CLICK HERE TO REPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION (Provide as much information as possible: full names, descriptions, dates, times, activity, witnesses, etc.)

Telephone: 347-632-9775

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Police Unit to Aid Probe of Inspectors

Cleveland police unit to aid probe of inspectors
The Plain Dealer by Gabriel Baird - May 31, 2009

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Mayor Frank Jackson's administration is breaking from city policy, giving a probe into public corruption to investigators from a police unit with a record of aggressively going after wrongdoing. Police Chief Michael McGrath has assigned Internal Affairs Unit investigators to help investigate the city's Building and Housing Department. The six-person unit -- which under department policy investigates only police -- has busted several officers in recent years on charges including theft, felonious assault, rape and drug trafficking. The assignment underscores how seriously Jackson is taking the investigation, officials said.

Mayor Frank Jackson

"The mayor has given me very clear direction," Safety Director Martin Flask said. "This investigation will be thorough, professional and expeditious, with a primary focus on thorough." Police inherited the probe from the FBI on Wednesday after federal prosecutors announced more charges against city building and housing inspectors. The FBI had been investigating the department since at least 2006 as part of a crackdown on corruption in Cuyahoga County. In April, inspector Richard Huberty pleaded guilty to 10 counts of bribery and extortion. He is awaiting sentencing. Inspectors Bobby Cuevas, Richard Kocuba and Lawrence Skule were charged with extortion last month. Inspectors James McCullough, 56, and Juan Alejandro, 41, were charged Wednesday with accepting bribes from an investor wanting a good deal on property. They have been suspended without pay. After announcing the charges against McCullough and Alejandro, local FBI head Frank Figliuzzi said the agency's findings would be given to the city to follow up. Under Cleveland police policy, the follow-up investigation should go to the Intelligence Unit, which has about 10 staff members who investigate nonpolice city workers suspected of wrongdoing. Officers in the unit also protect dignitaries, guard City Hall and drive around the mayor. Despite being responsible for watching about 6,800 workers -- four times as many as the 1,700 police that the Internal Affairs Unit monitors -- the Intelligence Unit has produced few high-profile cases. Internal Affairs will be assisted by a detective from the Intelligence Unit.

The Internal Affairs Unit is led by Lt. James Muhic, an experienced, even zealous investigator who worked on the FBI's public-corruption task force from 2002 to 2005. McGrath put Muhic in charge of Internal Affairs in 2006. The following year, the department disciplined more officers as a result of Internal Affairs investigations than in any year going back to at least 2000. Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller honored Muhic for his work on the investigation of former Cleveland police officer Zvonko Sarlog, who was convicted of money laundering and cocaine charges in 2007. Internal Affairs, along with the Overtime Review Unit and the Inspections Unit, is part of the Police Department's Integrity Control Section, which reports directly to the chief.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Becoming More Common to Deny Breathalyzer

Breath tests refused: 'It's becoming more common to deny Breathalyzer'
The Chicago Sun Times by Mark J. Konkol - May 30, 2009

When Chicago Police Officer Richard Bolling was stopped by police after a hit-and-run crash that killed a 13-year-old boy earlier this month, he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. That's the trend. More than two out of five people arrested in drunken driving cases -- 41.4 percent -- refused to submit to breath testing in 2007, according to the most recent Illinois Secretary of State statistics available. Every year since 2001, the percentage who balk at the Breathalyzer test has steadily increased, state data shows. "It's the dirty little secret that isn't really a secret anymore. If you don't have any scientific evidence, you are in much better shape in court. It's becoming way more common to deny the Breathalyzer," said David Malham of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Illinois. "I don't know how you do it, but it's a loophole that needs to be addressed."

Susan McKeigue, executive directive of MADD of Illinois, blames some of the spike in Breathalyzer denials on criminal defense attorneys who specialize in getting people acquitted of DUI charges. "The first instruction they give you is to not take that test," she said. "People are being educated on how to beat the system. . . . Unfortunately, people are making a living teaching people how to get away with it." Defense attorney Don "DUI Don" Ramsell said he doesn't tell clients not to submit to blood-alcohol breath tests to "beat the system." "Knowing your rights is very important, but equally important and true is the legitimate concern over police testing . . . and machine accuracy," Ramsell said. He has defended 13,000 DUI cases since 1986, including beating two DUI charges of his own. His law practice Web site includes a section called, "40 ways to beat an Illinois DUI" and he used to sell a $100 "Ramsell's Road Kit" that included a push-button recording that drivers could use to inform an officer -- without saying a word -- that they would not get out of the car or submit to sobriety testing. Ramsell is among a contingent of defense lawyers who think Breathalyzer test results can have up to a 25 percent margin of error and shouldn't be trusted. "No one should participate in an investigation of themselves for a crime," he said. "Why risk your freedom and innocence by submitting to a test done by a machine that is controlled by the police? That's what a Breathalyzer is."

Take test or lose license for year

Police and prosecutors say the machines are accurate, reliable and tested at least every 62 days as required by state law. "We are very confident in the Breathalyzer and [its accuracy] already has been held up in judicial court," Chicago Police Lt. David Blanco said. "The case history on that says it's a reliable machine. The machines are tested by the State Police." A state law that went into effect Jan. 1 aims to get more drivers to submit to breath tests by increasing the mandatory license suspension for drivers who refuse from six months to 12 months. The new law also requires DUI offenders have a breath-test machine hooked up to their car's ignition to prevent the car from starting if they've been drinking. "We're really looking at the numbers and hope the new law changes the trend," said Susan McKinney, director of the state's Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device Program. "I think it increases the incentive to take the Breathalyzer." Ramsell says the increased mandatory suspensions shouldn't scare people into submitting to a breath test. "If you are really guilty, you're going to face the consequences anyway. The statutory suspension you can fight in court. A judge can throw that out, too," Ramsell said. "I still say if you're given an option, refuse to take it."

There are times when drivers can't refuse tests for alcohol and drugs. Get in a serious crash where people are hurt or dead and you must submit to a blood test, according to state law. That's what happened in Bolling's case. The off-duty Chicago cop who allegedly fatally struck Trenton Booker on May 23 and drove off refused a Breathalyzer test, authorities said. He took a breath test four hours later as part of the Chicago Police Department's separate, administrative investigation. That test revealed a blood-alcohol level of .079, just shy of the .08 legal limit, prosecutors said. Hours later, Bolling submitted to a mandatory blood test. Under a 2005 Illinois Supreme Court decision, police can require drivers to submit to blood tests against their will even if they're not involved in a serious or fatal accident. In that case, the court ruled in a split decision that a DuPage man accused of DUI did not have the right to refuse chemical testing from a blood draw. Effectively, that ruling means anyone who refuses a Breathalyzer can be forced to give a blood sample. But few officers take such measures. Some prosecutors say the high court ruling did not give officers the right to forcibly take blood.

'No refusal' weekends

In Kane County, prosecutors came up with a way to take away a driver's chance to refuse testing. Since last year, they have had two "no refusal" weekends. That's when police set up a safety checkpoint with a county judge on hand to issue search warrants giving police permission to take blood from DUI suspects who refuse breath tests. "Court rulings seem to indicate we can take blood on every case. We are being conservative by getting warrants," said Kane County assistant state's attorney Steve Sims. "That way we have judicial review of probable cause before doing any testing." The very threat of a blood test has been extremely successful, Sims said. On Memorial Day last year, 57 percent of people charged with DUI initially refused a breath test. After officers told them they would obtain a search warrant for a blood sample, all but one submitted to breath testing, he said. A lone holdout was charged with criminal contempt of court. The contempt charge was thrown out on appeal because the warrant allowed police to get the blood sample, but it did not order the defendant to give a sample When he refused, he was not violating any court order. Despite that adverse ruling, Kane County held another no refusal weekend on St. Patrick's Day. All three people who refused the breath test changed their minds when told a warrant would be issued to obtain a blood sample. Ramsell says "no refusal" weekends are "just a bunch of hype" and a way to intimidate drivers into taking the Breathalyzer test. But Sims says that's not true. "We tell them we are about to get a search warrant, do you still want to refuse," Sims said. "There's nothing intimidating about it. . . . They are calmly informed and told they can comply or wait for the warrant, which we are perfectly willing and able to do."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Army Captain Pleads Guilty to Stealing from U.S.

