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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Witness Lists Filed in Police Corruption Trial

Witness lists filed as alleged police corruption trial goes to court Tuesday
The Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - May 31, 2011

With the first of two police trials scheduled to begin Tuesday, federal prosecutors have filed a witness list and additional details about alleged corruption among Tulsa police officers, records show. Meanwhile, defense attorneys have also filed extensive witness lists and challenges to the governments' attempt to introduce additional witness statements during the trial, U.S. District Court in Tulsa records show. More than 18 months ago, the Tulsa World first reported that a federal grand jury was looking into allegations of stolen drugs and money, falsified search warrants and other alleged crimes by Tulsa police officers and a former federal agent. Thus far, six current and former police officers and one former ATF agent have been charged in U.S. District Court in Tulsa. Thirty-three people have been freed from prison or have had cases dismissed or modified as a result of the federal probe. The trial of Officer Bruce Bonham, 53, Officer Nick DeBruin, 38, and retired Officer Harold R. Wells, 60, begins Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of New Mexico. A second trail involving Officers Jeff Henderson, 38, and Bill Yelton, 50, is scheduled to begin July 25.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke, of eastern Arkansas, recently filed court papers detailing the government's exhibit list and witness list in the case. Duke's office is expected to offer FBI surveillance video and witness statements which allege that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham stole money during an FBI sting in May 2009 at a local hotel. Additionally, former Tulsa police officers cooperating with Duke's office are expected to testify that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham planted drugs on individuals to gain convictions, court records state. Wells, DeBruin and Bonham have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorneys allege that Duke's office is relying upon unreliable witnesses and faulty evidence to argue the government's case against the officers, court records show. On May 9, Duke filed a request asking Black to approve the government's use of witness statements that will detail alleged complicit or criminal behavior by Wells, DeBruin and Bonham in relationship to Henderson, court record show. Henderson is a veteran drug detective charged with 58 counts of drug conspiracy, witness tampering and perjury in his own indictment. While Henderson is not charged in the officers' case, testimony from government witnesses will allegedly show that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham were aware of Henderson's alleged criminal acts and did nothing to intervene or that they benefited from his alleged criminal behavior. For example, Bonham is accused of being present when Henderson allegedly took two pounds of methamphetamine from a drug search and later distributed the drugs for personal gain, Duke's filing states. Bonham also is accused of allegedly accepting money from stolen drugs that were sold by former ATF agent Brandon McFadden, Duke's filing states. McFadden is a key government witness who has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy May 6, 2010, and is cooperating with prosecutors while he awaits sentencing, records show. McFadden is expected to testify that on June 12, 2007, he, Henderson, Bonham and two other Tulsa police officers conducted a consensual search of Isaias Gonzalez' residence in Tulsa, Duke's filing states.

During the search, multiple pounds of methamphetamine were found, and Henderson allegedly removed two to three pounds of methamphetamine to keep for his own personal benefit, the filing states. Bonham was complicit in not reporting the alleged criminal wrongdoing by Henderson, Duke's filing states. In a second incident allegedly involving Bonham, McFadden is expected to testify that on Feb. 26, 2008, Bonham and an unnamed Tulsa police officer assisted McFadden in making a traffic stop of three Hispanic males at a Tulsa car wash, Duke's filing alleges. Bonham and the other police officer allegedly allowed McFadden to leave the car wash with a half kilogram of cocaine while less than 10 grams was booked in to evidence by the unnamed police officer, Duke's filing states. "McFadden will further testify that a few days later, he (McFadden) paid Bonham a few hundred dollars for Bonham's 'assistance,' in making the traffic stop and drug find," Duke's filing states. McFadden will testify that he knew the payment to Bonham was acceptable because he had seen Officer Henderson pay Bonham before for making traffic stops, Duke's filing alleges. In a separate filing of witness statements by Duke, Wells is accused of taking several pounds of marijuana during a 2007 traffic stop, keeping it several days before allegedly turning it over to another police officer, who distributed the drugs through a known drug dealer, Duke's filing on May 9 states. John K. (J.J.) Gray, a former Tulsa police burglary detective, is expected to testify that Wells allegedly stored seven pounds of marijuana at his home before giving it to Gray, who gave it to drug felon Debra Clayton to be sold, Duke's filing states. Clayton is expected to testify and to corroborate the alleged marijuana sale. Gray has pleaded guilty in the corruption probe and is cooperating with Duke's office. In a separate incident involving DeBruin, Duke's office is seeking to enter testimony by former Tulsa Police Officer Callison Kaiser, her filing states. Kaiser is expected to testify that DeBruin told him that he was aware that Wells had taken money for his own benefit as a Tulsa police officer, Duke's filing states. DeBruin also allegedly told Kaiser that he knew that Henderson allegedly falsified information on search warrants, Duke's filing states.

"This admission by defendant DeBruin to Kaiser, made on a date prior to May 18, 2009, demonstrates DeBruin's knowledge of wrongdoing by a TPD officer and DeBruin's failure to report such wrongdoing to TPD management," Duke's filing states. Kaiser was hired by Tulsa police on Oct. 8, 2004, and resigned in August 2008. As a government witness, Kaiser has prosecutorial immunity, a World investigation has shown. The government's witness list includes about 10 law enforcement officers, cooperating drug felons, federal agents and court officials, such as former U.S. Attorney David O'Meilia and Police Chief Chuck Jordan. Meanwhile, defense attorneys for Wells, DeBruin and Bonham have also filed extensive witness and exhibit lists that include dozens of police officers, investigators, drug felons and others, court records show. Each defendants' list includes 60 or more names, with many names overlapping. The list also includes the names of witnesses who defense attorneys hope to use to allegedly expose Gray and other government witnesses, records show. For example, DeBruin has listed the name of convicted burglar Jerry Clyde Stephenson, who has alleged that Gray took merchandise from a burglary and tipped off Stephenson about an investigation involving Stephenson, court records show. Omer Gillham 918-581-8301

Federal Trial for 3 Police Officers Begins

Federal trial for 3 indicted Tulsa Police officers set to begin
The Associated Press - May 30, 2011

TULSA, Okla. — Several Tulsa police officers accused of stealing money from suspects and planting drugs on people in a widespread corruption probe are set to go on trial. Prosecutors have alleged that officers Nick DeBruin, Bruce Bonham and retired Officer Harold Wells planted marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine on people in order to arrest them for drug possession and pocketed cash during an FBI sting, among other civil rights violations. The men are scheduled to appear in Tulsa federal court on Tuesday. Two other officers, Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton, are accused of similar crimes and will go to trial in July. Attorneys for DeBruin and Wells didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Bonham's attorney, Bill Lunn, says the defense team is doing everything it can to handle the case.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Police Investigator Is Cleared in Death of Russian Awaiting Trial

Police Investigator Is Cleared in Death of Russian Awaiting Trial
The New York Times by Ellen Barry - May 30, 2011

MOSCOW — Russia’s Investigative Committee said Monday that prosecutors had cleared a police investigator of any wrongdoing in the case of Sergei L. Magnitsky, whose death in pre-trial detention is viewed as a test of country’s law enforcement and judicial systems. Mr. Magnitsky, 37, who had been arrested after accusing police investigators of a huge tax fraud, died in a prison clinic after complaining for days about acute abdominal pain and untreated pancreatitis. Central decisions about Mr. Magnitsky’s medical treatment were made by Oleg F. Silchenko, the lead investigator in the case against him, who transferred him to a prison with minimal medical facilities despite a serious diagnosis. He also authorized Mr. Magnitsky’s arrest on tax evasion charges, detained him for 11 months as a flight risk and refused repeated requests for a follow-up ultrasound that had been prescribed by a doctor. Mr. Silchenko has long been viewed as the most likely target of a prosecution. William F. Browder, a prominent investor in Russia’s stock market who had employed Mr. Magnitsky as outside counsel when he was arrested, said that Monday’s announcement suggested that no one ultimately would be held responsible for Mr. Magnitsky’s death. “What this signals is that the administration has finally taken a position, which is that they are going to whitewash the whole thing,” he said. “There were all kinds of conflicting statements, but now it seems they have decided on a party line, which is that nobody did anything wrong.” The statement from the Investigative Committee makes a point, however, of noting that its own investigators are still working on a separate inquiry into medical aspects of Mr. Magnitsky’s death. That inquiry, which has been extended until Aug. 24, aims to learn the circumstances of his death and whether it was related to his detention and living conditions. An independent commission ordered by the Kremlin, whose preliminary results were made public in late April, found that the charges against Mr. Magnitsky were fabricated and that police investigators whom he had accused of corruption were improperly involved in his prosecution. Valery V. Borshchev, the head of the commission, said that a full report would be submitted to President Dmitri A. Medvedev during the summer, and that the president could demand a new investigation. “It is in his power,” Mr. Borshchev said. “This is not the end yet.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tix 'Fix' For Cop's Wild Kin

Tix 'fix' for cop's wild kin
The New York Post by Kirstan Conley - May 27, 2011

Someone with the right connections could mouth off to a Bronx cop during a traffic stop -- and still make their ticket disappear. That story emerged yesterday in Bronx Supreme Court from a cop granted immunity in the ticket-fixing scandal and transcripts of secretly recorded conversations involving a union official. Around April 2010, the nephew of a Bronx police sergeant was pulled over after zooming past a Highway Patrol car that he nearly crashed into. The nephew, named in the transcripts as John Van Gaglia, "gave him a hard time," a cop named Pat told Joe Anthony, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association trustee caught up in the ticket-fix probe. "Number 1, he almost -- he tried to hit his car, almost hit his car," Pat said. "But he jetted, on the road. He tried to squeeze by." When the NYPD highway cop pulled him over, Pat said, Van Gaglia "gave him a lot of- -king mouth." The Highway Patrol officer resisted efforts to make the ticket go away. "That guy apparently pissed him off," Pat explained. In the transcript, Anthony seems to back up the Highway Patrol cop's push to bring the ticket to court. "I don't expect anybody to take s- -t from anybody," he told Pat. Harrington Marshall, another Highway Patrol officer, said on the witness stand yesterday that he was able to persuade the unidentified cop to drop the case, allowing the sergeant's nephew to go unpunished. Marshall said he is cooperating with the Bronx DA's office in return for immunity from prosecution in the scandal, which is now before a grand jury. As many as 400 cops could face departmental or even criminal charges for fixing tickets by losing paperwork or missing court dates. Marshall testified in the drunken-driving case of Stephen Lopresti, a former Bronx assistant DA. Defense lawyers hope that bringing out Marshall's alleged involvement in fixing tickets will persuade jurors he's not a credible witness against Lopresti. Eight days before Anthony was heard on the tapes discussing the Highway Patrol officer's ticket, Harrington called him to discuss fixing two other citations from the 63rd and 71st precincts in Brooklyn. "Just text me the, ah, cop's name, the motorist name and when it's going [to court]," Anthony allegedly instructed. Ten Internal Affairs Bureau officers and a Bronx assistant DA visited Anthony at his home several weeks ago -- but they were unable to persuade him to give evidence against his fellow cops, sources said.

