A suspended Midland police officer hope to be reinstated, two years after he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated.File photo
MIDLAND PARK — A borough police officer hopes to return to the force after being suspended for drunkenly crashing an all-terrain vehicle, Midland Park Suburban News reported.
Joseph B. Gaeta seeks to be reinstated to the police department, and is hopeful that an April 15 meeting between his and the borough's attorneys could lead to his return to the force.
In December 2011, Gaeta drank as part of a training exercise to show the effects of alcohol at the Bergen County Police Academy in Mahwah. Another officer drove him home after the exercise, but four hours later, Gaeta allegedly crashed an ATV on Greenhaven Road in Wyckoff. His blood-alcohol level was .135 percent at the time of the crash.
Gaeta was suspended without pay two years ago. The court suspended his driver's license and ordered him to participate in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center's driver safety program.
Disgraced ex-cop sentenced to house arrest for extortion scheme
BY MENSAH M. DEAN
"AN HONEST mistake" is how disgraced ex-cop Jonathan Lazarde yesterday described the extortion scheme he undertook last year that ended his career and resulted in his pleading guilty in January.
"It was the worst decision I ever made," Lazarde, 28, added during his sentencing hearing in Common Pleas Court.
"I'm still stuck on 'an honest mis-take,' " Judge Robert P. Coleman said after Lazarde spoke.
The judge told Lazarde misconduct like his leads to distrust of police and makes it harder for prosecutors to win convictions.
"Don't hold it against the defendant for a choice of words that are inarticulate," said defense attorney Jack McMahon, who argued Lazarde took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty.
Assistant District Attorney Frank Fina said Lazarde deserved jail time, but that he would not oppose McMahon's request for a house-arrest sentence.
Coleman, appearing reluctant, went along with the lawyers and sentenced Lazarde to three months of house arrest, six years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
"Sir, you have been given a gift. Had this gone to trial, you would have been looking at decades in prison," Coleman told Lazarde.
The judge also wondered aloud why the District Attorney's Office dropped extortion and bribery charges, allowing Lazarde to plead guilty to a lone charge of criminal use of a communication facility - a third-degree felony.
Fina told the Daily News after the hearing that he did not seek jail time due to concerns for Lazarde's safety.
"We had safety concerns because he was a prior police officer," Fina said. "I don't know if it was preferential [treatment], but there were concerns that he would be at risk in prison."
Lazarde could have received up to nine months in jail, said Fina, the former chief deputy in the state Attorney General's Office. Fina now works in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office anti-corruption unit.
Lazarde was a five-year police veteran assigned to Olney's 35th District last year when he arrested a man on a gun charge and then offered not to attend court proceedings to ensure an acquittal if the suspect paid him $5,000.
The suspect instead reported the extortion plot to Internal Affairs investigators, who set up a sting operation in April in which they caught Lazarde allegedly pocketing $5,000 in marked bills. He resigned from the force April 21 and was arrested May 30.
Ex-South Miami cop named in Sweetwater case
BY BRENDA MEDINA
Authorities arrested a former South Miami detective on extortion and fraud charges in a case that reaches into Sweetwater.
Richard Muñoz, a 15-year South Miami veteran until his retirement last year, pleaded guilty March 14 on charges of taking advantage of his position and using false information with intent to commit fraud.
Muñoz’s crimes may be linked to charges against Sweetwater officer William García, arrested in August on charges of identity theft and credit card fraud, but public documents in the federal case did not provide details. However, sources familiar to the case said Muñoz, 45, will be an important witness against García.
Muñoz, who was arrested on March 10, reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last week after he agreed to be on a list of more than 50 potential witnesses against García when his trial begins in April.
Muñoz had pleaded not guilty when he was first arrested. He is now free on bail and his sentencing has been scheduled for May 9, at which time he could face up to five years in prison.
Muñoz’s lawyer, Gustavo Lage, could not be reached for comment.
South Miami Police Chief Rene Landa said on Wednesday that the crimes committed by Muñoz do not reflect the culture of his department.
“We were not aware of these activities until now, when they were made public,” Landa said. Muñoz was detached to the Drug Enforcement Administration on a task force for more than a year, Landa said.
