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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cop Used Crime Database to Harass Women

Mesa police: Officer used crime database to harass women
The Arizona Republic by Nathan Gonzalez - April 27, 2011

A Mesa police officer has been indicted on charges of misusing a law-enforcement database to date and harass women he met on duty. One of the women was a theft victim, and others were suspects he had pulled over for traffic violations. The indictment came just a week after another Mesa police officer and his wife were indicted on felony mortgage fraud charges in an unrelated case. Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead said he was "outraged" by the two cases and has placed both men on paid leave pending internal investigations. Officer Todd Randall Duthie, an five-year veteran, was indicted on four felony counts of having unauthorized access to a state criminal history database and one misdemeanor count of harassment. The charges stem from Duthie allegedly using his position to follow and score dates with four women, according to a police report. Duthie's attorney Scott Halverson declined to comment on the case and Duthie did not return a message left at his Queen Creek home. Mesa police initially opened an internal investigation last fall after one of the women complained, a police report states. But once an investigator found Duthie may have violated the law, a criminal investigation was opened, Wessing said. Duthie contacted the first woman Sept. 15, 2009, after she reported a theft at the Las Palmas Carniceria at 7246 E. Main Street, the report states. The officer then began calling her and stopping by the store and the woman's residence. A GPS system inside Duthie's squad car tracked his movements as he repeatedly parked outside another woman's house and as he continued to pull over two other women, who claim he tried to date them. During a traffic stop with another woman July 8, 2010, Duthie reportedly said "I'm supposed to give you a ticket, but I won't. Since I'm not . . . let me have a date or something," the report states. Duthie has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which came just a week after Officer Mark Anthony Escarcega and his wife Blanca were indicted on charges of mortgage fraud. The charges stem from the purchase of a home in Mesa four years ago, authorities have stated. Blanca Escarcega allegedly claimed she separated from her husband and received a mortgage loan modification from Bank of America stating the separation created a financial hardship, according to the Associated Press. However, the couple never separated, and they purchased a new home and rented out the old one, court documents state. Word of the Escarcegas' housing deal reached the department and, sensing a crime had been committed, the FBI was contacted, Mesa police spokesman Sgt. Ed Wessing said. The Escarcegas have also pleaded not guilty. Wessing said the department is trying to remain as transparent as possible with officer misconduct cases. "The public doesn't need to worry that we have a corruption or misconduct issue. As an agency, we take these types of violation very seriously," he said. Wessing added that Milstead was furious when he learned of the initial internal investigation into Duthie's activities. "He was outraged that a member of our agency would conduct himself in that manner," Wessing said. "When an officer engages in misconduct like this, it impacts all of us. We are as outraged as the community is."

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