Cop's Tix-Fix ’Fess In DWI Trial

Cop's tix-fix ’fess in DWI trial
The New York Post by Kirstan Conley - May 24, 2011

A Bronx cop admitted in testimony yesterday that she once fixed a speeding ticket for her mom -- and tried to fix others -- but in sisted her police work was solid the night 4 and a half years ago when she arrested a suspected drunken driver. Officer Julissa Goris took the witness stand against Stephen Lopresti, a former Bronx prosecutor on trial for allegedly driving under the influence when he hit motorist Erison Estevez on the Grand Concourse in December 2006. The otherwise-straight forward DWI trial is con sidered the first major test case of how damag ing the NYPD ticket-fix ing scandal will be to fu ture prosecutions. NYPD Internal Affairs investiga tors are probing several hundred cops for allegedly wielding their influence to nix traffic tickets for family and friends. In opening statements earlier yesterday, Lopresti's defense went on the offense and told jurors to reject testimony from Goris and fellow Officer Harrington Marshall. Goris, who arrested Lopresti, and Marshall, who administered the breath-alcohol test, have both been caught on wiretaps, allegedly fixing tickets. Anticipating a harsh cross-examination, Deputy DA Allyson Kohlmann asked Goris to describe how she made her mom's ticket vanish. "I had one fixed for my mother," Goris said. "I talked to an officer and it went away." Goris said she also tried to fix a ticket for her boyfriend's cousin, but doesn't know if that effort was successful. The officer calmly recounted how she pulled up to the crash scene and found Lopresti. "He was leaning against the car. I asked if he was OK. He said he was fine," said Goris. The prosecutor asked Goris how she could tell Lopresti was impaired and the cop nonchalantly said: "I've arrested people for drunk driving before." Defense lawyer Adam Perlmutter told jurors that the two cops cannot be believed. "Officer Goris and Officer Marshall have both been caught individually on wiretap in the ticket-fixing scandal which is now raging through The Bronx," Perlmutter said. The defense lawyer said he will show Marshall was trading favors with fellow cops who helped him fix tickets. Perlmutter also told the panel to ignore other police witnesses, reasoning that they would cover for their allegedly dirty colleagues. Additional reporting by David K. Li

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sheriff's Deputy Tied Naked Children to Desk, Beat them with Paddle

Investigators: Polk deputy tied naked children to desk, beat them with paddle
The Orlando Sentinel by Jeff Weiner - May 26, 2011
Robin Leigh Pagoria, 45, faces child abuse, child pornography charges.

A Polk County sheriff's deputy filmed herself strapping naked children to a desk and spanking them with sex toys, then sent the videos to a boyfriend she met on a fetish website, investigators said. On Thursday, 45-year-old Robin Leigh Pagoria was charged with aggravated child abuse, production of child pornography, promotion of child pornography and possession of child pornography. According to an arrest report, the two children, described only as girls between the ages of 10 and 18, described in graphic detail multiple spanking sessions. Investigators say Pagoria cut the legs off one end of the desk she used for the spanking. To keep the girls from moving, she handcuffed their arms and tied their ankles to the desk, deputies said. The girls told investigators that Pagoria beat them with a leather sex paddle. The victims believed they were being punished — one said she was hit 50 times for being "disrespectful" Detectives say Pagoria recorded the beatings on her cell phone, uploading them to the Internet so her online boyfriend could watch. On Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called Pagoria's alleged behavior "outrageous." "There aren't words to describe my anger with her," he said. Judd, noted for his well-publicized focus on sexual predators, said no one should be more aware of that focus that his own employees. "She's seen us walk hundreds of them into the Polk County Jail," Judd said. Judd said the arrest came "out of nowhere." Aside from a domestic violence incident and some minor disciplinary issues, he said Pagoria was considered a good worker. Judd said Pagoria worked in housing at the jail, and was a 22-year veteran of the Marines. He said his office reviewed the psychological and polygraph tests from when she was hired, and they were clear. "We do extensive background investigations on anyone we hire," Judd said. When interviewed by investigators, reports state that Pagoria explained that she used to spank the girls, but "the spankings had not improved their behavior." She switched to the table and handcuffs after "she decided she needed to do something that would embarrass them so they would learn not to break the rules again," the report states. Investigators say Pagoria claimed she videotaped the sessions so she could review and "'fine tune' her technique" — leading her to modify the table, and to put a delay between blows for "maximum burn." After the whippings, Pagoria explained that the girls were forced to stand naked in the corner "so that they could reflect on what they had done wrong," according to the report. Deputies say Pagoria later admitted to having a lifelong spanking fetish, and to meeting her boyfriend on Officials said the boyfriend, who lives in another state, is also under investigation. Investigators said they found evidence of two videos on Pagoria's phone. In both, deputies said the victims' genitals and buttocks were the clear "focal point." According to the Sheriff's Office, the videos were about 10 minutes long, and showed the children suffered "substantial" wounds. They could be heard screaming in the videos, investigators said. The victims names were redacted from arresting documents, it's not clear how or why Pagoria had access to them. However, officials said it was not through her employment with the Sheriff's Office. Officials said Pagoria, a deputy for nearly six years, resigned Tuesday, in lieu of being fired. or 407-420-5171

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jury Says Officer Liable in Guy Case

Jury says Albany officer liable in gun case
The Albany Times Union by Brendan Lyons - May 26, 2011
Verdict against Albany officer includes lost wages for co-worker

ALBANY, NY -- An Albany police sergeant who allegedly pointed a loaded handgun at a coworker was found liable for civil assault in a verdict returned late Wednesday during a trial in state Supreme Court. The verdict against Sgt. Kevin McKenna, a traffic safety supervisor, included roughly $18,000 that represented lost wages for the victim, Shirley Morton, who took an extended leave after the incident. The jury also assessed a $5,000 penalty in pain and suffering damages. McKenna returned to police duties last year after serving a 30-day suspension for departmental charges upheld by an arbitrator. Before that, he was acquitted of criminal menacing charges in Albany County Court. The civil complaint was initially filed in U.S. District Court against McKenna, the city of Albany, McKenna's former supervisor, Leonard Crouch, and Peter Noonan, whose personal handgun was used in the incident. It was dismissed in federal court with leave to re-file the case in state Supreme Court under state law. The allegations are that McKenna was handling a loaded, personal handgun that Noonan had brought to the police station. The incident took place during a snowstorm and the traffic safety office was bustling. Morton claimed McKenna, who she said had tormented her at times, pointed the gun at her head twice. She said McKenna leveled the gun at her a second time after Noonan warned him it was loaded. Mark Greenberg, Morton's attorney, re-filed the lawsuit in state court against McKenna, Noonan and the city of Albany. Noonan and the city were let out of the case and McKenna faced trial alone. "I do not feel that the monetary award was consistent with what Ms. Morton went through," Greenberg said. "I hope the verdict will bring a level of closure for Ms. Morton." McKenna's attorney, Paul DerOhannesian, also represented McKenna in his criminal case. "While I'm not totally satisfied there is some satisfaction in the verdict," DerOhannesian said. "It certainly now allows him to move forward with his job and career." Morton left her employment with the police department. In the internal investigation McKenna was found guilty of two charges -- improper handling of a firearm and conduct unbecoming an officer -- for the Jan. 2, 2008, incident at the department's Public Safety Building. He did not work for two years during the proceeding.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Former Sheriff's Employee Gets Four Years for Theft

Former Passaic sheriff's employee gets four years for theft by Richard Cowen - May 19, 2011

Paolo “Paul” Mariano, the former civilian director of the motor pool at the Passaic County Sheriff's Department, was sentenced to a four-year prison term today for stealing $20,000 and an engine he installed in his own car. Mariano broke down in tears as he appeared before Judge Marilyn C. Clark in Superior Court in Paterson. With his hands clasped in a knot, Mariano told the judge he was sorry and begged for mercy. “I want to apologize to the court. I want to apologize to my family," Mariano said before bursting into sobs. “I don't know what happened ... I did it, but I don't know why." Mariano, a 13-year employee of the sheriff's department who was former sheriff Jerry Speziale's personal driver, was arrested last August after investigators from the state Attorney General's office searched the motor pool garage located behind Lambert Castle in Paterson. The AG's office charged him with stealing $20,000 hidden behind a door panel in a Ford Taurus that the Passaic County Drug Task Force had seized during a drug bust in 2004. Part of Mariano's job as head of the motor pool was to clean out cars that had been seized by the sheriff's department. He was also charged with taking an engine from a county-owned Toyota 4-Runner and installing it in his own car. Charged with two counts of official misconduct, Mariano faced a maximum of 10 years in jail on each charge, but instead accepted a plea bargain in which he agreed to a four-year sentence. As part of the plea, Mariano must also pay back the $20,000 he stole. The judge ordered Mariano to begin his sentence immediately. His attorney, Ronald J. Ricci, asked the judge to allow Mariano to begin his sentence at the Bergen County Jail to avoid incarceration in Passaic County, where he might be in more danger because of his affiliation with the sheriff's department. Clark granted the request, and Mariano left the courtroom after turning around and looking at his wife. Although he was sentenced to four years, Mariano is likely to do a lot less time behind bars. As a first-time offender, Mariano is eligible to apply for release into the state's Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) after 90 days behind bars. If the judge allows him into the program, Mariano would be released to confinement to his home in Wayne and required to wear an electronic bracelet that would allow him to resume working as a heavy equipment operator. Ricci told the judge that Mariano's wife and his youngest son are both ill, and his incarceration would be an economic hardship on both of them. Ricci said Mariano's wife is so ill that she cannot work, and the son has recently been diagnosed with cysts on the brain.