According to the agreement with federal prosecutors, Muñoz was not charged with giving false information in an official DEA statement.
Sweetwater suspended García after his August arrest. He has maintained his innocence. His defense attorneys say their client acted within his authority as an officer and, in several cases, under orders from his supervisors.
In early March, García asked the city to pay his legal fees. Sweetwater commissioners denied the request.
FBI agents arrested García in August, accusing him of using counterfeit credit cards and stealing credit card numbers, including the card of a suspect he had arrested. García worked with an informant, who later agreed to cooperate with the FBI.
García’s arrest was another scandal that shook Sweetwater in 2013. The FBI also arrested then-Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for official favors using his position as an elected official. Maroño plead guilty and is now in federal prison, serving a 40-month sentence.
The scandal also affected other officers. Octavio Oliu and Reny García have been suspended with pay since September, while federal and county authorities conduct an investigation of the Sweetwater force. Auxiliary police officer Richard Brenner also was suspended, but was reinstated, then fired late last year.
Also, as part of the investigation, authorities are reviewing the activities of a towing company linked to Maroño in connection with the police department.
Ex-East Haven cop Michael D’Amato gets 18 months in evidence theft case
By Evan Lips
NEW HAVEN >> Michael D’Amato, the former East Haven detective convicted in February of stealing money from the department’s evidence locker, was sentenced Friday to serve five years in prison, suspended after 18 months.
D’Amato’s sentencing came after his attorney, Tara Knight, argued for a new trial, alleging that one of the jurors may have made biased comments on a Register story detailing the conviction.
Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer, however, denied Knight’s request.
D’Amato is appealing his conviction and is free on $100,000 bail.
After Fischer denied Knight’s request for a new trial, she argued against giving D’Amato any jail time, noting that her client is not a threat to commit a similar crime again.
“He has a felony on his record, he has been called a Judas, and his family is in financial ruin,” Knight said. “And I also ask the court not to treat him any differently because he is a police officer.”
D’Amato is the fourth officer from the East Haven Police Department to be sentenced to prison this year.
D’Amato was convicted on Feb. 3 of pilfering approximately $1,328 out of a department evidence locker. He was a youth detective at the time of his December 2011 retirement. The theft occurred in March of that year, but D’Amato was not formally charged until May 2012.
The investigation focused on a five-day time frame beginning the night of March 12, 2011, and ending on March 16.
The evidence was obtained during a March 12, 2011, arrest conducted by former Officer Dennis Spaulding during a traffic stop. Spaulding discovered marijuana in addition to cash during the stop. Spaulding arrested three men and during D’Amato’s trial, another officer, former Sgt. Gary DePalma, testified that Spaulding dutifully followed the procedure for evidence submission.
Records show Spaulding entered seven evidence bags into the logbook as he was processing the March 12 arrest. D’Amato was not working on March 12, a Saturday. He returned to work on March 14, but the evidence was not reported missing until March 17, since the officer in charge of managing the evidence room was out sick for two days prior.
Surveillance video shown to jurors depicts D’Amato on March 14 leaving the evidence room holding what prosecutors argued was an evidence bag. Jurors also heard a recording of a 20-minute interview state police Detective Sgt. William Bundy conducted in July 2011.
The interview features D’Amato acknowledging he is the man depicted in the video.
Knight attempted to poke holes in DePalma’s testimony, pointing out to jurors that Spaulding’s former supervisor testified he never saw the money being physically entered into the evidence lockbox but heard the door close.
Had he admitted to the crime, D’Amato would have received only a misdemeanor conviction carrying no jail time. Instead, he was convicted on two felonies consisting of second-degree larceny and tampering with evidence.
During Friday’s sentencing, Assistant State’s Attorny Kevin Shay stressed to Fischer the fact D’Amato committed a “breach of trust.”
“The last thing in the world I want is for other officers to think they can go and steal evidence and avoid incarceration,” Shay said.
Knight countered that Fischer should consider the degree of “abuse and ridicule from other inmates” when an inmate happens to be a former police officer. She added that D’Amato’s background is “spotless,” as he is a dedicated family man with no prior history of offenses.