Suffolk soldier pleads guilty in Iraq scheme
The Suffolk News-Herald by R.E. Spears III - May 18, 2009

A U.S. Army captain from Suffolk is one of two members of the military to plead guilty on Monday to stealing U.S. government equipment and selling it to a businessman in Iraq, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. According to court documents, Elbert Westley George III, 36, and 32-year-old Sgt. First Class Roy Greene Jr. of Georgia split at least $400,000 in the scheme, in which they used their positions with the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office to take a variety of items slated for sale or donation by the government and then sell them to an unnamed Iraqi businessman. The stolen equipment included a bus, eight trucks, 19 generators, five trailers and other items, according to a statement of facts in support of the plea agreement. George then used his half of the money to buy money orders, which he sent home to Suffolk. He also carried $20,000 in illicit cash with him when he traveled home to Suffolk on leave in April 2008, he admitted in the statement. Greene, according to his own statement, sent at least $100,000 of the proceeds to his girlfriend in South Carolina.

Between December 2007 and June 2008, George worked with Greene and at least one other, unnamed co-conspirator to illicitly check out equipment from the DRMO at Joint Base Balad in Iraq and take it to their base in Paliwoda, Iraq, where the businessman paid them in $100 bills for the stolen property, according to court documents. A first sergeant at Joint Base Balad, who was in charge of central receiving and shipping there, received a 10-percent cut — also paid in $100 bills — to assure that the equipment was successfully transferred to the businessman. George and Greene are set for sentencing July 17. Both face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The investigation was handled by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI, the Army Criminal Investigative Division and members of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force and the International Contract Corruption Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was created by the Department of Justice in 2006 to detect, prevent and prosecute procurement fraud associated with government contracts for national security and other government programs. The International Contract Corruption Task Force is a joint law enforcement agency that detects and investigates corruption and contract fraud resulting from overseas operations, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ex-Sheriff's Department Detective-Sergeant Get 85 Months for Stealing Cocaine

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
District of New Jersey - Contact: (973) 645-2700

Ex-Passaic County Sheriff’s Department Detective-Sergeant Gets 85 Months for Conspiring to Steal Cocaine from Evidence Vault

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY—A former detective-sergeant of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department who was also a former Haledon Borough council member was sentenced today to 85 months in federal prison for conspiring to distribute significant quantities of cocaine that he had stolen from the evidence vault at the Sheriff’s Department, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. announced.

U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares rejected the request from Alan Souto to be allowed to surrender at a subsequent date to begin serving his sentence and instead ordered him to prison immediately. In doing so, Judge Linares cited the seriousness of Souto’s crimes, the long prison sentence, and his status as a former law enforcement officer as incentives to flee. Souto, 40, pleaded guilty before Judge Linares on Dec. 4 and admitted that he received proceeds totaling at least $250,000 from the sale of the cocaine by others participating with him in the conspiracy. Souto stipulated in his plea agreement that the amount of stolen drugs was at least 43 kilograms (94.6 pounds) of cocaine and 700 grams of heroin. Souto pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal Information charging him with conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. “Souto committed an egregious violation of his sworn duty to uphold the law,” said Marra. “This was a serious crime deserving of a severe sentence.” “Mr. Souto was certainly a man who knew better,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun. “But once again, we have an example of a public official – a law man and former councilman – putting his own interests before those of the public. This sentence was a fitting one and we commend the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office and particularly, the Passaic County Sheriff's Office for doing the difficult job of helping the FBI bring one of their own to justice. They have proven to the citizens of Passaic County that no one is above the law – not even those sworn to uphold it.”

At his plea hearing, Souto admitted that beginning in about August 2007, he repeatedly stole multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine from the Sheriff’s Department evidence vault and arranged for the delivery of the cocaine to other co-conspirators’ who, in turn, would arrange for distribution of the narcotics in Passaic County and elsewhere. Souto was first arrested in March on charges brought by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, which then referred the matter for federal prosecution and has continued to assist in the investigation. Souto told Judge Linares that he was assigned to the Sheriff’s Department Evidence Bureau and had 24-hour access to the evidence vault. Among the procedures he supervised was the destruction of evidence after a case and its related appeals were completed. Destruction of drugs occurred during scheduled “drug burns,” according to Souto. Souto admitted that he falsely listed quantities of cocaine to be destroyed during scheduled drug burns. He said he would steal the drugs from the evidence vault during non-operating hours by opening evidence bags, taking out drugs and substituting sugar into the bags before resealing them with tape to conceal the theft.

Souto admitted that he transported the stolen cocaine to a pre-arranged location in Haledon for his co-conspirators to pick up and sell later. For his involvement in the conspiracy, Souto admitted that he received shares of the drug-sale proceeds of at least $250,000, an amount he agreed to forfeit under the terms of his plea agreement. The charge to which Souto pleaded guilty ordinarily carries a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to life in prison, as well a maximum fine of $4 million. However, the judge determined that certain factors made Souto eligible for the so-called “safety valve” provision that a sentence below the mandatory minimum of 10 years. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all of that time. Marra credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun, for the investigation of Souto. He also credited for their assistance in the investigation prosecutors and investigators with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor James F. Avigliano, and investigators with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Jerry Speziale. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Gramiccioni of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pursue Probe Of Corruption

Pursue Probe Of Corruption
EDITORIAL By The Intelligencer - May 18, 2009 

WHEELING, WV - Some people grow tired of reading ongoing coverage of scandals in government. After the initial outrage they feel on learning about a corrupt public official, they tend to want to move on. Occasionally it is the same with law enforcement officials, who sometimes just want to wrap up cases and also move on. Fortunately that has not been the case in regard to the scandal(s) that drove former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann from office a year ago. State officials have been dogged in their investigation of what, if allegations are to be believed, was a school for corruption in the attorney general's office. Last week one of Dann's former top aides, Anthony Gutierrez, was indicted in Columbus on 10 charges, including six felonies. Prosecutors say Gutierrez, who had been Dann's head of general services, was guilty of various misdeeds.