Deputy Attorney General Vincent J. Militello told the judge that the state would not oppose Mariano's application for ISP, saying that he had cooperated with the investigation and had accepted a plea deal for a non-violent crime. Mariano was fired from his sheriff's department job following his arrest and is forever barred from working in a public job. Mariano came to Superior Court accompanied by his wife, Grace and his lawyer. Before sentencing, he spoke to two reporters and said he's been working as a heavy equipment operator since his arrest. Mariano said he hasn't spoken to his old boss and friend, Speziale, since he quit the sheriff's post days before Mariano's arrest to take a job with the Port Authority Police Department. Asked before he was sentenced whether he was nervous about going to prison, Mariano replied, "It's not making me nervous. The only thing I'm thinking about is my wife and my family." Militello would not comment on the sentencing following the proceeding. But Attorney General Paula T. Dow released a statement saying that a prison term was the "appropriate" sentence. "Prison is the appropriate sentence for Mariano, who shamelessly stole cash and property that would have been forfeited to fund law enforcement efforts in Passaic County," Dow said. "His actions showed a complete disregard for the law and for the county he was supposed to serve." Mariano's crimes date to 2005 and 2006. When he pleaded guilty in March, Mariano admitted that he stole approximately $20,000 that was found hidden in a Ford Taurus that had been seized by the Passaic County Drug Task Force. The car was being repaired for use as an undercover car in 2005 when mechanics found the money in a secret compartment. The mechanics told Mariano about the money. Mariano admitted he took possession of the money and told the mechanics not to say anything about it. He then told the mechanics to "chop" the car and dispose of it. Mariano told the judge he later started spending the money. He also admitted that in November of 2006, he ordered mechanics to remove an engine from a 1995 Toyota 4-Runner that had been seized by Passaic County. He had mechanics place that engine in a 1993 Toyota 4-Runner that had had given to his girlfriend, but was registered in his name. Mariano later sold the car, with the stolen engine, to an undercover detective on May 14, 2010 for $2,000, the state said. Stephen J. Taylor, the director of the state Division of Criminal Justice, said the prison sentence is meant to send a “clear message” that government corruption will not be tolerated. “This prison sentence sends a clear message that government officials who steal from their agencies and the public will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted,” Taylor said. “We have zero tolerance when it comes to official corruption.” The Attorney General's office has set up a hotline for citizens to report corruption at 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Woman Says Cop Broke Her Teeth in Takedown

Woman: Orlando Cop Broke My Teeth In Takedown
WKMG Orlando - May 19, 2011

A woman's teeth are broken in an incident with an Orlando police officer.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A veteran Orlando police officer is under investigation after Local 6 News started asking questions about surveillance video that shows the officer using an "arm bar" technique on a 100-pound woman whose teeth were broken after she landed face-first on the ground. The video, captured by a city camera and obtained by investigative reporter Mike Holfeld, shows Officer Livio Beccaccio taking 20-year-old Lisa Wareham by the left arm before she hits the pavement. Wareham was initially charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest but Local 6 learned Friday, the state attorney's office dropped all the charges against her. Her attorney, Andrew Zelman, said they plan to file a lawsuit on Monday against the officer and the Orlando Police Department. The incident happened Feb. 25 around 1:45 a.m. in the 100 block of East Central Boulevard across from the Orlando Library and was caught on video by an Innovative Response to Improve Safety (I.R.I.S.) camera mounted at Magnolia Avenue and Central Boulevard. The incident broke Wareham's front teeth. "It happened so fast. I was so scared. There is no way to describe it," she said. Wareham, a single mother who was out with her friends at the time of the incident, said she could not believe what happened. "I went to sit up and I felt something in my mouth. I spit (my teeth) out. I didn't even know what to think," she said. Wareham said there was a disturbance nearby and a man was shoved into her. She said as she was questioning the man as to why he bumped into her, Beccaccio led her away and hurled her to the ground. Beccaccio's police report said, "Wareham, with her right hand, reached across her body and smacked me several times in my right hand and arm." Video shows an Orlando police officer taking a woman down to the ground. The video shows Beccaccio holding Wareham by her left arm, and she ends up on the pavement in less than 10 seconds. Wareham never appears to resist or try to strike Beccaccio, the video shows. In the official report, Beccaccio writes, "Wareham stumbled forward and fell to the pavement." Beccaccio was there responding to the disturbance, but the video shows the scene to be calm when Becacccio and other OPD officers arrived. Zelman said OPD has had the video since at least March. According to Zelman, nothing was being done about the case until Holfeld's investigation into alleged excessive force cases involving the Orlando Police Department aired Monday night on Local 6. OPD Lt. Barbara Jones sent an email to Holfeld on Wednesday confirming that the incident "is being reviewed and under official investigation." Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he wants all the facts but assured Holfeld there would be no double standard. "We investigate our own and if there is cause to punish somebody, then those actions are taken," Dyer said. Incoming Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney said Friday the OPD investigation began days ago. He would not comment on the case specifically, citing that it is an ongoing investigation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Grandma's Drug Conviction Tossed in Police Corruption Scandal

Grandmother's drug conviction tossed in police corruption probe
Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - May 18, 2011

With her wrists held together by handcuffs, Betty Wolfe signed her court papers and then cried, realizing that her wish to be freed was within reach. Wolfe, 60, appeared Tuesday in prison clothing and restraints before Judge Dana Kuehn in Tulsa County District Court. She was seeking to be freed from prison for a crime she never committed, said Thomas Mortensen, her attorney. Wolfe filed a motion for post-conviction relief April 13, records show. She was sentenced May 8, 2008, to 12 years in prison for possession of drugs with intent to distribute, records show. Kuehn vacated Wolfe's conviction Tuesday and restored her probation status from a previous case. That means Wolfe could be freed from prison this week, making her the 33rd person to be freed or have a case modified due to a police corruption investigation. Wolfe's criminal record includes a 2005 Tulsa County conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute, records show. She received a 20-year suspended sentence in that case, and as part of her release from prison, she must abide by the terms of her probation in that case, Mortensen said. Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Dunn said Wolfe's newer case was dismissed with prejudice, which means it will not be refiled. As Wolfe signed the agreement detailing her terms for release, she began crying and turned to her relatives in Kuehn's courtroom. Her daughter and grandchildren clapped their hands and then quickly silenced themselves after realizing they were in court. After the hearing, Wolfe's daughter, Keri Crawford, said: "She's lost three years of her life, and we have served that time with her because she has not been with us. The cops who did this to her should not be given plea bargains for their cases." Wolfe, who has worked as a truck driver, alleged that two of her arresting officers planted drugs in her home or failed to turn in evidence that was linked to another person in her home, according to her court filing. The case involves a search warrant served by Brandon McFadden, a former agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and former Tulsa Police Officer John K. "J.J." Gray. McFadden and Gray have pleaded guilty in a federal probe of police corruption in Tulsa. They are cooperating with federal prosecutors while they await sentencing. As part of a plea agreement with Gray, federal prosecutors have tentatively agreed to recommend probation for him, the World has reported. Mortensen alleged that Gray exhibited criminal behavior in Wolfe's case, which he said could place his plea agreement in question. "Obviously when J.J. worked out his deal with prosecutors and admitted to his behavior, he did not tell them about all of his criminal behavior," Mortensen said. He said he anticipates that Wolfe will seek civil action against Gray and others. Gray was asked to testify at Wolfe's hearing but invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify due to allegations of criminal behavior against him in Wolfe's filing, said his attorney, Skip Durbin. In her filing for post-conviction relief, Wolfe alleges that Gray and McFadden fabricated the existence of a drug informant while also tampering with evidence. Mortensen alleged that the drugs found at Wolfe's home were found near another person whom Gray allowed to leave without being arrested. Wolfe was not aware that the drugs were in the home, Mortensen said. During testimony Monday, Tulsa Police Detective Debra Glenn said the search of Wolfe's home yielded what appeared to be about 56 grams of methamphetamine - about 2 ounces - of which only 13 grams were turned in as evidence by Gray and McFadden. Glenn is a former burglary detective who was Gray's partner for about three years, she said during testimony Monday. Glenn was hired by the Tulsa Police Department in June 1995, records show. She is now a robbery detective. She described numerous alleged irregularities in the Wolfe case, including a property receipt signed by McFadden for Glenn without her knowledge or permission, she said. When asked if she ever witnessed Gray exhibiting odd behavior on previous searches during their three years of working together, Glenn said: "This is the only unusual search I can recall." Glenn said the red flags were there in Wolfe's case and that she regrets not acting. "I dismissed his behavior because he was my partner and I trusted him," she said. "In hindsight, I should have reported it to my supervisor." These 33 people have been freed from prison, had felony charges dropped, had prison sentences reduced or been granted a new trial as a result of the grand jury probe. Here are details on each case. (Listed in order of release.)