“People do make deposits into the bank of life,” Knight said.
Fischer said there is “no doubt in this court’s mind he is a very good husband and father” and added he “will not punish him based on his execution of a right to trial.”
“But for whatever reason, you decided to steal more than $1,300,” Fischer said. “You not only stained the East Haven Police Department but also other officers in the region who work honestly.”
Knight said the bulk of D’Amato’s conviction appeal will center around the possibility a juror posted opinions on the Register website. The poster in question, who goes by the handle “BenThere,” wrote claims such as “if you were in the court room the entire time and saw all the evidence I did, by law you would have to render a guilty verdict.”
Knight also pointed out that “BenThere” faulted D’Amato for never testifying in his defense. Another comment she highlighted referred to the fact “BenThere” knew the occupations of the other jurors.
“This was a jury of his peers, made up of an engineer, truck mechanic, crane operator, line worker, medical personnel, retiree and salesman,” the poster wrote.
At one point, the poster calls out former Officer George Kammerer, the evidence room manager who testified. Kammerer, who commented under his real name, responded by saying, “you must be the crackhead-looking juror.”
In denying Knight’s motion for a new trial, Fischer said the state “has a strong interest in the finality of judgment.”
Police Lieutenant and Officer Indicted on Federal Drug Charges
St. Louis, Missouri - Lieutenant Parrish Swanson and Officer Raymond Stephens are charged with conspiracy to distribute and attempted distribution of heroin.
According to the indictment, during March 2014, Swanson and Stephens agreed to assist an associate, a suspected drug dealer, rob—or what is more commonly referred to as rip off—a drug courier of an amount of heroin within the city of Hillsdale. The associate agreed to pay Swanson and Stephens cash for their assistance in this rip off. On March 20, 2014, Stephens, while on duty as a Hillsdale Police officer, approached the drug courier and robbed him of approximately four ounces of suspected heroin. He later met with the associate and gave him the heroin in exchange for $900 cash. Stephens then gave Swanson $200 of the $900 per their previous agreement.
Swanson, 40, St. Louis, and Stevens, 28, St. Charles, were each indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on one felony count each of conspiracy to distribute heroin and attempt to distribute heroin. They were arrested by FBI agents this morning.
If convicted, each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the St. Louis County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Hal Goldsmith and John Bodenhausen are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Ex-Hall deputy charged with stealing county property
By Jeff Gill
A former Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been charged with stealing county property and violating his oath as an officer.
Joel Clifton Ayers, 35, who served in the jail division, was fired Thursday after authorities learned he had stolen a residential metal air handler, which is part of a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system, according to the sheriff’s office.
The part was valued at less than $1,500, spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said.
After discovering the theft, the sheriff’s office requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter.
“As a result of that investigation, it was determined that his actions rose to a criminal level,” a sheriff’s office press release stated.
GBI Agents obtained arrest warrants for Ayers on Thursday, and Ayers surrendered Friday at the Hall County Jail. He was booked on one count each of misdemeanor theft by taking and violation of oath of office, a felony.
“Law enforcement officers, like any other citizen, are bound by the laws of our society,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in the press release. “These types of incidents are the exception among a department of excellent officers and criminal misconduct, by anyone, will not be overlooked or downplayed.”
Ayers, who is free on $4,000 bail, had worked for the sheriff’s office between January 2005 and September 2011. He was rehired on April 30, 2012, when he accepted a position overseeing inmates assigned to work details, the press release states.
Ayers, who lives in Lavonia, couldn’t be reached for comment.
This case remains under investigation by the GBI.
Charges against a high school teacher accused of killing a woman while driving drunk were dismissed this week — a month after a police officer was indicted and declared he would no longer help prosecute the dozens of suspected drunken drivers he arrested.
Christopher Purcell, a longtime Iroquois High School teacher, was arrested in August 2012 by Louisville Metro Police Officer Christopher Thurman.
Thurman, 37, specialized in DUI enforcement but was indicted last month on accusations that he bilked taxpayers for more than $10,000 in phony overtime pay. He is charged with official misconduct and theft by deception, facing the possibility of a decade in prison.