They range from theft in office to using a state computer system to transmit fraudulent workers' compensation documents for the construction business he owned. The charges are not related to others, that Gutierrez sexually harassed two women in the attorney general's office. The indictments came a year after Dann was kicked out as attorney general - and after many, many revelations of misdeeds in his office. It is important that Ohioans know just how bad the situation was in Dann's office. Again, an outrageous number and range of corrupt activities seem to have been going on in the state's top law enforcement agency. In announcing indictments against Gutierrez, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O'Brien said his office continues to look into activities in Dann's office. "This does not conclude the investigation," he stressed. Good. It is important for Buckeye State residents to understand the depth of abuse of power that was occurring in the attorney general's office - simply to put them on guard against similar crimes and criminals in the future.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cops: Dirty cop busted plotting to rob drug dealer of $1 million cash

Cops: Dirty cop busted plotting to rob drug dealer of $1 million cash
The New York Daily News by THOMAS ZAMBITO AND ALISON GENDAR  - May 13, 2009

A dirty city cop was caught on tape plotting to rob a drug dealer's apartment and steal almost a million bucks hidden in a closet, authorities said. Shawn Jenkins, 41, was arrested Wednesday at the Manhattan apartment and charged with attempted robbery. He was held on $200,000 bond after arraignment. A 15-year veteran with the NYPD, Jenkins told a confidential informant he had once worked as a body guard for the dealer - who was busted in 2002 and deported to the Dominican Republic in 2008. Jenkins claimed the dealer stashed $900,000 in drug money under a closet floor before he was shipped out and sent him a letter with a map of the Broadway apartment, authorities said. The problem was Jenkins needed help getting into the apartment, so he wanted the informant to help him serve an official-looking summons on the current tenant and zap him with a stun gun, officials said. He gave the snitch a pilfered NYPD form - called a "Statement of Personal Service" - to be used in the illegal operation. But the informant ratted out Jenkins - and NYPD Internal Affairs and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had tape rolling as the plot progressed. Jenkins allegedly called his would-be partner on Tuesday and told him the robbery was set for that night. He was busted when he showed up at the apartment on Broadway in Washington Heights. He was hit with a slew of felony charges at an arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Eaton. Jenkins was almost been fired from the NYPD in 2000 after being found guilty of departmental charges he failed to secure a prisoner and stay alert on duty, sources said. He was placed on dismissal probation for a year, but stayed out of trouble and kept his job. He was transferred from Manhattan's 26 Precinct to the 23rd Precinct in Upper Manhattan, where he was writing highway summonses until his arrest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Deputy U.S. Marshal Pleads Guilty to Witness Tampering

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 13, 2009
United States Attorney's Office
Western District of Texas - San Antonio
Contact: (210) 384-7100

Deputy U.S. Marshal Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice by Witness Tampering

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Deputy U.S. Marshal Benjamin Bates pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice today in federal court in San Antonio for tampering with a witness he was transporting to the grand jury to testify about civil rights abuses at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center in Texas, the Justice Department announced. In his plea agreement, Bates agreed to resign from the U.S. Marshals Service and to never again seek employment in law enforcement. The defendant was sentenced to one year of probation. According to documents filed in court, Bates admitted to attempting to delay and dissuade the witness from testifying truthfully before the grand jury by attempting to minimize the incident the witness was to testify about, and by suggesting ways the witness could delay or avoid testifying. In addition, Bates admitted to telling the target of the grand jury’s investigation that the witness would be testifying. “In order for the grand jury to fulfill its vital role in our criminal justice system, it is of paramount importance that the names of witnesses not be disclosed and that witnesses not be discouraged from providing full and truthful testimony,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “By his conduct, Deputy Bates compromised the system and betrayed his badge.” The FBI investigated this case and it was prosecuted by Gerard V. Hogan and James D. Walsh with the Civil Rights Division. 09-470

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let's Go to the Videotape for Police Corruption

Two videos at corruption trial of Minneapolis cop show informant handing over money in return for information
Defense says officer was victim in FBI trap
The Pioneer Press by David Hanners - May 11, 2009

As the Minneapolis policeman logged onto his squad car's computer to look up a case report, his passenger mentions in passing that he's a Disciple — as in the Gangster Disciples street gang — and the subject of the report being looked up is in a rival gang, the Family Mob. And after the officer, Michael David Roberts, looks up the report and shares it with the man, Taylor Winthorpe Trump hands the officer five $20 bills. As jurors watched on a large TV screen, prosecutors in the opening day of Roberts' corruption trial saw a pair of videos taken by Trump, who was working as a government informant. The government claims the videos show Roberts accepting money in return for handing over confidential police information.

Monday was the first day of Roberts' trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Rankin explained that the veteran policeman was the target of an FBI "integrity test" meant to find out if officers were honest. "Mike Roberts was given a test. A test of his integrity. A test that Mike Roberts failed," Rankin told the nine men and five women who make up the jury and two alternates. He said Roberts was guilty of "some of the oldest kinds of crimes there are, selling information for money." But Karen Mohrlant, one of two attorneys defending Roberts, said the officer was just trying to help someone he knew, someone who told the officer he'd been the victim of a crime. She told jurors the evidence would show Trump induced and entrapped Roberts, and therefore Roberts wasn't guilty of the crimes he is charged with — wire fraud and unauthorized access of a protected computer. "We believe the evidence will show that he acted in good faith," she said of her client. The government began its case with testimony from two FBI agents. The government claims Roberts met twice with Trump in August 2007. The meetings took place outside Pizza LucĂ©, the Minneapolis restaurant where Roberts worked off-duty. FBI agents had equipped Trump with a tiny camera, and they also set up a surveillance post in a building across the street. Videos from both meetings were shown in court Monday. In the first meeting, Aug. 9, 2007, Trump asked Roberts to find the owner of a license plate number he'd written down. He claimed the guy had robbed him.

In the video, Roberts can be seen and heard using his radio to ask a police dispatcher to look up the information. A few moments later, the dispatcher calls back with the name and address, and Trump overhears it as it comes over the officer's microphone and speaker, attached to an epaulette of his uniform shirt. The officer asked for no money, but Trump handed him $100. Roberts resists, but Trump perseveres and Roberts finally takes it. Jurors also saw the video of the second meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes. Trump had called Roberts beforehand, asking to see a police report about a man he claimed was snitching on him. But it was a set-up. Trump had been arrested by federal agents two months earlier, and he told them that in return for leniency at his sentencing, he could help them make arrests in cases involving drugs, prostitution, mortgage fraud and police corruption. The investigation began in the Minneapolis Police Department, but officials there decided to hand it over to the FBI, allegedly to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

A federal grand jury later indicted Trump for wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money in a mortgage-fraud scheme. Victims lost as much as $2.5 million in the scam. He was later sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on the drug charge, to be followed by 10 years on supervised release. FBI Special Agent Andrew Mento testified that Trump claimed he could provide the name of six Minneapolis officers who would sell information for money. Although Trump named the officers, he couldn't remember Roberts' first name, Mento said. Two of the officers Trump named were white; the other four, including Roberts, were black. Roberts' lead attorney, F. Clayton Tyler, has claimed racial overtones in the investigation. In pretrial motions, he said he wanted to show his client was the victim of "selective prosecution." U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle ruled that he'd allow Roberts to introduce "evidence of racial bias only when impeaching government witnesses" on cross-examination, but could not introduce such evidence directly. David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When Good Cops Go Bad

When good cops go bad
The Fayetteville Observer by Michael Futch - May 10, 2009

Bad cops. Shady, law-breaking sheriffs.

FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Despite the tenet that law officers need to hold themselves to higher standards, corruption stands as one of the oldest problems in law enforcement. “They are the final line, something that separates society from the bad guys. They are the protectors,” said Dr. Hamid Kusha, an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Department at East Carolina University. “The mandate of police is to serve and protect. Therefore, we look at police as good guys. We want them to have high ethical standards.” Obviously, that’s not always the case. In Spring Lake, an assortment of alleged misdeeds has turned the Police Department into an ineffectual force.

Tuesday, Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown resigned one day after the arrests of Sgt. Alfonzo Devone Whittington Jr. and Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr., who were indicted last week by a special Cumberland County grand jury. The charges against Whittington and Coulter include embezzlement by public officer, obtaining property by false pretense, breaking and entering, second-degree kidnapping and obstruction of justice. Along with those indictments, the Police Department was stripped of its remaining police powers. But law enforcement misconduct spreads much further than Spring Lake. In the last three years, four sheriffs in this state have been convicted of breaking the very laws that they swore to uphold. In the past six years, five North Carolina sheriffs have faced serious charges.