U.S. District Court
  • LARITA BARNES: Convicted of a drug felony April 23, 2008, and sentenced Oct. 3, 2008. Freed from federal prison July 2, 2009. Was serving two 10-year sentences. Filed suit Aug. 6 in U.S. District Court against the city of Tulsa, former ATF Officer Brandon McFadden and Tulsa Police Officer Jeff Henderson. The suit alleges Barnes was deprived of her rights and illegally incarcerated. Federal prosecutors allege Henderson and Mc- Fadden coached a drug informant and fabricated a drug buy on May 8, 2007, that sent Barnes and her father, Larry Barnes Sr., to prison.
  • LARRY BARNES SR.: Convicted of a drug felony April 23, 2008, and sentenced Oct. 3, 2008. Freed from federal prison July 2, 2009. Was serving two five-year sentences. Barnes and his wife, Linda Sue Barnes, filed a lawsuit April 19 in Tulsa County District Court against the city of Tulsa, former Tulsa Police Chief Ronald Palmer, Jeff Henderson and Brandon McFadden.
  • FRED SHIELDS JR.: Convicted of drug trafficking March 24, 2009. Conviction dismissed Feb. 19 before sentencing had occurred. Currently, charged with firstdegree murder and conspiracy in the death of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney. In state court, charged April 14, 2008, with drug trafficking, resisting an officer and destroying evidence. Charge dismissed Sept. 7.
  • DEMARCO WILLIAMS: Convicted of drug charges April 25, 2008, and sentenced July 30, 2008. Freed from federal prison April 30, 2010. Was serving two life sentences.
  • JAMON POINTER: Convicted Oct. 1, 2008, of drug trafficking and sentenced Dec. 29, 2008. Conviction dismissed April 8, 2010. Was serving 10 years in prison. Remains in state prison on a separate case.
  • ALPHIE PHILLIP McKINNEY: Pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and was sentenced Oct. 9, 2008, to 48 months in federal prison. Released in April 2010.
  • BOBBY HALEY SR.: Convicted Sept. 30, 2005, of drug and conspiracy charges and sentenced Jan. 4, 2006, to 22 years in prison. Released from federal prison in May 2010. Filed a federal lawsuit June 3 against the city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department.
  • HUGO ALBERTO GUTIERREZ: Pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and was sentenced July 28, 2008, to eight years and one month in federal prison. Released from federal prison July 30, 2010.
  • DUSTIN ROBERT EASTOM: Convicted Nov. 16, 2007, and sentenced to seven years in prison in February 2008. Found guilty of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm. Conviction set aside Sept. 3 and freed from federal prison Sept. 7, 2010.
  • JOSE ANGEL GONZALEZ: Pleaded guilty in November 2008 to possessing a sawed-off shotgun but was never sentenced in the case. The charge was dismissed Sept. 30, although Gonzalez still faces a federal drug case. He remains free on bond.
  • DEMARIO T. HARRIS: Convicted April 20, 2005, of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and felon in possession of a firearm; sentenced to life plus 10 years to run concurrently. The conviction was vacated Oct. 27, and he was freed from prison Oct. 28.
  • LINDELL POINTER: Pleaded guilty Sept. 7, 2008, to possesion of cocaine with intent to distribute. Sentenced Dec. 29, 2008, to serve 14 years in federal prison. Freed from a federal holding facility Nov. 17.
  • MELVIN L. BAILEY JR.: Convicted June 27, 2008, on two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and one count of maintaining a druginvolved premises, records show. Sentenced to 30 years in prison. On Sept. 22, Bailey pleaded guilty to one count of using a telephone for a drug transaction and was given a new release date of July 31, 2011. His previous release date was in 2034, records show.
  • IVAN A. SILVA-ARZETA: Convicted June 1, 2007, of possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of firearm by an illegal alien and during a drug crime. Also pleaded guilty to use of false Social Security number, use of false identification and possessing a counterfeit registration card. Sentenced to 11 years in prison. Was in custody from May 31, 2006, until released Dec. 10. Drugs and weapons charges vacated Dec. 1. Resentenced on remaining counts and released on time served.
  • CLEO D. HILL: Charged Sept. 8 in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm during drug trafficking and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Case dismissed Dec. 9. Hill is expected to be a federal witness in the criminal case against a Tulsa police officer.
  • ANTONIO J. ARMSTRONG: Convicted April 28, 2005, of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to federal prison Aug. 19, 2005. Sentenced to concurrent sentences of 12 years for the drug conviction and 10 years for the weapons charge. Drug conviction thrown out May 13, 2011. Seeking to have his weapons sentence reduced. Remains in prison on the weapons conviction.
  • PATRICK N. LONDON: Charged Jan. 20, 2009, with trafficking in illegal drugs and spent 435 days in jail before a district judge dismissed London’s case in March 2010 because a Tulsa Police officer connected to the grand jury investigation allegedly lied about the facts of probable cause in London’s arrest. London recently filed a tort-claim notice, which means he is expected to file a lawsuit against the city. London’s claim letter to the city says he is seeking $13 million.
  • MELANIE RICHARDSON: Charged Oct. 14, 2009, with possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Case dismissed April 9, 2010.
  • SEANTA SINCLAIR: Charged Oct. 14, 2009, with possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Case dismissed April 9, 2010.
  • RICHARD MILLER: Charged Sept. 10, 2009, with possession of a controlled drug. Case dismissed April 20, 2010.
  • RODNEY TITSWORTH: Charged Jan. 14, 2009, with possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Charge dropped April 20, 2010.
  • TERRY PERRYMAN: Charged Jan. 14, 2009, with possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Charge dropped April 20, 2010.
  • PARRA NISHIMOTO: Convicted Aug. 1, 2008, of aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs and sentenced to 15 years in state prison. Conviction dismissed July 27, 2010.
  • DEON WHITE: Charged Dec. 10, 2008, with trafficking in illegal drugs and possession of controlled drugs. Charges dismissed July 29, 2010.
  • KEWON NEWTON: Charged July 16, 2008, with drug trafficking. Charge dismissed Sept. 1, 2010.
  • BRANDON G. SCOTT: Charged Aug. 12, 2009, with drug possession with intent to distribute. Charge dismissed Sept. 1, 2010. Scott is named in the federal indictment of Officer Jeff Henderson as someone whose civil rights allegedly were violated by Henderson.
  • PAULA M. REEVES: Charged June 14, 2004, with trafficking in illegal drugs, reduced to unlawful possession of controlled drug with intent to distribute. Convicted March 14, 2005, and received an eight-year suspended sentence. Conviction vacated Sept. 10.
  • DONALD K. JORDAN: Charged July 17, 2007, with various counts, including one count of drug trafficking. Convicted June 10, 2008, of drug trafficking and received a 25-year prison sentence. Conviction overturned Nov. 10.
  • SHIRON D. DAVIS: Convicted May 5, 2010, of possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Sentenced to eight years in prison. Sentence reduced Nov. 16 to one year in prison and four years of probation. Released from prison. Sentence and conviction vacated Jan. 27.
  • RUBEN FLORES-OLMOS: Charged Jan. 25, 2007, with possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Pleaded no contest March 6, 2007, and received a six-year suspended sentence. Conviction vacated Dec. 27. Flores-Olmos is an illegal immigrant who is expected to be deported.
  • JERRY M. SHIELDS: Charged Feb. 21, 2008, with drug trafficking and possession of controlled drugs. Case was dismissed Dec. 22.
  • EDWARD D. WHITE: Pleaded no contest June 11, 2010, to possession of a controlled drug in two separate cases and sentenced to four years in prison. Conviction vacated Jan. 27, and a new trial was ordered. Case was dismissed May 6, and White was ordered freed.
  • BETTY WOLFE: Entered a blind plea and was convicted of felony drug possession with intent to distribute. Received a 12-year prison sentence May 8, 2008. Wolfe on Tuesday was ordered restored to probation status and released from prison.
Omer Gillham 918-581-8301 -

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cops Will Monitor Courts for Ticket-Fixers

New Police Unit Will Monitor City Courts for Ticket-Fixing
The New York Times by Joseph Goldstein - May 18, 2011

Investigators from the Internal Affairs Bureau will be assigned to monitor the city’s traffic courts in an effort to determine whether police officers are intentionally losing cases as favors to colleagues, police officials said Wednesday. The formation of this unit, the Court Monitoring Unit, is the latest step by the Police Department to address concerns that a pervasive culture of ticket-fixing exists within the department. An investigation by the office of the Bronx district attorney has found evidence that police officers sometimes ask their union delegates to help get rid of traffic tickets received by friends or relatives. Various methods for fixing a ticket emerged in wiretapped conversations. In one situation, a union delegate would try to find an officer in the precinct who was willing to pull the ticket from the summons box. The department tried to end that practice last summer, when it began electronically scanning each summons to identify those that disappeared after being issued. Police officers can also make a ticket disappear by encouraging the officer who wrote it to throw the case once it goes to court, according to interviews with people following the Bronx grand jury investigation. An officer can do that by failing to show up, by altering testimony or by claiming forgetfulness. Speaking at a City Council hearing on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said he was forming the new unit “in response to disturbing indications that some police officers failed to appear or otherwise willfully undermined a case in court.” Investigators from the new unit will therefore spend some of their time in courtrooms observing cases, said the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne. He said investigators would look for instances in which officers did not show up or an officer’s testimony raised questions. “If the original incident says one thing, and now a different account is given in court, you’ll have I.A.B. investigating why,” Mr. Browne said. The existence of the grand jury investigation into ticket-fixing has set officers on edge in the Bronx Traffic Violations Bureau, as traffic court is called. “They’re much more nervous about everything than they were before,” said a lawyer practicing in the traffic courts who insisted on anonymity. “They don’t know if they’re being observed, and they’re much more careful.”