His attorney told the county attorney and the commonwealth's attorney that Thurman will assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify in more than 100 pending criminal cases he investigated. Most are misdemeanors, prosecuted by the county attorney. But several, including the case against Purcell, include felony murder and manslaughter charges.
The drunken driving and manslaughter charges against Purcell relied on Thurman's word, said Leland Hulbert, a spokesman for the commonwealth attorney's office. Purcell's blood-alcohol content level wasn't far above the legal line, and the case hinged on Thurman's testimony about how the suspect performed on field-sobriety tests.
Prosecutors decided to dismiss the charges earlier this week in what Hulbert said was a frustrating decision for prosecutors and the family of the woman killed.
"There's not a lot we can tell the victim's family," he said. "They feel like the system cheated them, the system failed them. And there's not a lot of comfort we can give them."
Purcell was allegedly driving drunk in August 2012, when he crashed into a motorcycle near Strathmoor Boulevard and Bardstown Road.
Tracey Blevins, 31, died at the scene.
Thurman is accused of stealing more than $10,000 he did not earn between January 2011 and September 2013. He had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors are evaluating his other cases to determine whether they can pursue them without his cooperation.
BY DANA DiFILIPPO
A PHILADELPHIA man whose drug conviction was reversed after he spent 13 years in prison is suing the city and the three officers whose lies landed him behind bars.
Kareem Torain, 36, filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court yesterday against the city, ex-cop Jeffrey Walker and cops Brian Reynolds and Brian Monaghan, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and unjust incarceration.
Torain was arrested on drug charges in January 2001 in North Philadelphia - even though officers didn't see him with drugs and found no narcotics on him - after the officers fabricated information on police paperwork and lied at trial, attorney Michael Pileggi said. Torain was convicted in May 2002 and sentenced in September 2003 to 12 1/2 to 22 1/2 years in prison.
Torain's conviction was reversed last month. He's seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit is the latest in a string of lawsuits and overturned convictions tied to tainted narcotics officers. Philadelphia courts have dismissed hundreds of drug arrests made by the officers, who have faced dozens of lawsuits alleging they routinely framed suspects with phony testimony and evidence.
Walker, a 24-year police veteran who worked in the Narcotics Field Unit since March 1999, pleaded guilty in February to various charges for stealing $15,000 from a drug dealer's home.
Walker's attorney has said he's now cooperating with federal investigators probing other narcotics officers, many of whom (including Reynolds) have been pulled from street duty or reassigned.
Torain's suit accuses the city of "systemic deficiencies and deliberate indifference to the danger or harm to citizens," claiming chronic delays in resolving disciplinary complaints and ineffective internal investigations and discipline.
"Police officers . . . believe that they can violate the rights of citizens with impunity, including the use of fraud and falsehood," Pileggi wrote in the 41-page complaint.
By Richard Ilgenfritz
A lawsuit was recently filed against Lower Merion Township and two police officers for alleged civil rights violations in connection with the man’s arrest and allegations that police officers violated his civil rights by taking his car.
According to the complaint that was filed as part of a federal lawsuit last week, Lower Merion police officers confiscated a car belonging to the plaintiff, Gene Linkmeyer. The complaint also alleges that Linkmeyer “was assaulted by police and then subsequently, falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted by the Lower Merion Township police department.”
“Plaintiff’s arrest, imprisonment and prosecution was without probable cause, for crimes which he did not commit, by the officers of the Lower Merion Township police department, including, but perhaps not limited to the individual Defendants named herein,” the suit claims.
When contacted, Lower Merion officials declined to comment on the case. Jeffrey Lessin, the attorney for Linkmeyer, when contacted, said he would have to speak with his client or ask his client if he wanted to be interviewed. Neither followed up with Main Line Media News.
Court records state that Linkmeyer is asking for monetary relief for alleged violation for the fourth and 14th amendments.
The points made in the complaint date back to Nov. 10, 2012 when Linkmeyer says police took his 1999 Toyota Camry and gave it to Linkmeyer’s wife. The suit contends that Linkmeyer and his wife, Marlene, were going through divorce proceedings at the time and that he had allowed his wife to use the car. A judge, Kathryn Wall, ordered her to maintain the insurance on the car, the suit claims.