“Four is too many, and one is too many. It’s very regrettable,” said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association. But Caldwell questions whether more cases exist today than in the past. The immediacy of the news — with breaking stories running around the clock on television and on the Internet — produces a glut of information. Caldwell said some newspapers seem to thrive on the misdeeds of religious leaders, teachers and government officials. “Those stories get front-page coverage,” he said. “There’s much more transparency. Things that happened decades ago that did not get prosecuted or reported get fully prosecuted or reported today. If a government official gets a parking ticket, that’s reported. That changes public opinion.” The N.C. Attorney General’s Office and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation have investigated more than 500 public corruption cases in the past eight years, according to Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice. Those cases include investigations of law enforcement officials, such as the sheriffs of Robeson, Davidson and Brunswick counties, and the Greensboro Police Department. In July 2008, Knightdale Police Chief Richard Nelson Pope stepped down after being charged with one count of assault on a female following a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.

Early this year, Warren County sheriff’s Deputy Cornelius Davis was charged with two counts of sexual battery after being accused of inappropriately touching women at two Raleigh stores. A few days later, on Jan. 7, Wilmington police officer Wotzvely Albert Perez was charged with assault and sexual battery while on duty. Kusha, the East Carolina University professor, has taught on police operations and the relationship between police and community since 1997. Police corruption, as he points out, is not a new issue. The problem dates back to colonial times. “The reason why we’re seeing a lot of bad cops,” he said, “we are concentrated on this issue. Policing in the United States is very much under checks and balances. In the past eight years or decade, we’ve had congressmen and people at top positions that corrupted them. Their action is being scrutinized. Maybe nobody gives a damn about ethics and laws anymore.” Talley, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said it would be inappropriate for her office to answer questions regarding police misconduct because the SBI continues to handle the Spring Lake investigation. The SBI typically investigates cases involving law enforcement officers, which can range from involvement in a shooting to public corruption.

The following former sheriffs have gone from serving the public to serving time:

Former Sheriff Glenn Maynor was the highest-ranking lawman swept up in Operation Tarnished Badge, a six-year investigation into corruption in the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. Twenty-three people, mostly deputies, pleaded guilty to crimes that included kidnapping, money laundering, racketeering, theft of federal money and satellite piracy. In May 2008, former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford — who had been the target of a two-year public corruption investigation — was found guilty of accepting money to protect an illegal video poker ring. Former Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett was indicted on charges of embezzlement by a public official and obstruction of justice. In June 2008, his guilty plea to obstructing justice made him the second of the previous three Brunswick County sheriffs to trade in his badge for a felony conviction.

Former Polk County Sheriff Chris Abril, who was elected despite being charged mid-race with raping two girls more than 20 years earlier, later pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Abril avoided jail time in November 2008 after accepting a plea bargain. Another former sheriff, Gerald Hege of Davidson County, was charged in September 2003 with 15 felonies and suspended from office. The charges included five counts of embezzlement by a public officer, five counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and two counts of obstruction of justice. Hege accepted a plea agreement and received suspended sentences, three years of probation and three months of house arrest. Kusha believes some police officers are just not up to the job. “If you look at the policing profession, there’s a lot of stress. It’s a very stressful job,” he said. “Maybe the pay’s not enough. ‘I’m putting my life on the line, and what is it I’m getting?’ Maybe we’re not respecting the police as we should. It’s very difficult to pinpoint. Maybe we’re getting better at detecting police corruption.” Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at or 486-3529.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Corruption Trial Starts

Corruption trial starts for Minneapolis police officer
The Star Tribune by David Chanen - May 10, 2009

Michael Roberts was the only Minneapolis officer indicted after a 14-month probe. He says he was entrapped by a gang member turned informant.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - In 2007, an informant told authorities something stunning: At least a half-dozen Minneapolis police officers were selling non-public information to gang members. An ensuing 14-month investigation resulted only in the short suspension of Lt. Lee Edwards, former head of the homicide unit, for violating a department policy, and a single indictment of longtime North Side officer Michael Roberts, for allegedly accepting $200 from a gang member to run a records check and get a license plate number.

On Monday, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Roberts goes on trial. His defense is that he was entrapped -- that the criminal/informant enticed him into the exchange. "I'm innocent; Naturally I'm frustrated," Roberts said Friday during a break in jury selection. The long-awaited trial brings the department a step closer to closing the book on its first-ever corruption probe involving multiple officers. Reflecting on the probe last week, Chief Tim Dolan said that at first he didn't know "where it would go and how big it would get." Now, he said, "I'm more or less pleased it wasn't bigger than it was." In July, a grand jury indicted Roberts, 58, for allegedly taking the money to obtain a plate number through the National Crime Information Center and non-public information through the department's computer records system. The $200 was paid by Gangster Disciples member Taylor Trump. It was Trump, a convicted drug dealer who is awaiting sentencing on federal mortgage fraud and drug charges, who told authorities in June 2007 that at least six officers gave him information to protect his criminal enterprises. The indictment alleged that Roberts knew Trump was a criminal. The $200 is small change compared to the amount pocketed by the last Minneapolis police officer indicted on federal corruption charges, in 1996. Stanley J. Capistrant took $336,556 in drug-seizure money while he was assigned to the narcotics unit. He told investigators it was to support a gambling habit.

Then-Police Chief Robert Olson held up his own badge and said that Capistrant "tarnished it for every single one of us." When Roberts was indicted, Dolan expressed similar sentiments.  "Cases like this are very unfortunate for the profession as a whole because bad actions of a few can tarnish many," said Lt. John Delmonico, president of the police federation. "It will be nice to have the case over and get some closure." F. Clayton Tyler, Roberts' attorney, said last summer that Roberts didn't deny his transaction with Trump. But he said Roberts neither sought out the man nor asked for money. "Any time you have a pending case there is going to be a lot of stress," he said. "Mike is handling it in a very professional manner." Prosecutors were unavailable for comment. After Roberts declined a plea bargain, a grand jury indicted him for allegedly failing to report on his 2004-07 tax returns at least $75,000 from off-duty security work. At the time, Tyler said, "I think sometimes when the U.S. attorney feels uncomfortable with the strength of their original case, they look for other charges to go into." The questions Tyler wanted U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to ask potential jurors give clues about how he intends to defend his client: Have you ever publicly stated a position or expressed your views regarding blacks and crime? What is your opinion regarding the use of informants in police work? Do you believe informants, hired with public funds, are accountable for their actions?

Racial bias to be alleged

Tyler proposed that jury instructions disclose that Trump is receiving a reduced sentence for his role in the prosecution. The judge ruled that Tyler can introduce evidence of racial bias when impeaching prosecution witnesses. Some have alleged that only black officers were targeted in the investigation. At least 19 officers have been subpoenaed to testify, including Edwards and Dolan. Edwards, the main focus of the corruption investigation, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing but later suspended for several weeks without pay. One of those subpoenaed is Lt. Mike Keefe, whose unit played a major role in investigating Roberts. On Friday Keefe was suspended for allegedly spreading rumors that some of his officers lied about their work in handling the investigation. Keefe has been openly critical that Trump, the main witness against Roberts, isn't credible.