Deputy Arrested, Suspended

Deputy arrested, suspended
The Albany Times Union by Leigh Hornbeck - May 16, 2011

KINGSBURY, NY -- A Saratoga County sheriff's deputy was arrested over the weekend after he allegedly pointed a gun at his girlfriend and flipped a coffee table in her home. James D. Holcomb, 30, of Park Drive, South Glens Falls, was charged with menacing and child endangerment after surrendering to police in Fort Edward, Washington County Sheriff Roger LeClaire said. Holcomb arraigned by Judge Joseph Malvuccio, who set bail at $3,000. He was released after posting bail. Holcomb was suspended without pay Monday, Sheriff James Bowen said. He had worked on road patrol for three years. Bowen said Holcomb came to see him with a union representative and turned in his gun and badge. Holcomb will be suspended for 30 days or until the case is resolved, the sheriff said. This is the third arrest in Bowen's department in recent years. In August 2009, Donald Harder III was arrested and charged with forcing women to perform sex acts on him while he was in on duty. He pleaded guilty to menacing and sex abuse in May, 2010, and sent to jail for six months. Sergeant Brent Dupras was arrested in August 2010 and charged with burglary after allegedly breaking into his ex-girlfriend's house. The charges were later dropped at the woman's urging and Dupras has returned to work. Bowen said he does "the best he can do" with his staff. "They're fully trained. I can't be with them 24 hours a day. They go out, and if they get jammed up out there, all I can do is handle it professionally," Bowen said.

Justice in Dreamland

Justice in Dreamland
The New York Times by Linda Greenhouse - May 18, 2011

Police officers following a suspect into an apartment complex in Lexington, Ky., don’t know which apartment their man has entered. But wafting through one of the closed apartment doors is the familiar odor of marijuana. The smell provides reason to believe criminal activity is afoot, probable cause for a warrant to search the apartment. Do the police stake out the apartment and go for a warrant? No, they do not. Instead, they bang on the door, shouting, “Police, police, police.” No response — at least, no verbal response. From behind the door the officers hear the sound of “people inside moving” and objects “being moved.” Aha! Evidence may be about to be destroyed. Announcing that they are coming in, the officers kick in the door and find not the man they were looking for, but three other people, one of whom is smoking marijuana. More marijuana, along with cocaine, is in plain view. I don’t know about other people, but I have never found an uninvited encounter with the police to be a source of comfort. The Fourth Amendment, of course, generally prohibits searches, especially searches of the home, that have not been authorized by a warrant. But like everything else, there are exceptions. The question for the Supreme Court in a case decided on Monday was whether the police behavior in this case, Kentucky v. King, came within a recognized exception to the warrant requirement, the “exigent circumstance” created by the likely imminent destruction of criminal evidence. The Supreme Court of Kentucky, hardly the most radical of courts in hardly the blue-est of states, applied its understanding of the Fourth Amendment and said no. If instead of pounding on the door, the state court noted, the police had quietly gone to a magistrate and obtained a search warrant, the people in the apartment would have had no reason to start scurrying around destroying their valuable contraband. Because the police themselves had prompted that response, foreseeably creating the “exigent circumstance,” the court concluded that the state should not be allowed to reap the benefit.

The United States Supreme Court reversed. The vote was 8 to 1. Hello? Is anyone home? (And I don’t mean Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter.) Fourth Amendment law is enormously complex (although not as complex as it once was, now that the state wins almost all the cases) and I make no pretense here of unpacking it wholesale. Nor do I argue that this case was the most important on the court’s docket; even accepting Justice Ginsburg’s conclusion that the police could easily have obtained a warrant and that the majority had gratuitously used the case “to contract the Fourth Amendment’s dominion,” the criminal justice system has hardly been shaken to its core. But in fact, its very ordinariness is what makes this decision worth pondering. It’s worth stopping to consider the assumptions about human nature that underlie not only this ruling but much of the court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. It’s worth wondering what planet the justices — most of them, anyway, and not just the incumbents, but many of their predecessors — have been living on when it comes to encounters between the police and the rest of us. What the court held, in an opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., is that warrantless entry to prevent the destruction of evidence is justified as long as the police “did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.” Here, according to the court, all the police did was knock on the door, something that is “no more than any private citizen might do.” (But didn’t the police break the door down and barge in — hardly something one would expect to follow a neighborly knock? Well, yes, but that was after the “exigency” arose, after they heard the scurrying.) According to Justice Alito, “Whether the person who knocks on the door and requests the opportunity to speak is a police officer or a private citizen, the occupant has no obligation to open the door or to speak.” In other words, the occupants of the apartment not only had a right to tell the police to go away, they almost had a constitutional obligation to do so, because “occupants who choose not to stand on their constitutional rights but instead elect to attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame for the warrantless exigent-circumstances search that may ensue.” “Only themselves to blame.” But wait, there’s more. It turns out that the occupants of this apartment were not only woefully unsophisticated about the Fourth Amendment, they were also ingrates: “Citizens who are startled by an unexpected knock on the door or by the sight of unknown persons in plain clothes on their doorstep may be relieved to learn that these persons are police officers. Others may appreciate the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to answer the door to the police.” An opportunity to ask the officers to “hold it right there while I consult my attorney?” Let’s get real. I don’t know about other people, but I have never found an uninvited encounter with the police to be a source of comfort. Once, driving through a quiet residential neighborhood in Washington on the way home from a theater performance, my husband and I were unaccountably pulled over by a police officer in a squad car. The officer asked my husband (a lawyer) for his license and registration. Did he comply? Of course. It occurred to neither of us to say: “Officer, I invoke the Fourth Amendment and request that you articulate the suspicion that has caused you to pull us over.” We had not been drinking or using drugs, we had nothing to hide, and we had broken no law. But the incident was nonetheless unnerving, and my blood pressure goes up as I recall it years later.

The Supreme Court’s fantasy world of consensual and constitutionally informed encounters with the police is nothing new. In a 1984 decision, Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Delgado, a case arguably even more relevant today than it was before the immigration crackdown of the later 1980’s and since, the court rejected a Fourth Amendment challenge to immigration sweeps of factories and other workplaces. There was no problem, the court held, because the workers surrounded by immigration agents were not “seized.” They were free to leave the premises, and those who chose to remain participated in nothing more than a “classic consensual encounter.”

In 1991, the court upheld a police technique known as “working the buses,” in which officers would board long-distance buses and request passengers’ permission to conduct a pat-down search. The Florida Supreme Court had found these searches to violate the Fourth Amendment because passengers approached by uniformed police officers in the confines of a bus would not feel “free to leave.” But in Florida v. Bostick, the Supreme Court disagreed, suggesting that to the contrary, a “reasonable person,” advised that he was free to say no, would indeed “feel free to decline the officers’ requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.” Eleven years later, in United States v. Drayton, the court dispensed with the premise that passengers needed to be informed of their right to say no. That 5-to-4 decision reinstated the convictions of two men who, submitting to a pat-down while on a Greyhound bus, were found to be carrying cocaine taped to their thighs. There was nothing intimidating about the circumstances of the encounter, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “no overwhelming show of force, no brandishing of weapons, no blocking of exits, no threat, no command, not even an authoritative tone of voice.” Justice Kennedy said it didn’t matter that the passengers were not explicitly informed that they did not have to cooperate. People typically go along with these searches, he asserted, “not because of coercion but because the passengers know that their participation enhances their own safety and the safety of those around them.” Justice David H. Souter, in dissent, objected that the majority opinion had an “air of unreality.” Indeed. But let’s look on the bright side. The Supreme Court tells us that if we don’t know our constitutional rights, we have only ourselves to blame. Knowledge of the Constitution, along with other basic elements of civics, is at pathetically low levels: only a quarter of high school seniors — people old enough to vote, or nearly so — demonstrated proficiency in a recent national survey of students’ knowledge of how government works. So perhaps this week’s decision could be harnessed to provide the motivation evidently missing from the classroom. Students could be instructed that if the police come pounding on their door, and they don’t know enough to stand on their Fourth Amendment rights, they have only themselves to blame.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fed Say Retired Cop Helped Drug Ring

Feds say retired NYPD cop John Avvento gave police gear to drug ring
The New York Daily News by John Marzulli - CRIME EXCLUSIVE - May 16, 2011

A retired NYPD cop has been charged with providing police gear to drug dealers, allowing them to pass for cops during a home-invasion robbery, the Daily News has learned. John Avvento supplied two NYPD raid jackets and a holster for a 9-mm. semiautomatic handgun - and even agreed at first to participate in the break-in at another dealer's home, a complaint unsealed last week in Brooklyn Federal Court shows. Avvento backed out of the December 2008 robbery, but got cash, cocaine and Vicodin as payment for the props, FBI agent Samantha Bell states in the complaint. The FBI and NYPD learned of the ex-cop's role during a joint probe of a drug ring that makes daily deliveries of cocaine to customers in southwestern Brooklyn, according to court papers. Three cooperating witnesses, including the leader of the delivery service, fingered Avvento as a customer and a crew employee. They told investigators that between June 2006 and December 2008, the retired cop would ride with drug runners "to ensure that they would not be arrested if their car was stopped by police," the complaint states. Avvento, 39, is free on $100,000 bail. He retired from the 62nd Precinct in Bensonhurst with a disability pension, his lawyer Arthur Aidala said. "He vehemently denies the accusations and looks forward to complete vindication," Aidala said.

Retired Cop Held in Drugstore Robberies

Retired NYPD cop Salvatore DelleCave held in Brooklyn drugstore robberies
The New York Daily News by Rocco Parascandola and Joe Kemp - May 18, 2011

A retired cop was collared Tuesday for robbing a string of Brooklyn pharmacies at gunpoint since March, police said. Salvatore DelleCave, 36, held up at least seven stores near Marine Park since March 3, cops said. DelleCave, a retired detective who was once assigned to the nearby 61st Precinct, ran out of the stores with OxyContin and other powerful painkillers, police said. DelleCave separated his shoulder in September 2007 trying to apprehend a group of robbery suspects who fled to a rooftop, police said. He retired in 2008. DelleCave was still awaiting charges on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Deputy Suspended Over Cheeseburger Stunt

Fouled-up Fast Food Order Gets Polk Deputy Suspended
The Ledger by Matthew Pleasant - May 13, 2011
Restaurant workers told to show their driver licenses.