Linkmeyer’s suit says that he took his car back Nov. 10 of 2012 when he learned that car had been ticketed in numerous jurisdictions for various violations and for her allowing the registration to expire.
Linkmeyer said in the suit that as the registered owner of the car the tickets subjected him to arrest if not paid.
He also said he informed his wife and her lawyer that he was taking the car back if she could not show proof of registration, payment of the tickets and the proof of insurance. Once he took the car back, his wife then reported the car stolen to police.
When police went to Linkmeyer’s home, he said police checked the DMV report on who was the owner of the car. The report came back that Linkmeyer was the owner.
Linkmeyer said police then told him, “Well, we are taking your car.”
The car was then taken to Marlene Linkmeyer, court records state.
Linkmeyer said an officer placed his hand on Linkmeyer’s chest and forcefully shoved him. The lawsuit then says that on Dec. 4 and again Dec. 5, Linkmeyer was arrested for violating a Protection From Abuse (PFA) against his wife. However, Linkmeyer says the PFA against him did not prohibit him from having any direct contact with his wife.
“Plaintiff Gene M. Linkmeyer also lived in constant fear of additional use of excessive force on him by defendants, and additional false arrest, including, but not limited to false arrest for alleged violation of his conditions of pre-trial bail,” the suit contends.
Jailed for 13 years, man sues for wrongful arrest, imprisonment
The Durham Police Department has come under fire from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Durham Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement Coalition following claims of racial profiling and unethically paying informants.
The SCSJ and Durham FADE Coalition have unearthed evidence that the DPD pays unconstitutional conviction bonuses to undercover informants in drug cases, creates license checkpoints for drug interdiction and uses federal grant money to fund undercover marijuana buys in black neighborhoods.
Assistant Chief of Police Jon Peter denied the accusations that the department racially profiles drug arrests after two attorneys produced documents that marijuana arrests have increased 70 percent since Police Chief Jose Lopez took office, with the vast majority of those arrested being black.
"Durham really stood out like a sore thumb. It had one of the largest racial disparities in the state, with respect to African American drivers," said Ian Mance, a Soros Justice Fellow and civil rights attorney from SCSJ who compiled the evidence.
He noted that SCSJ uploaded search data from the State Bureau of Investigation database. From a total of more that 15 million recorded traffic stops, he said it was clear that Durham had an abnormal stop practice, with a very high rate of stopping African American drivers.
Following this red flag that DPD's practices fell outside of the norm, the SCSJ began investigating more of the department records.
One of the most disturbing finds, Mance said, was that the department pays secret cash rewards to drug informants based on the effectiveness of their testimonies or cooperation.
Although it is DPD's policy to pay informants for working on these higher level cases, an official statement maintained that the amount of these bonuses does not depend on if a conviction is achieved.
"The Durham Police Department denies any unethical or illegal activity as it relates to the paying of bonuses to confidential informants," the statement read. "The Police Department has never paid for convictions, only cooperation through case completion."
In a memo obtained by The Chronicle from Peter to Chief Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols dated Feb. 18, he noted that it is a common law enforcement practice nationally to not pay confidential informants until after trials are concluded.
"I have no concerns about there being integrity issues related to bonus payments for [confidential informants] after case completion," the memo stated.
The department is asking their police attorney to review practices to ensure that there are no procedural or legal issues in how they handle informants and their payment.
"They haven't had a lot of time to respond. We threw a lot of information at them in a very short period of time. I want to give them the opportunity to review the information and do their own investigation before we do anything further," Mance said.
A June 2012 study written by Frank Baumgartner—Richard J. Richardson Professor of political science—alleged racial disparities in traffic stops, searches and arrests in Durham. In the study, he reported that in Durham county, black drivers were 162 percent more likely to be stopped for a seat belt violation than a white driver. The study also found that blacks are 77 percent more likely than whites to be searched at a traffic stop.
By Dave Collins
lawmakers are considering imposing new requirements on police departments statewide on how they receive and investigate complaints from residents alleging misconduct by officers.