The department's internal affairs unit found that Edwards violated codes of conduct and ethics in dealing with Trump. The FBI taped Edwards telling Trump the license plate number of a city-owned vehicle. Edwards has maintained that he talked with Trump only to try to turn the gang member into an informant. He said he didn't know that the FBI already was using him.  The FBI told Trump to get close to Edwards to see whether he would take money for information. But while Edwards provided information, Trump didn't offer him money.  Attorneys also subpoenaed community activist Ron Edwards, who isn't related to Lee Edwards. Ron Edwards has stayed in contact with Roberts since the indictment and said the officer is "doing as well as anybody who had their life destroyed." Edwards is angry that other community leaders haven't reached out to Roberts. During a break in jury selection Friday, Roberts chatted with Sonny Day, a longtime friend and former DJ at KMOJ-FM. Day also is friends with Trump, who recently called him from jail. "I was thinking, why does he want to try and set somebody up?" Day said. David Chanen • 612-673-4465

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Federal Jury Awards Man $1,000 in False-Arrest Case

Jury awards Yonkers man $1,000 in false-arrest case
The Journal News by Timothy O'Connor - May 9, 2009  -

A federal jury awarded a Yonkers man $1,000 as compensation in a false-arrest case involving Yonkers cops - but only reluctantly. The jury had ruled against Steve Ploski, 51, saying he had not been falsely arrested and Yonkers police did not use excessive force in taking him into custody after a domestic disturbance at his home Jan. 6, 2005. But U.S. District Judge William Conner in White Plains set aside the eight-member jury's finding on the false arrest and sent them back to the jury room to decide on damages. That touched off a debate between the jury foreman and judge. "We kind of believe that behind the scenes there is a game or charade," the foreman said to the judge. "The real trial was going on behind the scenes. And we didn't follow the script that was laid out here and now the rules have changed." The judge disagreed and ordered them to reach a dollar amount. The jury agreed on $1,000. Conner also awarded attorney's fees to Ploski. Ploski's lawyer, John Raimondo, said an appeal of the verdict was possible. In his lawsuit, Ploski said he had to undergo back surgery as a result of the incident. "Overall, I think the jury's award was disproportionate to the injuries sustained by my client and the failure to find excessive force was inconsistent with the evidence," he said. Frank Rubino, the Yonkers corporation counsel, said the jury's verdict vindicated the police. "We see it as a total victory," he said. "The only reason they awarded any money was because they were bullied by the judge."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Second Woman Accuses Cop of Sexual Bribery

Greece officer faces additional charges
The Democrat and Chronicle by Meaghan M. McDermott - May 6, 2009

A second woman has accused a Greece police officer of using his authority to coerce her into sex. Gary Pignato of Hilton was arraigned Tuesday on charges of third-degree bribery of a public servant, a felony; second-degree coercion, third-degree criminal trespass and official misconduct, all misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. Pignato goes to trial June 1 on an earlier felony count of accepting a bribe and misdemeanor counts of coercion and official misconduct stemming from allegations that he went to a Greece woman's home in August, then later coerced her into a sexual encounter. According to documents filed in Greece Town Court on Tuesday, a different woman accuses Pignato of similar acts. The woman's name was redacted in the documents and it is the Democrat and Chronicle's policy not to name victims of sexual crimes.

In a deposition dated April 28, the victim alleges she first met Pignato during the summer of 2005 when he followed her in his marked car as she drove into her apartment complex. She alleges he introduced himself that night, gave her his card and asked for her phone number. Then, she alleges, a few days later she was smoking marijuana at her dining room table when Pignato walked in unannounced, told her she could be arrested and lose her children for what she was doing and said "we can make this go away." She alleges Pignato said having sex with him "would take care of it." The victim alleges they made arrangements to meet the next night. She said she drove to his house in Hilton where they engaged in sex. She alleges Pignato continued to call her seeking sex over the next few days and finally stopped calling when she threatened to find his girlfriend and tell her what he did. In her statement, the victim said a friend convinced her to contact authorities after news broke about Pignato's other arrest and criminal charges. In the August case, the victim alleges Pignato visited her home during a domestic dispute, then threatened to arrest her for violating her probation if she didn't have sex with him.

Pignato has admitted to State Police that he had sex with that woman, but said it was consensual. His attorney, Scott M. Green, said he believes once a jury hears that case, Pignato will be acquitted. "When this maelstrom is finally over ... Gary will be vindicated." He said he did not know enough about the new allegations on Tuesday to comment. Pignato, who has been suspended without pay, turned himself in to State Police Tuesday afternoon. He was released from court on his own recognizance. A court date was set for June 17, but Assistant District Attorney William Gargan said the case could go to a grand jury. The charges against Pignato add to growing scandal in the Greece Police Department. In recent months, a former sergeant was convicted of multiple felonies in connection with a drug-fueled car crash, and a criminal investigation is ongoing into the department's handling of that case. Last month, Police Chief Merritt Rahn, Deputy Chief William Mackin and Sgt. Brian Ball were suspended with pay after they allegedly shredded documents following subpoenas related to that case. An independent investigator hired by town officials to probe the Greece Police Department in the wake of the scandals started work on April 27. His investigation is expected to last at least three months.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Police took part in home invasion

Sources: Spring Lake Police Chief Brown resigns
Indictment: Police took part in home invasion
WTVD News by Gilbert Baez - May 5, 2009

SPRING LAKE (WTVD), North Carolina -- Grand jury indictments made public Tuesday outlined explosive allegations against two Spring Lake police officers - including that one is accused of an armed home invasion. Spring Lake is a small community of about 8,000 located between Fayetteville and Raleigh. The corruption allegations have rocked the town and forced the local sheriff to take control of the police department. North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation arrested Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington, Jr. and Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter, Sr. on Monday. Coulter, 43, is being held at the Cumberland County Jail under $250,000 bond. He is charged with; 2 counts of felony obstruction of justice, 3 counts of second degree kidnapping (a felony), 1 count of felony breaking and entering, 2 counts of willful failure to discharge duty (a misdemeanor), 3 counts of simple assault (a misdemeanor), 3 counts of assault with a deadly weapon (a misdemeanor), 3 counts of assault by pointing a gun (a misdemeanor), and 3 counts of false imprisonment (a misdemeanor).

According to a grand jury indictment, the charges stem from an April 27, 2008, incident at a home on the 400 block of Vass Road. Coulter allegedly broke into the home and assaulted three men. He forced them from the home with a handgun and a shotgun, kidnapped them, and then held them against their will by handcuffing them. Coulter was supervising three other officers at the time and allegedly had no legal justification for what happened. The indictments also allege that Coulter lied when he said he smelled marijuana during an investigation at local motel. Officers took $2,900 in cash from the room, and Sgt. Wittington is accused of later taking that cash from the department's evidence room. Whittington, 32, is being held at the Cumberland County Jail under $100,000 bond. He is charged with; 1 count of felony embezzlement, 1 count of obtaining property by false pretense, 3 counts of felony larceny, 3 counts of felony obstruction of justice, 2 counts of willful failure to discharge duty (a misdemeanor), and 1 count of solicitation to commit a felony (a misdemeanor). Officials say future indictments and arrests are likely. The arrests are the result of an ongoing investigation by the SBI that began in 2007. The investigation was initiated at the request of the Cumberland County District Attorney.

Eyewitness News has learned the DA plans to dismiss more than 1000 misdemeanor cases, because he suspects some senior officers lied and fabricated facts in police reports. "I think we have an ongoing investigation so I can't comment on the specifics, but I think the facts speak for themselves," District Attorney Ed Grannis said. It was also announced Monday that the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has taken control of the police department. Cumberland was already handling many of Spring Lake's cases because it lost its felony investigative powers 18 months ago. That came after problems with the investigation into the death of 3-year-old Anikah Burr. Prosecutors say she was murdered by her mother's boyfriend in 2006. The case has yet to come to trial. Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler has told Eyewitness News in past interviews that taking on Spring Lake's cases has put a strain on his department. He's asked county commissioners to increase his funding to cover the additional expenses.