LAKELAND, FL - A Polk County deputy was suspended in April after an investigation found he demanded driver licenses from Burger King workers and called a police officer after the restaurant incorrectly filled his wife's order. Deputy Jason Platt, 31, called the officer, a personal friend, to the U.S. 98 restaurant in Lakeland but she refused to get involved, a report on the investigation says. "I find it disturbing that a deputy sheriff would tarnish the image of the Polk County Sheriff's Office by getting involved in a dispute over a cheeseburger order at Burger King," wrote sheriff's Capt. Kevin Widner in a memo to his supervisor included in the investigation report. Widner is captain of the sheriff's northwest district and is the commander over Platt. Platt, who was on duty at the time, was suspended for 16 hours after the Sheriff's Office found he violated its policies prohibiting involvement in family-related disputes, exhibiting conduct unbecoming to a deputy and for refusing to give a Burger King manager his name. Unclear is why Platt called the Lakeland officer. Widner concluded "there was no legal premise for any law enforcement agency to be involved in this petty situation." Platt joined the Sheriff's Office in August 2005 and earns about $41,000 annually. The suspension cost him about $315. He declined a request for comment. The incident happened the evening of March 7 when Platt's wife, Tara Platt, called her husband to tell him the Burger King at 3212 U.S. 98 N. gave her the wrong order. Platt called Lakeland officer Tammy Hathcock to respond to the restaurant, which is outside the Sheriff's Office jurisdiction, he says in a written statement taken during the investigation.

Law Enforcement: Tape Us, Go to Prison

Law Enforcement: Tape Us, Go to Prison by Jason Mick - May 16, 2011

Newark, New Jersey police detained Khaliah Fitchette for video taping them while they "dealt" with a drunk man on a bus. The police department in the city is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for a broad array of civil rights violations, including police brutality and corruption. (Source: Amanda Brown Murphy/ACLU-NJ) A motorcyclist was charged for wiretapping after posting video of an encounter with a plain clothes police officer. The officer did not immediately identifying himself -- the incident initially appeared like an armed robbery attempt. Police hope to imprison citizens who video tape or photograph them in the act of beating people or racially profiling. PDs pushing measures are also some of the "dirtiest", are under DOJ investigation. Anyone who works retail knows that you can and probably are being videotaped. And if you do something wrong, like steal something, you can bet you'll eventually be caught and those tapes will be used against you. Unfortunately, some police officers across the United States seem to think that they should be above the level of accountability of the average citizen. In response to a slew of cell phone and webcam photos and videos catching cops in brutality, racial profiling, and other unsavory acts, police have begun arresting and filing charges against those who video tape them.

I. Law-Abiding Teen Learns is Detained

Khaliah Fitchette was a law-abiding teen who never got in trouble and always got good grades. Imagine her surprise when she ended up in handcuffs for a seemingly responsible act.
When two police officers boarded a city bus she was riding in Newark, New Jersey, Ms. Fitchette pulled out her cell phone and began taping the cops. The cops were working to remove a drunken man. The young lady recalls, "One of the officers told me to turn off my phone, because I was recording them. I said no. And then she grabbed me and pulled me off the bus to the cop car, which was behind the bus." She was handcuffed and subjected to the same indignities as your average drug dealer or car thief. The next two hours she sat in the back of the car as the police played with her phone deleting the video. At the end of two hours, she was released. Outraged, the young lady and her parents later filed suit against the Newark Police Department with the help of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU is a civil rights advocacy organization whose famous slogan is "freedom can't protect itself." Deborah Jacobs, director of the ACLU chapter, states in an interview with National Public Radio, "All of us, as we walk around, have to understand that we could be filmed, we could be taped. But police officers above all others should be subject to this kind of filming because we have a duty to hold them accountable as powerful public servants." Shaken, Ms. Fitchette says she would be wary to ever tape a police officer again. She states, "It would have to be important enough to get myself in trouble for, I guess." The Department has refused to respond to requests for comment about the suit. Ironically if anyone needs to be videotaped on the job, it would seem to be the Newark PD. The Department has a reputation for being among the "dirtiest" police departments in the region. The U.S. Department of Justice recently launched a misconduct investigation into the actions of the Newark PD, following 418 serious alleged civil rights violations (including 261 that resulted in Internal Affairs reports) over a period of two-and-a-half years.

II. Cop Brandishes Firearm at Citizen, Citizen Charged for Releasing Video

The New Jersey incident is not alone, though. Other states on the East Coast are also cracking down on citizens taping cops. Maryland resident Anthony Graber was riding his motorcycle when a plain-clothes cop pulled him over. The cop was driving an unmarked car and did not immediately announce himself as a police officer. Instead he drew his firearm menacingly and ordered Mr. Graber "Get off the motorcycle!" A few seconds later he finally established his identity, stating, "Get off the motorcycle, State Police." Police officers are supposed to immediately announce that they are law enforcement. Based on the officer's initial statements and lack of any sort of identification, Mr. Graber might have believed him to be an armed robber. Things might have gone very differently had Mr. Graber been armed. Mr. Graber had been recording the encounter from a helmet cam and when he arrived home he posted it [video] to YouTube. Soon after he was hit with charges that he violated the state's wiretapping statute as he taped the officer's voice without consent. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before Mr. Graber was further harassed.

III. Clashes Between Camera Wielders, Police Rise

Unfortunately these incidents are not isolated. Across the country there's growing debate over whether to outlaw video taping police. Some cities like Chicago have made it a 15-year felony -- one step below murder -- to tape a police officer. Coincidentally, Chicago has one of the worst reputations for police brutality. Some police argue that citizens recording cops are being responsible and that cops should behave with integrity when on the job. States Tom Nolan, a former Boston police officer who now teaches criminal justice at Boston University, states: There's always going to be a pocket of police officers who are resistant to change. But I think the vast majority of police have been acclimated to the reality that what they're doing is likely being recorded at any given time. The police will get the message when municipal governments and police departments have got to write out substantial settlement checks. Standing by itself, that video camera in the hands of some teenager is not going to constitute sufficient grounds for a lawful arrest. Mr. Nolan says that the state of Massachusetts teaches cops that unless the video camera is also somehow being used in a criminal offense (like child pornography) that police should not arrest or otherwise harass citizens for video taping them. He says Massachusetts’s cops expect to be videotaped and strive to behave responsibly. Other active cops, though, argue that they should be able to arrest and imprison citizens who record them in the act. States Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, "They [police officers] need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be. We feel that anything that's going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he's being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life or some serious bodily harm." The Fraternal Order of Police has, across the country, pushed for tough laws that would imprison those taping the police. They argue this prohibition should even be in effect if police invade a person's house (individuals have been arrested for photographing police officers coming into their house). Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, states in previous comments that his organization "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars. He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street." In related news, police in recent months have carried out a number of bungled raids across the country, brutalizing homeowners only to find that they had fingered the wrong person do to sloppy investigation. Typically these raids stemmed from child pornography investigations. In recent months several states have also authorized police to begin seizing citizens' cell phones. And officers in at least nine states are now authorized to invade your property without warrant and plant tracking devices on your vehicles.

Police Corruption Allegations Raised in Rape Case

Police Corruption Allegations Raised in Hennessey Coach Rape Case
NewsOn6.Com by Jennifer Pierce - May 11, 2011

A detective allegedly wrote on the victim's Facebook wall pointing to possible police corruption.

KINGFISHER, Oklahoma -- Former Hennessey girls basketball coach Ben Forsythe made an appearance in a Kingfisher County courtroom Wednesday morning. He is accused of having sex with one of his players and is charged with two counts of rape. His attorney, David Slane, told the judge he has been collecting evidence that points to possible police corruption and that the alleged victim lied about statements she made about her relationship with Forsythe. One piece of evidence is a Facebook posting on the victim's page. A detective told her "Don't sweat it, we're golden got a few more tricks up my sleeve I've been saving." "The detective has been communicating with her. We think that's hiding evidence. So we put them on notice that we are aware of that and told the judge that," Slane said. He also filed a text message the alleged victim sent. She said media reports were lies and Forsythe never got mad at her for ending the relationship. But in a statement to police, she told detectives the former basketball coach was angry she ended the affair. Slane also filed paperwork with the Court of Criminal Appeals. He is challenging a statute that makes it against the law for an adult student to have a sexual relationship with a school employee. The alleged victim was 18 years old at the time of the relationship. "While my client denies anything happened, that fact that she says she did it voluntarily we believe tramples on women's and men's rights at the age of 18 to do what they wish, " Slane said.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Former Task Force Cop Accused of Running Brothel

Former task force agent accused of running brothel
ABC-KGO-TV - May 12, 2011Italic

PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new allegations against the former head of the Contra Costa County drug task force. In addition to charges of selling drugs, he's now been accused of running a brothel out of a Pleasant Hill business park. Private investigator Chris Butler claims in a 34 page report that he and former Contra Costa County narcotics officer Norman Wielsch ran a brothel on Gregory Lane called "My Divine Skin" from 2009 to 2010. The two were once on the Antioch police force together. Recently they were both charged with selling drugs that were allegedly taken from the police evidence rooms. Wielsch's attorney said Butler's story is not believable. "Butler admits apparently that he went to buy the furniture, that he signed the lease, he ran the place, and he collected the money, but 'it wasn't me and I gave all that money to other people, I didn't keep but a very small part of it.' If you want to believe that I have bridges and oceans that I would like to sell you pieces of," said Norman Wielsch's attorney Michael Cardoza. According to Cardoza, Butler is making up the story to reduce his prison sentence for selling drug evidence if he is convicted. Wielsch is currently out on $450,000 bail.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cop Caught Having Sex in Squad Car With Prostitute Tranny