Legislators have drafted a bill that they say is in response to several police departments not accepting or investigating complaints about inappropriate behavior by officers. The Judiciary Committee approved the bill last week, and it awaits action in the House and Senate.
The committee singled out East Haven police for not accepting complaints about racial profiling. Such complaints led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation that began in 2009 and found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing in East Haven, particularly against Latinos. The probe led to four town officers being sentenced to prison and police being required to make improvements as part of a 2012 consent decree.
A federal report earlier this year said East Haven had made “remarkable” progress in fixing the problems and commended Police Chief Brent Larrabee and his management team.
Larrabee, who became chief in 2012, said Monday that he disagrees with the committee’s characterization of his department, calling it too broad. He said most town officers were never accused of wrongdoing in the federal investigation.
He also took issue with the committee saying in a report that bill was partly in response to “East Haven Police Department’s profiling of residents and not accepting their complaints.”
“I’m not sure where they’re coming up with that information, other than the indictment (of the four officers),” Larrabee said. “That certainly has not been the practice or the policy of the department.”
State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, co-sponsored the bill.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, told the Judiciary Committee in February that Connecticut needs statewide standards for how police departments accept and investigate complaints.
“In the past year, the ACLU of Connecticut has heard from many people who had trouble filing complaints about police misconduct with police departments in Connecticut,” Schneider said.
The ACLU said a study it did in 2012 found that many police departments had barriers to accepting police misconduct complaints from residents.
“Some departments don’t make complaint forms available to the public,” Schneider said. “Most refuse to accept anonymous complaints and many impose time limits on receiving complaints and many require sworn statements and threaten criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit for false statements.”
The bill would require the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council, which runs the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden, to develop and implement a policy on how police departments should handle complaints alleging misconduct by officers. It also would require police departments to implement that policy, or a similar one that meets standards spelled out in the bill.
The council would have to consider whether to allow anonymous complaints and whether to include protections for people who file complaints, under the bill.
Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, secretary and treasurer for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, told the Judiciary Committee that the association doesn’t oppose the bill.
SANTA CLARA, Utah — The number of officers being investigated for allegations of misconduct has been increasing.
On Thursday, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council met to hand out discipline against 14 deputies, dispatchers and officers facing misconduct accusations. Some of the accused came to personally plead their cases.
“I want to be able to come here and take accountability for what I did,” said former St. George police officer Brandon Haws. “I don’t believe it meets the standard of revocation.”
Haws, a former school resource officer, was disciplined for sending inappropriate texts, pics and video to a 17-year-old student. His attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, told the POST Council that it was inappropriate, but she said it was determined that none of the posts were sexual in nature.
The POST Council revoked his badge anyway.
The number of police officers facing discipline by POST has been increasing. On Thursday, the council — made up of law enforcement agency representatives — announced the hiring of a fifth investigator to handle the caseload.
“On average, it’s an upward trend,” said POST Executive Director Scott Stephenson. “But just like everything, there are peaks and valleys.”
In 2013, POST received 176 complaints of misconduct involving officers. It opened 108 investigations. The top offenses were DUI, theft, domestic violence and lying, said POST Lt. Al Acosta.
In recent years, the number of investigations had dropped because POST changed its policy in 2010 to no longer investigate what have been termed “bedroom crimes,” private sexual conduct involving officers such as an extramarital affair. It reflected court rulings about private sexual conduct, Stephenson said.
“We no longer look at those unless they are considered on-duty,” he told FOX 13 News.
While the cases can be shocking, POST Council notes that there are nearly 9,000 certified peace officers in the state. The number of those disciplined still amounts to less than one percent.
“These are tough situations. We’re dealing with people and their lives,” Stephenson said. “These are never easy things. This is the ugly side of my job.”