Tuesday, Jeannette M. Council, Chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, issued a statement: "In view of the developments yesterday affecting the Spring Lake Police Department, I have contacted the Spring Lake Mayor and the Sheriff to assure them that the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners will support the Sheriff's Office in providing law enforcement protection to the citizens of Spring Lake during a limited transition period of approximately 30 days. The Commissioners urge the leaders of Spring Lake to contract with the Sheriff to provide basic law enforcement services to Spring Lake until the Spring Lake Police Department can resume its role as a fully functioning law enforcement agency."

In the meantime, the Sheriff says Spring Lake residents can rest assured law enforcement is being handled. "Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has people on the streets now and we will be doing the patrols," Sheriff Earl Moose Butler said. For now the sheriff's department is operating out of its mobile command center. At this time city leaders aren't sure what will happen to the chief and police department. "We are formalizing a plan as we speak, so just give us a little time," Mayor Ethel Clark said. On Friday, Spring Lake Town Manager Larry Faison accused the media of giving the police department a bad image. On Monday, Faison refused to meet with reporters, but he later issued a statement saying the town is trying to determine the best course of action. Meanwhile, Spring Lake Officers say they aren't sure just what their jobs are now.

Cop Stole From Undercover Cop

Sgt. Arenella stole from undercover cop posing as a drug dealer to pay informant, says prosecutor
The New York Daily News by JOHN MARZULLI - May 6, 2009 

"If they've got the blonde, we've got a problem." That was NYPD Sgt. Michael Arenella reaction when he found out the Brooklyn South Narcotics squad might be under investigation for corruption, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The 'blonde' Arenella was referring to is informant Barbara Lenahan, an addict who narcs were squeezing for information and then paying her with stolen drugs and cash, said Assistant District Attorney Charles Guria. Arenella is charged with conspiring with dirty cop Jerry Bowens when they authorities say they ripped off an undercover officer posing as a drug dealer in a sting operation. "The defendant and Jerry Bowens stole money off the undercover, it's stolen just as much as if they'd put it in their own pocket," Guria said in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Arenella, 32, a 10-year-veteran, has opted for a bench trial before Justice Gustin Reichbach.

The prosecutor said Lenahan was an "off-the-books" informant for Bowens, who promised to pay her with cocaine and cash if she helped make arrests by luring drug dealers to a meeting. In November 2007, Lenahan ratted out her handlers to the Internal Affairs Bureau and a trap was set. An undercover officer was assigned to meet Lenahan who was wearing a wristwatch recording device. The narcs arrested the undercover officer and Arenella directed the informant "to get paid" by Bowens who gave her $40 and two bags of cocaine taken from the undercover, Guria said. A month later Bowens was busted and agreed to cooperate. Arenella made the "blonde" comment during a phone call secretly taped by Bowens who was supposed to be the star witness against him until he was arrested in March for murdering his ex-girlfriend Catherine Donofrio. Defense lawyer Andrew Quinn argued the criminality is all on Bowens. "There is no evidence Michael Arenella knew Jerry Bowens was a dirty and corrupt cop," Quinn said. The Brooklyn D.A.'s office dropped hundreds of drug cases as a result of the scandal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

City Pays for Cops 'Phony' ID

City pays $1.5 million settlement to man jailed on 'phony' NYPD identification
The New York Daily News by DORIAN BLOCK - May 6, 2009 

A 34-year-old cabbie who spent nine months in jail for a crime he didn't commit based on a cop's "phony" identification Tuesday got a $1.5 million settlement from the city. "This is the end of a very ugly part of my life," Jesus Diaz Delossantos said after the settlement in Bronx Supreme Civil Court. "There was a mistake, but thank God there is an end." Delossantos, a Dominican immigrant and the father of two children, was arrested in 2002 after an undercover cop identified him as the man who sold him 100 Ecstasy tablets two weeks earlier. Delossantos' lawyer, Roy Hiller, later proved the officer was not at work the day he claimed to identify Delossantos - and that Delossantos did not fit the description of the man who sold the drugs. "These cops were bad guys. They were untruthful," Hiller said. "The undercover didn't work that day ... It was phony." The city's lawyer, Gia DiCola, declined to comment. Court records show an NYPD undercover cop bought Ecstasy on April 15, 2002, from a man identified as "J.D. Braids" because of his long, braided hair. Two weeks later, the undercover officer supplied the false identification to his supervisor. Delossantos later was arrested based on the undercover cop's identification. Charges against Delossantos were dropped in 2004. Neither cop has been disciplined and both remain on full duty, Hiller and a police source said. With Alison Gendar,

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Testimony touches on chief's denial

Testimony touches on chief's denial
Albany police union president alleges Tuffey knew of sticker system
The Albany Times Union by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST - April 28, 2009

ALBANY, NY-  The city's police union president said he finds it "offensive" that Chief James Tuffey has sought to fire officers for lying to internal investigators but has not himself told lawmakers the whole truth about systems to shield select people from parking fines. "I think it's fair to say, clearly, by his own testimony, that he had knowledge of the system," Officer Christian Mesley testified Monday before the Common Council, which subpoenaed the 17-year veteran as part of its probe into the issuing of so-called no-fine tickets. Mesley, who has served as president of the Albany Police Officers Union since 2004, was referring to a system of decals distributed to police officers by the union as a signal to parking enforcement to issue summonses that carried no fines. His long-awaited appearance was the third round of testimony in the council's ongoing investigation but it was the first compelled by subpoena and marked by the delicate and sometimes confusing legal ballet that came with it.

The officer's attorney, Stephen Coffey, forcefully warned lawmakers numerous times to keep their questions to Mesley's official duties, which were largely unrelated parking enforcement, and away from his union activities, which he said were outside the scope of the subpoena. The ground rules led to several testy and sometimes dizzying exchanges with Coffey as council members sought to craft their questions in terms of what Mesley knew in his official capacity as a police officer. Tuffey, a retired detective and longtime union head, last month told lawmakers under oath that he began a decal system when he was president of the union but those stickers which were blue and yellow were meant only to broadcast union membership, not command special privileges. Tuffey also denied knowledge of a second generation of the decals which were red and blue, numbered and known as bull's-eyes that were developed after he left the department and were still in use until the Times Union disclosed them and abuses withing the system in November, nearly three years after Tuffey returned as chief.

Mesley reacted strongly to Tuffey's testimony last month, telling the Times Union that he believed the chief had been "less than truthful." Asked Monday night about that statement by Councilman Corey Ellis, Mesley noted the chief's story wavered from his initial outright denial. "From the very beginning that this story broke, the chief has denied any knowledge of the bulls-eye system, and then he came here and qualified that by not owning up to the fact that there was a second generation style of the bull's-eye system." Mesley said. "And as the union president," he continued, seeming to at least temporarily break the embargo on the discussion of union matters, "I find that offensive due to the fact that the chief is in charge and in control of discipline in the department and on various occasions has asked for the dismissal of my officers for lying while answering questions from internal affairs ... so I find that fact to be highly offensive that the leader of a police department is doing that."