Sources: DPD Cop Caught Having Sex in Squad Car with Prostitute
WJBK, MYFOXDETROIT.COM by Andrea Isom - May 12, 2011

DETROIT, MI (WJBK) - This man is innocent until proven guilty, but it has been alleged that a few weeks ago, a Detroit Police officer assigned to the Western District picked up a person with a very old profession. Police sources told FOX 2's Andrea Isom that person was a prostitute that is also a transvestite. She was also told the officer took the hooker in an area near the Northeastern District, parked his squad car and the two engaged in sex acts inside the cruiser while the cop was on the clock. Needless to say, the officer has been suspended, but with pay. Police Chief Ralph Godbee is working to make that suspended without pay. "Certainly, the allegations relative to the misconduct, even from an administrative standpoint, are troubling enough to where I think we should take very swift action as a police department," he said. "We will petition the Board of Police Commissioners at some point to suspend the officer without pay. I think it does a disservice to the fine men and women who do it the right way every day for me not to address this issue very forthright and very quickly." "I think it's important to note that this is misconduct that we discovered," he added. "We expect eight hours work for eight hours pay." The chief could not and would not say a lot about this case because it is still an ongoing investigation. However, Andrea Isom's police sources told her that it was officers from the Northeastern Distract who saw the squad car, went to investigate, saw the activity and told high ranking officials right away because in their eyes, no matter who you are, if you're doing wrong, it's the right thing to do to speak up.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Police Corruption Tied To Life Sentence Deal

Sentenced to life in drug case, Tulsa woman gets a chance at freedom
The Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - May 13, 2011

A preliminary deal has been reached that will set aside the life sentence of a Tulsa woman who was convicted of drug trafficking in 2005, court officials said Thursday. Sheila Devereux, 47, appeared before Tulsa County District Judge Tom Thornbrugh on Thursday. She filed a request for post-conviction relief April 18 seeking to reduce or vacate her sentence, records show. After refusing a plea deal of seven years, Devereux was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 2005. She qualified for Oklahoma's "three-strikes" law for repeat offenders because of two prior drug-possession convictions - in 1999 and 2001. Devereux's case involved several Tulsa police officers who have since been indicted or named in a federal probe of law enforcement corruption in Tulsa.

Her pleading states that new evidence in her case includes an alleged pattern of misconduct by three officers that could render them impeachable as witnesses if an evidentiary hearing were granted. Her case is one of dozens reviewed by the District Attorney's Office. However, the officers' involvement was not the reason prosecutors cited in agreeing to set aside her conviction. Prosecutors responded to Devereux's request for a reduced sentence by recommending that she be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser drug charge due to ineffective counsel at her trial, according to records filed Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court. Devereux is expected to return to court June 16 to learn the details of her plea offer, said her attorney, Stanley Monroe. As part of setting aside her life sentence, court officials are prepared to offer Devereux a 15-year sentence that would be divided between prison and probation, Monroe said. She has been in prison since November 2005. "Everyone here, from the judge to the district attorney, is committed to Sheila being successful in her rehabilitation and life once she is released," he said. "The court wants to make sure she has a program to go to that addresses her (drug) recovery, employment and reintegration needs." Numerous family members attended her hearing Thursday. They included her parents, Jerry and Della Sargent; and three children, Tyler Devereux, 20, Kiersten Leslie, 26, who is pregnant with Devereux's first grandchild, and Niklas Devereux, 14. Sheila Devereux's sister, Sheryl Fosberg, and aunt and uncle, June and Arvin Hout, also attended the hearing. "We were hopeful she could come home today, but we understand that the details need to be worked out," Jerry Sargent said. Sitting in Thornbrugh's courtroom in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, Devereux beamed and mouthed "I love you" to her family. Family members quietly wept and held hands while learning of Devereux's chance of being set free. The family credited the Tulsa World with bringing attention to her case. Tyler Devereux, a junior majoring in electrical engineering at the University of Tulsa, has been the driving force behind the movement to obtain freedom for his mother. "Our family is disappointed, but we continue to trust in God that everything happens for a reason and that everything will fall into place," he said. "We are happy for this opportunity that has been brought upon us, and we will continue to wait for my mom's release." On Sept. 30, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Devereux's life sentence by denying her request to modify her sentence, records show. While the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office concurred in the decision to throw out Devereux's life sentence, the office is not conceding that she is innocent or that police officers acted improperly in her case, a filing by Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond states. "A review of trial transcripts suggests errors were made by the trial counsel that put the defendant in an even more precarious position. Then she later finds out that appellate counsel failed to file an appeal on her behalf. It was nearly four years after the jury verdict before any appeal was filed and no ineffective assistance of counsel (issue) was raised," Drummond stated in the filing. In filing her request for post-conviction relief, Devereux raised the issue that three officers involved in her case have been named in the police corruption probe. Thus far, 11 Tulsa police officers have been indicted or named as unindicted co-conspirators or cooperating witnesses in a grand jury probe.

Meanwhile, 31 people have been freed from prison, had felony charges dismissed or been granted new trials due to the investigation. Two of the defendants in the police corruption case, Officer Nick DeBruin and retired Officer Harold R. Wells, were involved in Devereux's case. DeBruin and Wells are charged with theft of U.S. funds, possession of drugs and civil rights violations and are accused of planting small amounts of methamphetamine and crack cocaine on people. They are not accused in the indictments of wrongdoing in the Devereux case. Recent developments reveal that a third Tulsa police officer involved in Devereux's case, Frank Khalil, has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the police corruption case. In an October interview with the World, Devereux admitted being a drug user but denied being a drug trafficker. When she was arrested in the home of her co-defendant, Earnest Allen Butler, Devereux said she had been staying at the residence about two months. She was not the person listed on a search warrant that was served there, records show. Butler, 71, was listed on the search warrant. After Devereux's life sentence was upheld, Tyler Devereux contacted the World out of desperation, he said. Until contacting the World, the family was unaware that his mother's case involved two indicted police officers and an unindicted co-conspirator. "Without a doubt the World's stories raised issues and changed things for my mother's case," Tyler Devereux said. "It would be a much different picture without the World stories." Butler was paroled from prison in October 2009. He pleaded guilty March 15, 2005, to drug trafficking and received a 13-year prison term, records show. He has a previous felony drug conviction. Devereux and Butler were found to have possessed 6.28 grams of cocaine base. In state court, 5 grams or more of cocaine base (crack) qualifies a person for a drug-trafficking charge, court officials have said. While the family was aware of Devereux's previous drug problems, Tyler Devereux said the family was unprepared for the life sentence she received. "I remember one time after the sentencing, for some reason it really hit me," he said. "I was with my girlfriend watching a movie with their family. All of a sudden, I just started crying my eyes out. I laid there for probably two hours and just cried because reality had set in that my mom was going to die in prison." World Enterprise Editor Ziva Branstetter contributed to this story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Police Department Under Federal Investigation For Years of Alleged Abuses

Newark Police Department Under Federal Investigation For Years Of Alleged Abuses
The Huffington Post by Laura Gottesdiener - May 12, 2011

Newark resident Rasheed Moore was driving toward the intersection of 18th Avenue and S. 13th Street in January, 2005, when his vehicle collided with an on-duty police car containing Newark police officers Matthew Ruane and Pasquale Popolizio. Thirteen gunshots later -- all fired by Officer Ruane against the unarmed driver -- Moore was dead. Five years later, in December 2009, the municipality shelled out $1 million to Moore’s family in a settlement after a jury concluded that the officers had used excessive force against Moore. Hundreds of similar allegations and stories over the past several years have prompted the Justice Department to launch a federal investigation of the Newark Police Department, digging into claims that the force has treated Newark’s citizens discriminatorily, brutally and illegally. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez announced the investigation on Monday in a joint press conference with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. “[The] investigation will examine allegations of excessive force, unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, discriminatory policing on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, whether detainees confined to holding cells are subjected to unreasonable risk of harm, and whether officers retaliate against citizens who legally attempt to observe or record police activity,” said Perez in a statement on Monday.

Justice Department officials have since declined to cite specific cases of abuse that sparked to the probe, but the stacks of settled and pending lawsuits against the City of Newark and a 96-page extensive report by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed last September begin to fill in the gaps of why the investigation was deemed warranted. In the filing, the ACLU detailed more than 400 claims of inappropriate police conduct, allegations that reveal both external problems such as excessive force against citizens and internal problems such as department infighting that has hindered the force’s ability to adequately punish officers who have committed abuses. Taken together, the claims paint the picture of a police force allegedly riddled with systematic and systemic failures. The City of Newark has settled dozens of civil court cases, like Moore’s, between January 2008 and January 2010. In one such case, settled in May 2010, NPD officer Michael Walker was charged with punching a man named Cornell Pendergrass in the face so many times that Pendergrass’s jaw had to be wired shut for weeks after the incident, which occurred in June 2006. The alleged beating was caught on videotape by an onlooker, Minisiah Gbor, who kept recording until she, too, was allegedly attacked by officer Walker and his partner Larry Brown. In another case, Warren Lee was sitting in a parked car on Sherman Avenue when he was approached by NPD Lt. Neil Minovich and Sgt. Anthony Costa, who suspected that Lee had drugs inside his car. Minovich and Costa allegedly beat Lee until he stopped breathing and lost consciousness. Believing that the man was faking his distress or that it was induced by swallowing drugs, the officers did not call an ambulance, and Lee died on the scene. The case, brought as a wrongful death suit by Lee’s father, was later settled for $60,000. Other settled cases include officers accused of raiding and ransacking a home, causing a fire that resulted in a mother and her children being burned, and holding suspects for multiple days without reasonable suspicion or explanation. According to the ACLU, litigation settlements have cost the municipality more than $4 million of taxpayer money since January 2008. More than two dozen suits are still pending, the bulk of which are for excessive force or false arrest. According to the claims outlined in one pending suit, Morris v. The City of Newark in the New Jersey District Court, police officer Jeffrey Bouie—flanked by four other officers—assaulted Trace Morris until he was unconscious and partially paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries. The case then alleges that Morris was transported to the Newark city jail, rather than the hospital, where he was ignored for three days, unable to move, covered in his own urine and feces. These cases are but a selection of the hundreds of allegations outlined in the ACLU’s filing last September, which was a petition to Mr. Perez asking for a federal investigation. “What amazed and upset me most was the sheer volume [of allegations],” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU-NJ, who spoke out against the police practices under Mayor Booker’s tenure to HuffPost in 2009. “You don’t understand the trauma of police brutality unless you have experienced it,” Jacobs said. “The impact is forever.” The Justice Department has since said that the ACLU’s filing is but one of a number of factors that led to the decision to investigate, noting that the Department undertook its own preliminary investigation before announcing the full probe. The Department has undertaken similar civil investigations in dozens of other cities in the past decade, including a massive one in New Orleans in 2010.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Police Captain Charged With Marijuana Possession