Those disciplined by the POST Council on Thursday included:
• William Barney, a former Utah Co. Sheriff’s deputy whose badge was revoked for custodial sexual misconduct;
• Rick Goulding, a former St. George police officer who received a 3-year suspension for sexual conduct on duty;
• Christopher Schoenfeld, a former Summit Co. Sheriff’s deputy who received a 2-years suspension for falsifying information to obtain certification;
• Cache Miller, a former Garfield Co. Sheriff’s deputy who received a 2-year suspension for assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child;
• Craig Brown, a Wayne Co. Sheriff’s deputy who received an 18-month suspension for a DUI accusation. Brown told the POST Council he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder;
• Randall Scott Hall, a former Utah corrections officer who was given a 15-month suspension for theft and disorderly conduct;
• Nathan Brimhall, a former Springville officer who received a 1-year suspension for falsifying government records;
• Jon Gardner, a former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper who received a 1-year suspension for a DUI offense in Colorado. Gardner gained notoriety for a YouTube video that was posted showing him using a Taser on a man during a traffic stop;
• Makette Morgan, a DPS dispatcher, was given a letter of caution in a domestic violence case;
• Brian Kirby, a Sunset police officer, was given a 3-month suspension for criminal trespassing;
• Anita Bench, a South Salt Lake police officer, was given a letter of caution for a BCI violation. POST investigators said she and Eric Jenson improperly used a state driver license database to look up information. Jenson was also given a letter of caution;
• Chastity Corona, a Unified Police dispatcher, was given an 18-month suspension after being arrested for DUI and having an open container
by Kendall Downing
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer faces 13 charges related to a criminal investigation.
IMPD officer Cory Owensby is suspended without pay, and Chief Rick Hite said Thursday afternoon he’s pushing for termination. A special grand jury indicted the officer on 13 counts, including official misconduct, criminal conversion, and false informing.
Prosecutors believe Owensby mishandled evidence and even withheld it from IMPD’s property room.
Owensby is the son of Fraternal Order of Police Local 86 President Bill Owensby.
The indictments detail alleged criminal action through 2012 and 2013.
The IMPD Civilian Police Merit Board will decide Owensby’s fate as an officer of the law.
“In keeping on policy based on these type charges, it’s a view toward termination,” said Chief Rick Hite.
The thirteen counts include eight misdemeanors and five felonies after an investigation showed Owensby failed to put evidence in IMPD’s property room.
A steel axe, marijuana, a marijuana pipe/rolling papers, and pills are among the evidentiary items alleged to have been taken. The indictments also state Owensby gave false information in some cases.
“We are looking at what the impact has been, but it wasn’t a widespread kind of case where we can show chapter and verse there were multiple cases impacted. And at this point, we’re still looking into that,” said Hite.
Hite said IMPD is still investigating how many cases may be affected.
“It certainly raises concerns for any type of investigation that may be pending,” said Marla Thomas, a criminal defense attorney.
Thomas said it’s almost a certainty lawyers in town will be checking their clients’ cases to see if Owensby is listed as an investigating officer. Thomas said the indictments will turn up the heat on any matter he’s handled.
“We have a lot of very good officers in the city, even I will say that as a criminal defense attorney. However, the bad ones tend to get the press and be the ones that cause us to have concerns,” she said.
Chief Hite said IMPD’s internal affairs investigation first caught the questionable behavior. He also says there are changes underway in the way records are managed.
Owensby was placed on suspension without pay pending a termination hearing before the IMPD Civilian Police Merit Board.
Owensby’s attorney John Kautzman said as of Thursday night
By Ebony Walmsley, New Haven Register
A police officer was slammed with a 30-day unpaid suspension along with a verbal reprimand by the Police Commission after he was found guilty of two charges in an ethics and integrity case.
However, the punishiment handed out to the officer was lighter than Police Chief Thomas J. Wydra’s written recommendation, which was that the officer be terminated.
Sgt. Brent Zuscin was suspended for 30 days without pay, banned from using the criminal justice database called COLLECT and verbally reprimanded after a recent vote by the police commission.
The commission found that in November 2012, Zuscin accessed the COLLECT system to find the status of the registration of a license plate of a “female acquaintance.”
On another occasion in November 2012, Zuscin allegedly allowed a female visitor into the police department and into Central Communications without signing the visitor in at the front desk and without issuing a visitor’s pass. Zuscin was issued a verbal reprimand for the violation.
Zuscin was charged with neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. He will return to work May 5.
“Sergeant Zuscin’s intentional misuse of the COLLECT system is a breach of the public trust that has produced irrevocable career consequences and has rendered him incapable of performing any of the basic or complex functions of a police officer,” Wydra said in his letter.