Mesley also said that when he received his first two decals in late 1992 or early 1993, his understanding was that they were to be used specifically for parking around the downtown courthouses while on official duty. His recollection matches that of Commander Aaron Flanger, who joined the force at the same time as Mesley and who also testified before the council because he now oversees parking enforcement. Tuffey remained president of the union until 1994. If the decals were solely meant to denote union membership, as Tuffey testified, Mesley said he was never told that. Mesley also said he had "no direct knowledge" of the stickers being distributed to people other than members of the department. But he did explain why each officer got two one being for his or her spouse's car in case the officer needed to use it. Defenders of the system have argued it was a reasonable way to shield officers from fines when they were parking their private vehicles to testify in court on official business. But high-ranking city officials, including Tuffey and Mayor Jerry Jennings, have said the practice of issuing no-fine parking tickets to cars with the decals was never sanctioned by the city. A Times Union investigation revealed they were being used to afford unsanctioned parking courtesies. The council will meet again Wednesday on the matter.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Probation for ex-cop

Probation for ex-cop - May 2, 2009

HACKENSACK, NJ — A retired New York City police officer was sentenced to four years' probation Friday for driving into a car full of teenagers while he was drunk and carrying an unlicensed handgun. However, the Superior Court judge in Hackensack, in a separate set of rulings on lesser police summonses, said he did not think there was enough evidence to say Santos Tirado, of Monroe, N.Y., was intoxicated. As a result, while upholding the jury's conviction, he did not impose some of the attendant penalties that go with a drunken driving conviction. The watery eyes and slurred speech reported by Fair Lawn police the night of the Oct. 26, 2007, accident could also have been caused by a head injury, Judge Eugene H. Austin said in court. "I've struggled with this case since we finished and got the jury verdict," Austin said. "I have gone over it and over it and over it in my mind. It's a very difficult decision to make under all the circumstances."

A jury found Tirado guilty in March of two counts each of assault by auto causing bodily injury, drunken driving and refusing to submit to a breath test. He was also found to be guilty of unlawfully possessing a Browning .380-caliber handgun without a New Jersey permit and possessing hollow-nosed bullets, which are illegal in New Jersey. The teenagers from Lodi, Garfield, Hackensack and Elmwood Park were leaving a church function when Tirado drove his Honda Civic through a red light and hit their Audi A4 as it was crossing Broadway on 32nd Street in Fair Lawn. The teenagers had passed Tirado's car before they turned right, into a jughandle, to cross Broadway. They testified that he was hunched over his steering wheel and did not have his headlights on when they passed him. Deanna Bruno of Lodi, who was riding in the middle of the back seat, suffered a broken pelvis and tailbone in the accident.

Bruno, who was 14 at the time, was forced to repeat her freshman year of high school because she missed so much school after the accident. She has been told that she may have trouble with natural childbirth, her family said. They said probation was not a strong enough punishment. "This has been about someone who lacked character and hid behind a badge," her father, Peter Bruno, said in his pre-sentencing statement. "We want justice, your honor, not a slap on the wrist." The case pitted the Fair Lawn police officers who responded at the scene against their counterparts from Tirado's former department in New York City's 30th Precinct, who described Tirado as an outstanding police officer who would never put another person at risk. The Fair Lawn officers, several of whom testified in court, said Tirado smelled of alcohol and had an empty Coors Light can in his car. They said he was belligerent when they attempted to arrest him for carrying the handgun without a permit required in New Jersey. He also asked them to give him special treatment because he was a fellow officer, they said. Tirado refused to take blood and breath tests to measure his blood-alcohol level after the accident.

"It puts a police officer in an awkward position between the brotherhood of law enforcement and the truly victimized," said Fair Lawn Detective Sgt. Michael Uttel. "We did everything according to the letter of the law that night. The laws are definitely not in favor of the victim." Five retired and active New York City police officers defended Tirado at the sentencing. "He approaches legendary in my profession in New York City," former co-worker Kieran Breen said. "He taught me, if you drop a prisoner off to central booking, and he doesn't shake your hand, chances are you did something wrong." Tirado's family said he missed a turn while driving back to their upstate New York home after spending the day in Manhattan. He was tired from taking his wife to the airport early that morning and having trouble seeing because it was raining, they said. They contend he refused the alcohol screening because the Fair Lawn police hit and kicked him when they pulled him from his car. They also said he always carried the gun. "They don't know my father," Tirado's daughter Jessica Acosta said. "If they knew my father, they would have never dragged him through this." In addition to his probation, Tirado must pay more than $5,000 in fines and restitution. His driver's license will be suspended in New Jersey for a year. E-mail:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cops Fake 911 Call to Hide Rape


The two NYPD patrolmen accused of raping a drunken woman made a bogus 911 call so they could be sent back to the victim's East Village apartment, a senior prosecutor said. The call was made from a pay phone at the corner of East 13th Street and First Avenue, where Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata had been summoned to handle a traffic accident in the early morning on Dec. 7. It proves the cops coldly plotted the sexual assault of the incapacitated woman, prosecutors say. The caller said his name was John Edward and complained about a drunken homeless man, saying the man was at 512 E. 13th St. -- two doors down from where the woman lived. The cops had already been in the woman's apartment twice over a 46-minute period and needed to concoct an excuse for a third visit, according to the prosecutor at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

It was during the third visit that Moreno allegedly raped the woman while she was lying face down on her bed and after she had vomited several times. Mata, his partner, "assisted in the act," according to charges filed against the two. The phone-call ploy worked, the prosecutor said. A police dispatcher, responding to the complaint, sent the patrolmen to 512 E. 13th St. at about 2:45 a.m. They walked into the building's foyer and out again quickly. They then entered the woman's building at 2:59 a.m., using a key that they had taken from her during their second visit to the apartment, said sources involved in the case. Surveillance video captured them shielding their faces from a camera they spotted on the second trip. The two didn't realize a separate camera caught their attempts to conceal their identities. The 9th Precinct officers remained in the apartment for 34 minutes before leaving, according to the charges.

Their actions that night and during the following days -- when they allegedly faked logbook entries -- prompted prosecutors to build cases against both officers and eventually to reject a purported offer by Mata to testify against his partner. Moreno, 41, and Mata, 27, were indicted Tuesday, charged with rape, burglary and official misconduct. Moreno faces drug charges after heroin was allegedly found in his station-house locker. The two were suspended by the NYPD. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called the case a "shocking aberration." Both pleaded not guilty. They told investigators the sex was consensual. Mata's lawyer denied his client offered to testify against his partner. The investigation, which lasted four months, was aided by a secret audiotape recording that the woman made shortly after the alleged rape.

Wired with a hidden device, she arranged a meeting with Moreno, who apologized to her for his actions that night and conceded that she had been extremely intoxicated, sources said. The probe involved numerous forensic tests at the woman's apartment and interviews with virtually everyone who came in contact with the cops and her, including cabby Kofi Owusu, who took her home, residents in her building, and the two drivers involved in the accident. "I remember everything that happened that night," Owusu told The Post, declining to elaborate.  Investigators interviewed the bar staff at Southpaw, a large music club in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the woman had begun her night partying with co-workers. The woman, 27, is a high-level executive with a well-known firm. After the alleged attack, she moved out of the city. Moreno is a 17-year NYPD veteran. Mata was on the job for two years.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cop Pleads Guilty to Helping Drug Traffickers

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
April 28, 2009 United States Attorney's Office - Southern District of California
Contact: (619) 557-5610

San Diego Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Misusing Position to Help Drug Traffickers

United States Attorney Karen P. Hewitt announced that today Juan Hurtado Tapia, a former uniformed officer of the San Diego Police Department, pled guilty in federal court in San Diego to offenses resulting from the misuse of his status as a law enforcement officer to obtain and pass sensitive information to associates involved in drug trafficking crimes. Tapia entered his guilty plea before United States Magistrate Judge Leo S. Papas, subject to final acceptance of the plea by United States District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez, at the time of sentencing.  During the plea hearing today, Tapia admitted that in May 2008 he misused his position as a San Diego Police officer and ran a criminal records check on an individual on behalf of two others. He also admitted that, on both July 9, 2008 and July 11, 2008, when he was asked by federal agents about the reasons why he ran the records check, he knowingly lied to them. In addition, he admitted that at the time he lied to agents on July 9, 2008, he knew that the questions were in reference to a federal drug-trafficking investigation, and he was attempting to impede that investigation. Tapia is scheduled to appear for acceptance of plea and sentencing before United States District Judge Roger Benitez on July 20, 2009.