Granby Police Capt. Charged with Marijuana Possession
The Hartford Courant by Hilda Munoz - May 9, 2011

ENFIELD, CT- A captain in the Granby police department who is facing federal child pornography charges is also being charged with possession of a controlled substance. State troopers searching the Suffield home of David Bourque, 50, for evidence of child pornography found 0.2 ounces of marijuana in a safe, court documents state. His arraignment is scheduled for June 9 in Superior Court in Enfield. Bourque was arrested in April after investigators said they found thousands of images and videos on a laptop in his office. State police investigators had also secured a warrant to search his home for computers, disks, flash drives, SD cards, cell phones and other electronic evidence, according to an arrest warrant. The marijuana was found inside a safe in the master bedroom, the warrant states. Bourque is the head of the North Central Municipal Regional Accident Reconstruction Team, which was initially in charge of the Oct. 29 fatal accident involving Windsor Locks police Officer Michael Koistinen and 15-year-old Henry Dang. State police took over the investigation because of concerns that the accident was not investigated properly. State police arrested Michael Koistinen on manslaughter charges and his father, Robert Koistinen, on obstruction of justice charges. State police are investigating Bourque for his role in that investigation. Sources say that authorities suspected that Bourque had been drinking alcohol that night and instructed him to leave less than 30 minutes after he arrived at the scene in Windsor Locks. The child pornography investigation was separate from the accident investigation, police said. The pornography investigation started March 11 after Bourque shared folders containing pornographic images with an undercover state police officer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Former Police Chief and Friends Sentenced in Hurricane Fraud

4 of 5 get probation in Hurricane Gustav fraud
The Associated Press - May 6, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — A federal district judge sentenced the former town clerk of Ball to nine months in prison on Friday and ordered her to pay back nearly $106,000 received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Gustav. Brenda Kimball was the only one of five people sentenced Friday to get prison time. Former police Chief Jay Barber, a former policeman and two former police department employees all got probation. U.S. District Judge Dee Drell is scheduled to sentence former Mayor Ray Hebron on May 23. Drell ordered Kimball to pay $105,566 restitution and fined her $6,000. Barber and Judy Marie Crowe both got three years of probation. Barber must pay restitution of $30,814 and a $10,000 fine. Former officer Anthony Akins and former department employee LaVerne James got one year probation each. James was the first to start cooperating with federal investigators, pleading guilty in 2009 to conspiracy in a scheme to defraud FEMA after Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Prosecutors have said she gave substantial assistance in the remaining cases. Kimball and three other defendants pleaded guilty this year. Kimball, who pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, tried to take back her guilty plea. Drell rejected the request.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ex-Police Hero Sentenced in Scheme to Steal Heroin

Ex-police hero sentenced in scheme to steal heroin
The Philadelphia Inquirer by Nathan Gorenstein - May 9, 2011

A former Philadelphia police officer, James Venziale, once commended for valor, was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison today for his role in a scheme to rob a drug dealer of heroin and resell it for cash. Venziale got a break from the mandatory minimum of five years, or 60 months, because of his cooperation with federal prosecutors. "Its no secret that investigations of police corruption often run into a police code of silence," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Wrozek said, "I know its a real fact of life." Venziale, 33, testified earlier this year that he and a second former officer, Mark Williams, netted $3,000 each after they staged the robbery of a heroin dealer last year. The robbery was a sting operation by federal agents, and no heroin reached the street. Williams, 27, was arrested with Venziale and both were accused of cooperating with drug dealers in thea scheme to steal 300 grams of heroin during a bogus traffic stop. In part as a result of Venziale's testimony, Williams was convicted after a trial and is awaiting sentence. Venziale pleaded guilty in February. Some two dozen of Venziale's relatives and friends appeared in court to support him. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Harvey Bartle III, acknowledged that Venziale had received commendations for valor, but said it wasn't sufficient for a police officer to be honest "99 percent of the time." "I assume you wouldn't want your children to take drugs," Bartle said, "You didn't think about somebody's else's children. Very selfish." Venziale has three children, and Bartle acknowledged they will suffer with their father in jail. But Bartle stressed his dismay and regret that Venziale, a 10 veteran, had turned to crime. "I take no pleasure" said Bartle, "I wish I were not sitting her imposing sentence. Venziale in March testified that he and Williams pretended to arrest dealer Angel Ortiz, 25, moments after Ortiz had received a shipment of heroin from a courier. The staged stop took place in view of a drug courier. Venziale said he and Williams pretended to arrest Ortiz so his drug supplier would think the heroin was seized by police. "We took Mr. Ortiz around to around the corner . . . and released him," Venziale said. Later that same day Williams and Venziale met Ortiz and a federal undercover agent, posing as a money launderer, in a parking lot and received a bag stuffed with $6,000 in cash. Venziale said he split the money with Williams. Despite being suspicious of the "money launderer," the two officers staged the robbery anyway, said Venziale.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sheriff's investigator Betrays Fallen Officers' Fund

Family hurt by fund theft charges
The Weatherford Democrat by Christin Coyne - May 9, 2011

PARKER COUNTY, TEXAS — According to the family of Sgt. Rusty Arnold, Arnold’s widow received a total of $5,000 from the fund set up to benefit the fallen officer’s family — less one-third of what they believe was collected. Lou Ann Arnold of Stephenville, the mother of Parker County sheriff’s deputy Rusty Arnold killed in December in an off duty wreck, said the March discovery of an alleged theft from the benefit account has dealt the grieving family a second blow. Former Parker County investigator Seth Miller, a good friend of the family’s, set up a benefit account days after Rusty Arnold was critically injured in a wreck. When he later died, Miller served as the family liason, collecting money for the family and handling certain memorial service arrangements, Arnold said. A Parker County grand jury indicted Miller Thursday on the state jail felony charge of theft of between $1,500 and $20,000. At minimum, they believe at least $11,000 is missing from the benefit bank account, according to Arnold. “The cash will never be accounted for,” Arnold said. Bigger than the alleged theft is the the betrayal the family feels. “The biggest thing was deceiving us,” Arnold said. “How could a friend do another friend that way. I just don’t believe it.” Miller, reached by phone Friday, declined to comment. The indictment alleges Miller stole money belonging to Kelsey Arnold, Rusty Arnold’s wife, between January and February on 11 occasions. More than $500 was taken 10 of those occasions, the indictment states. “We did request [an arrest] warrant this morning,” Parker County Assistant District Attorney Robert DuBoise said Friday afternoon. Bond was expected to be set at $7,500. Lou Ann Arnold began asking questions when things didn’t add up after her daughter-in-law told her how much money she recieved when the account was closed in March. Kelsey Arnold was given $4,000 when the benefit fund was closed and had previously received $1,000, according to her mother-in-law. Lou Ann Arnold said she and her husband donated $1,000 themselves and a person she spoke with in Springtown knew of others who had donated thousands of dollars. That’s when the other person took the information to the sheriff’s office, according to Arnold. Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said he received the information in the evening and the next morning Miller was terminated and the case referred to the Texas Rangers for investigation. According to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education records, Miller’s employment with the sheriff’s office ended March 30. Arnold said she called him afterward but Miller reportedly gave her little explanation or apology. He indicated that he was glad the situation was brought to light, Arnold said. “He said it was a mistake,” she said. Arnold said she was given a list Thursday by the district attorney’s office of dozens and dozens of documented donors. Arnold said she’d asked Miller twice for a list of those who gave so they could send thank you notes but he never provided it. Arnold also says Miller hid from her the identity of a man who wanted to set up a scholarship fund for her grandson. “When I read the list, I just started crying because of the amount of people that gave,” Arnold said. “Just to know Rusty touched so many people.” Attorneys, bailbondsmen, prominent people, grade school teachers of her son, long distant family friends, some who gave thousands, some who gave $10 but more than they could afford were on the list, according to Arnold. “I felt awful because I hadn’t sent a thank you card,” Arnold said. “We acknowledge their generosity and we’re sorry we weren’t able to acknowledge it in a timely manner.” Any funds returned to the family will be used to benefit Kelsey Arnold and her son, Arnold said. The family is also revisiting their grief. “It’s had a real bad impact on us,” Arnold said. “The timing — that March we were beginning to start some of our healing process.” Each time she thinks about the incident, she relives her son’s death, Arnold said. “[Miller] was the one that did the last call at his memorial service,” Arnold said. The whole ordeal has been hard on her daughter-in-law, as well, according to Arnold. “She doesn’t need this,” Arnold said. “Now it’s probably going to court. There’s not going to be an end to it for a long time.” Arnold said she hopes Miller serves the maximum sentence, pays the money back and is stripped of his peace officer’s license. “He’s a dirty cop in my opinion,” Arnold said. In addition to the prosecution of the theft case, the district attorney’s office also faces another issue because of Miller’s former position as an investigator for the sheriff’s office. “Obviously, yes, any case in which he played a part, we’re going to have to take a look at,” DuBoise said.