Michael Iezzi, chairman of the Police Commission, said the decision was a unanimous one.
“They (commission) evaluated all of the testimony and evidence and it was unanimously decided that a 30-day suspension was what was warranted for his actions. The commission made its decision based on evidence and testimony. It is now up to the chief to find a position that will be productive for the police officer and the town without the use of COLLECT,” Iezzi said.
When asked what job Zuscin could hold without having access to the criminal justice system, Wydra said, “I’ll have to find him clerical work outside the office.”
Despite opposite opinions, Iezzi said it’s up to Wydra and the police commissioners to “work together for the betterment of the town.”
According to Wydra’s letter, Zuscin’s access to the COLLECT system has “been permanently revoked by the state (and) that justifies and warrants termination from employment with the Hamden Police Department.”
Wydra said Zuscin’s misuse of the system violated the rules and policies that oversees the user access of the system.
According to Wydra’s letter, Zuscin received initial and recertification training sessions on the COLLECT system on several occasions. Wydra said Zuscin received specific recertification training in the areas of system security and the rules of user access.
“He was fully educated on the guidelines governing acceptable access to the system,” Wydra said in his letter.
Iezzi said the decision for a 30-day suspension coincided with following the commission’s charter.
“The charter dictates our responsibilities,” Iezzi said. “I have a responsibility, I have four other commissioners that have to make decisions.” Zuscin has been a member of the Police Department for more than 17 years.
Zuscin also faced two additional counts of neglect of duty and four other counts of conduct unbecoming. The Police Commission dismissed the charges.
“Law enforcement officers are expected to execute their sworn duties and responsibilities honestly, ethically and within the confines of established policies, procedures and guideline,” Wydra states in his letter.
Brooklyn law student arrested for questioning cops parked at a bus stop to buy food, sues city for false arrest
Tzvi Richt, 22, says he received two disorderly conduct summonses for questioning Officers Graham Brathwaite and Jason Pinero of the 61st Precinct who parked at a bus stop to get easy access to a food truck.
BY JOHN MARZULLI
Officers Graham Brathwaite and Jason Pinero of the NYPD 61st Precinct in Brooklyn are being sued for false arrest.
A Brooklyn law school student got a lesson in street justice from the NYPD after he complained cops chased a car from a bus stop — only to take the spot for themselves so they could buy food.
Tzvi Richt, 22, is suing the city and Officers Graham Brathwaite and Jason Pinero of the 61st Precinct for false arrest. He says he received two disorderly conduct summonses for merely questioning their actions.
Richt was apparently indignant that the cops had parked in the bus stop slot for easy access to a food truck and told them so “in a normal tone of voice, not yelling or shouting,” according to the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
After Richt didn’t heed Brathwaite’s advice to mind his own business, the cop demanded Richt’s identification. The law student was handcuffed after he questioned the legality of that request.
The summonses were later dismissed, but Brathwaite may soon learn a lesson of his own: He has been transferred to desk duty while the NYPD and Civilian Complaint Review Board investigate Richt’s claims, according to the suit.
Police fire flashbang grenades at James Boyd as he cooperates (Credit: ProgressNow)
A video showing Albuquerque cops assaulting, shooting and killing a mentally ill homeless man who was illegally camping has sparked outrage and calls for greater oversight of the consistently brutal police department.
ProgressNow, a New Mexico-based progressive advocacy group, noted that while “Albuquerque’s new police chief, Gordon Eden, announced Friday that he had determined officers who shot and killed a homeless camper on city property on March 16 were justified in their actions … a video from the scene released by the department on the same day shows officers negotiating a peaceful surrender with the subject, then attacking him with a flashbang grenade as he walks towards them on their command.”
When 38-year-old James Boyd then retreated from the bombardment, he was shot with live rounds and later died.
The Albuquerque Police Department has been under federal review by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2012 when the agency’s record of shooting 25 suspect – 17 fatal – garnered national attention. The department has added 11 more shootings to that list since the end of 2012. Albuquerque officers have shot more persons than the NYPD, a department serving a city 16-times larger, since 2010.
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