared in death of 91-year-old

Collier deputy exonerated in death of 91-year-old blind Alzheimer’s patient
Naples News by LIZ FREEMAN, RYAN MILLS - February 7, 2009

NAPLES, FL — The Collier County Sheriff’s Office exonerated a former deputy of any wrongdoing in the death of a 91-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease who fell and hit his head after being pushed by the deputy outside an assisted living facility more than a year ago. Former Cpl. Karl Meier’s actions were “reasonable under the circumstances,” the Sheriff’s Office reported. However, Ted Zelman, an attorney representing the 91-year-old’s family, said that Meier acted negligently, and is demanding $200,000 in damages from the Sheriff’s Office. “Our claim is that this particular deputy acted intemperately,” Zelman said. “He had no reason to push a 91-year-old blind man, and that his doing so was in law negligent behavior.” Meier was dispatched to the Encore Senior Village, 1155 Encore Way in North Naples, just before 8 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2007, after resident Henry Dean broke through a metal gate outside his cottage, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Dean, who had Alzheimer’s disease and was legally blind, broke off an aluminum bar in the gate outside his cottage, swung it around, and then slid through the gate, reports said. “At that point he said he wanted a gun and he wanted to shoot himself and others,” said Barbara Linebaur, Encore’s assistant program director. Linebaur instructed staff members to stay a safe distance from Dean because she “didn’t want anybody to get hurt,” according to a recently completed investigation. When Meier arrived, he asked employees what they wanted to do with Dean, who he knew from a previous encounter two weeks earlier when Dean escaped from the center and struck Linebaur and another employee, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Dean, who was wearing blue pajamas and brown shoes, approached Meier with his hands raised above his waist, and touched Meier in the chest. “I think he wanted to feel the officer’s badge,” Encore employee Robert Mercer said. Linebaur said Dean pushed Meier. Meier told investigators he extended his elbows and pushed Dean back “maybe two inches at the most.” “Once I made contact with him, Henry either didn’t have the capability with the age, but his legs didn’t seem to come back, you know, his forward momentum was still coming toward me,” Meier told investigators. “When I made contact with his chest, like I said, I drove it back approximately two inches, if that. “He went straight down to the ground.” Employees heard Dean’s head crack on the concrete. He was transported to NCH North Naples Hospital, where he died of a blunt force head injury that night. Several employees told investigators that they believed Meier “used a little too much force.”

Sheriff’s Chief Jim Williams said most of the evidence supported Meier’s actions as lawful, proper and reasonable. Deputies don’t have to allow themselves to be injured, which can make a situation more dangerous, Williams said. “Mr. Dean came toward the deputy. The deputy put up his hands to keep him from closing in on him,” Williams said. Zelman said Dean had no ability to hurt anyone, and that all Meier had to do was retreat. “To me, it’s pretty apparent that what he should have done is try to defuse the situation and not make it worse,” Zelman said.

Though deputies can retreat if the situation calls for it, Williams said Meier was there to help control the situation. “He was called there because Mr. Dean was not able to be controlled by the staff of the facility,” Williams said. In August 2008, Meier resigned from the Sheriff’s Office, not in good standing, after he was accused of insubordination during another case. Records indicate he was going to be fired. Meier started with the Sheriff’s Office in 1995, and had a long history of reprimands. In 1997 he was reprimanded for stepping on the neck of a DRILL (juvenile academy) candidate, and in 2003 he was reprimanded for lying about driving his patrol car while intoxicated.

He now works in loss prevention at a local Wal-Mart. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful. “The question is, should he have been out there responding to calls like this?” Zelman asked. The State Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Meier. In September, Zelman submitted a six-month notice to the Sheriff’s Office claiming $200,000 in damages on behalf of Dean’s widow and estate. Zelman declined to discuss his dealings with Encore. “All differences between my clients and Encore have been settled, and the terms of the settlement are confidential,” he said. Chuck Pollard, president of the Alzheimer’s Support Network in Collier County, said he had spoken directly to then-Sheriff Don Hunter about what happened at Encore. “He was 100 percent behind Meier,” Pollard said.

Hunter considered Meier one of the most capable deputies to interact with someone with dementia because the deputy had just put his own mother on an airplane to go live in an assisted-living facility somewhere, Pollard said. “I should have said he was an exhausted caregiver and shouldn’t have been (on duty),” Pollard said. Meier knew Dean was frail and had dementia, Pollard said. “This thing has bugged me for a long time and it shouldn’t have happened,” he said. The Sheriff’s Office used to be good about how deputies handled calls to nursing homes and assisted living facilities with dementia patients but that’s all fallen by the wayside, along with the dismantling of its senior services program, Pollard said.

Officials with the state Agency for Health Care Administration conducted its investigation of Encore shortly after Dean’s death and cited the assisted-living center for five deficiencies for noncompliance with standards and regulations. The citations involved failure to keep detailed accounts of major adverse incidents and failure to report them to the state agency, for not updating risk assessments of residents and for not keeping the premises in safe and sound condition. Dean escaped a first time on Nov. 29 when he pulled out a hollow aluminum bar from an exterior gate and a maintenance supervisor reinstalled the bent bar. It was the same bent bar that Dean pulled out during his second escape that led to his death. The maintenance supervisor admitted to the state health inspectors that the aluminum bar was weakened from being bent the first time.

In addition, the state inspectors found a bottom plate was missing from a gate key pad, which enabled a 73-year-old resident to escape by pulling out a wire in June 2007. Including that incident, there were four escape attempts in 2007, according to the state reports. Encore in Naples was sold in October to Juniper Communities, based in Bloomfield, N.J., and renamed Juniper Village at Naples. Officials with Encore, headquartered in Portland, Ore., couldn’t be reached for comment. “I think this whole thing did Encore in,” Pollard said. “It is just speculative. If I was found with the problem, I would clean house and get out.”