DEFENDANT - Case Number: 08cr3281BEN - Juan Hurtado Tapia Age: 39 - Imperial Beach, California


Count 1: Obstructing, Influencing, or Impeding an Official Proceeding, in violation of Title 18,United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2) (Felony) Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine

Count 2: Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers, in violation of Title 18,
United States Code, Section 1030(a)(2) (Misdemeanor)
Maximum Penalties: 1 year imprisonment and $100,000 fine

Counts 3-4: False Statement, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 (Felony) Maximum Penalties: 5 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine per count


Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, San Diego Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cop's Testimony May Taint Dozens of Cases

Dallas police officer's testimony may taint dozens of cases
The Dallas Morning News by TANYA EISERER - April 30, 2009

The Dallas County district attorney's office may have to throw out dozens of cases after learning that a police sergeant officially branded a liar 15 years ago continued to testify in criminal courts. A letter released Wednesday by the district attorney's office to Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle says Sgt. Randy Sundquist shouldn't be trusted to testify in court. The unusual move comes after the office discovered a similar notice had been issued in 1994, but was largely ignored. It is unknown exactly how many past and pending cases might be affected by Sundquist's testimony, but in a recent court hearing, Sundquist estimated that he had taken the stand between 50 and 100 times since 1995. "We have to look at what role he played and whether or not we can make the case without his testimony," First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said Wednesday. "If we can't make the case without his testimony, then that case is going to be dismissed." In 1994, police investigators found, among other things, that Sundquist conducted an illegal search, lied to internal investigators and caused false information to be entered into an arrest report. The notice issued to then-Police Chief Ben Click stated that, due to his record, he should not be allowed to testify. Sundquist was fired, but reinstated by an administrative law judge. Authorities then apparently forgot that he should not be allowed to testify. Neither Sundquist or his attorney returned phone calls for comment. The notices would ordinarily doom an officer to a desk job or some similar post where the officer doesn't make arrests or get involved in situations where he might eventually be required to testify in court. An entire case could fall apart if a tainted officer's testimony was critical to gaining a conviction.

But after being reinstated, Sundquist went on to become leader of a deployment squad in northeast Dallas that tackles special assignments and deals with crime hot spots. His squad largely focused on drug arrests. Neither police officials or the district attorney's office has a clear answer as to why Sundquist was allowed to testify in the 15 years since prosecutors issued the first letter saying he shouldn't. They say the original notice fell through the cracks, probably because the system largely depended on word of mouth to keep barred officers from testifying. On Wednesday, police commanders quickly moved to relieve Sundquist of his duties as supervisor of the deployment squad. "We received the letter today, and the letter will require us to put him in a job where he is not subject to have to testify," Kunkle said. Defense attorney Bill Wirskye, who represents several clients in cases involving Sundquist, urged prosecutors to take their efforts a step further and dismiss all pending cases involving officers Sundquist supervised.

"A bad police officer like this ought never to be allowed to outrun his past," said Wirskye. "This letter and Sundquist's past is just the tip of the iceberg with the problems they have with him and the unit he supervises." Officers in that unit were already the subject of a Dallas Morning News story in February that reported that the district attorney's office was reviewing dozens of cases filed by Sundquist and his squad after prosecutors concluded that one of his subordinates lied about whether a man was illegally carrying a gun and drugs. The man spent 10 months in jail on false charges.  Sundquist has taken the stand in cases as recently as this year, but it isn't known yet whether any of his testimony was false or misleading. Getting a grip on how many convictions might have been critically based on Sundquist's testimony in the last 15 years is a daunting task: Electronic records that can be searched to determine who testified did not exist in Dallas County until 2005. The district attorney's office wants anyone who participated in a case in which Sundquist testified before then to contact them.

1994 letter

In the Dec. 21, 1994, letter in which prosecutors were told not to put Sundquist on the stand, then-Assistant District Attorney Michael Gillett wrote that he had been found to have made "intentional misrepresentations," so prosecutors could no longer "vouch for the credibility or sponsor the testimony" of Sundquist.

In a March hearing on a Cedar Hill drug case, Sundquist testified that he had never received any written or verbal instructions indicating he was not cleared to testify. He said he only told prosecutors about his past history when asked if he had anything to disclose that would hinder his credibility as a witness. He testified that within the last year or so that had only happened twice, and he had been "approved by upstairs" to testify. But according to the trial transcript of one of those cases, prosecutor Robert McClure told a judge and defense attorney in open court that Sundquist had been fired in the past. "He's been testifying for years," McClure said in court. He decided not to call Sundquist as a witness in that case.


In the mid-1990s, Sundquist and other patrol officers were known among prosecutors as the "Bushmen," a reference to the group's fondness for hiding in bushes when conducting surveillance on suspected drug houses in South Dallas. Colleen Murphy, a prosecutor, testified in Sundquist's 1995 appeal of his firing that some prosecutors didn't want to work with the "Bushmen" because their cases "were just totally unbelievable." "They'd see amazing things in the middle of the night with no lights, from far distances," she testified.

Internal police investigators found that Sundquist had conducted an illegal search. They also concluded that Sundquist lied to them, finding among other things that he couldn't have seen what he claimed to have seen when he said that a man was standing in a doorway with a bag of cocaine. "I found numerous flaws in their testimony and very shoddy arrest reports," Sgt. Jose Losoya told internal investigators. "These omissions or flaws could prove disastrous in a court case. As it was, it gave the impression that the officers were falsifying their reports to get drug dealers at all costs." After he was fired, prosecutors issued the first letter barring him from further court testimony. An administrative law judge subsequently reinstated Sundquist and reduced the punishment to a 40-day suspension. That judge, Barnett Goodstein, overturned the internal affairs finding that Sundquist had conducted an illegal search but upheld the finding that he had brought discredit to the department, given a false statement to investigators and that he provided false information for an arrest report. Sundquist then worked in the communications division for about three years, receiving high marks. He eventually returned to patrol duties and was promoted to sergeant in 2002. Senior police officials say that over time, the squad Sundquist supervised morphed into a de facto narcotics unit, frequently tasked with working drug activity complaints. Commanders instructed them to no longer work such cases earlier this year.


•What it is: A 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Maryland vs. Brady requires that prosecutors disclose to the defense when a police officer has knowingly lied in an official capacity. To fail to do so is a constitutional "Brady" violation that can lead to the dismissal of a case.

•Avoiding Brady violations in Dallas: Officials have largely depended on word-of-mouth to keep officers with questionable records from testifying. Individual prosecutors or the officer in question have been expected to let the defense know of potential problems.

•Fixing the problem: The Dallas County district attorney's office and Dallas police say they're going to develop a systemic mechanism to track officers with credibility problems. In Los Angeles County, for example, the district attorney has created a computer-based Brady Alert system.

•Accident or intention: Bennett Gershman, a Pace University law professor who studies prosecutorial misconduct, says it won't matter to the courts whether prosecutors intentionally or accidentally put a tainted officer on the stand. "If you didn't reveal it because you were totally ignorant of the existence of this information, Brady is still violated," Gershman said. Convictions in such cases have a greater likelihood to be overturned on appeal.