A Houston County judge Tuesday upheld the suspension of a Dothan police officer who was later terminated from the department. Raemonica Carney was suspended 10 days last year after posting comments to her Facebook page that the city contends were against policy.
After Carney appealed the suspension, the Personnel Board ruled Police Chief Greg Benton acted appropriately in suspending Carney and placing her on department probation.
In a later, separate incident Carney was fired in December after being involved in an off-duty domestic incident involving her boyfriend. She has appealed the termination to the Personnel Board but a hearing on that matter is not scheduled at this time.
In the ruling regarding Carney’s suspension Circuit Judge Butch Binford said “The Court finds that there was substantial evidence presented to the Personnel Board to support the Board’s decision. Therefore the decision of the Board is hereby affirmed.”
The Facebook posts were in response to a shooting spree by Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner who later died in a standoff with other officers.
Binford’s ruling comes one day after the Personnel Board found Benton was correct to terminate Police Captain Keith Gray for violation of department policy.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The N.C. Attorney General's office says it will seek an indictment against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer accused in the 2013 shooting death of a former football player.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the attorney general's office announced Monday that the case of suspended officer Randall Kerrick will go to the grand jury on Jan. 21. Kerrick is charged with last September's shooting death of Jonathon Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player.
A statement quotes state prosecutors as saying they reached their decision after reviewing the investigations of the shooting by the State Bureau of Investigation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. George Laughrun, Kerrick's attorney, said the announcement is nothing they were surprised about. Kerrick, who is white, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ferrell, who is black
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A businessman and ex-friend of the city's former police chief was sentenced Tuesday to three years' probation for bribing a city official to get a $327,000 contract to put radios and computers in city police cars.
Arthur Bedway Jr., who pleaded guilty in August, was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine. He again blamed many of his troubles on the former chief, Nathan Harper Jr., who faces sentencing in federal court next month on unrelated charges stemming from a city police slush fund and failing to file federal tax returns.
"Thirty years of friendship put me on these steps today," Bedway said outside the U.S. District Court building after his sentencing. "Don't trust your friends."
Bedway, 64, contends Harper came up with the idea to rename a security firm owned by Bedway as Alpha Outfitters so the company could bid on the 2007 contract.
Bedway contends Harper received $9,000 for his role in the scheme, a claim Harper's attorneys have repeatedly denied. Bedway made similar comments following his guilty plea, and his attorney, Martin Dietz, filed a presentence memorandum this month claiming Harper hatched the scheme and recruited Bedway to join it.
Harper's attorney, Robert DelGreco, again denied that Thursday, even after U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon told Bedway she found his explanation "credible, albeit not excusable" in sentencing him to probation instead of 12 to 18 months in prison, as recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.
"Does the government have any evidence that what Mr. Bedway says about how he became involved in this scheme is untrue?" the judge asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Karl.
"No," Karl said.
Bedway's attorney seized on those statements in comments after the sentencing.
"She found it credible that Bedway got involved in this behavior because Nate Harper recruited him," Dietz said, adding later, "He was facing a jail guideline-range sentence and she imposed probation."
Karl and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar, who also prosecuted the case, referred comment to U.S. Attorney David Hickton. Hickton, through his spokeswoman, declined to comment.
But DelGreco said if prosecutors could prove Bedway's claims about Harper were true, "then I think they would have, and they would have filed charges, which they have not."
The only other person charged in the scheme, an ex-city employee named Christine Kebr, faces sentencing next month. Kebr pleaded guilty to taking $6,000 from Bedway to make it appear Alpha Outfitters was owned by a woman to take advantage of set-asides for such businesses.
Harper resigned in February and was indicted in March on charges he conspired to set up a secret $70,000 police slush fund using fees collected from bars and other businesses that hire city officers to work off-duty security details. Harper has pleaded guilty to spending more than $30,000 from the fund for personal reasons and to not filing federal tax returns from 2008 to 2011.
Dietz said he believes Harper hasn't been charged in the Bedway scheme because he's helped in federal investigations against unspecified individuals. DelGreco denied that.
"There's been a lot of discussion about some cooperation agreement. That simply does not exist," DelGreco said. "The chief does not have a plea bargain for his present matters, and never has there been a discussion about leniency or a pass on any charges in exchange for his cooperation."
Last week, Hickton confirmed that an ongoing federal investigation in which former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's police bodyguards and others have been subpoenaed by a grand jury began only after Harper was charged.
Ravenstahl, whose term expired last month, dropped his re-election bid three weeks before Harper was indicted.
The former mayor has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has yet to be charged. Ravenstahl's bodyguards have said they were questioned about their pay and expense records, particularly pertaining to instances when the 33-year-old divorced mayor would be out at night.
QUEENSBURY -- A retired New York City police officer who was living in Queensbury was one of 106 people arrested recently on felony charges related to alleged disability fraud, officials said.
Robert Morrissey, 59, of Nelson Road, was charged with second-degree grand larceny, a felony, and misdemeanor criminal facilitation, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
He was one of 106 former New York City police officers and firefighters accused of lying about psychiatric conditions to get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to which they weren’t entitled.
Many of those who were charged were accused of lying about their involvement in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, though it was unclear if Morrissey’s case stemmed from that situation.
He is accused of receiving more than $50,000 in benefits to which he wasn’t entitled.
State Police from Queensbury assisted New York Police in locating Morrissey last week.
He was taken to New York City for arraignment, and his release status was unavailable Monday.
By Felicia Kitzmiller
A Lyman police officer was arrested by the State Law Enforcement Division and charged with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office Monday afternoon.
Mayor Rodney Turner released a statement a short time later stating Michael Hames, 44, of 202 Overhead Bridge Road in Chesnee is on administrative leave pending the outcome of SLED's investigation.
SLED was unable to provide a copy of the warrants Monday night, but SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson read the narrative of the warrant via phone.
Between Aug. 12 and Aug. 16, Hames is accused of “knowingly and willfully” altering and destroying evidence related to an active criminal investigation, Richardson said.
According to the warrant information, Richardson said, this was done “to impede, obstruct, interfere with or influence proper administration of the criminal justice function.”
Richardson would not say what investigation Hames is accused of interfering with, nor would she say what evidence was destroyed or how. She said the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Turner did not immediately return phone calls inquiring whether Hames would receive pay while on leave and how long the officer has worked for the department.
In 1987, Hames pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny, two counts of burglary and one count of arson, according to online court documents. In 1992, Hames received a full pardon, the Herald-Journal reported in a 1996 article.
WOODBURY — James Stuart, a Deptford police officer charged with the murder of a 27-year-old last year, appeared in court for a brief hearing Monday morning.
Stuart, 30, appeared before Superior Court Judge Walter Marshall Jr., however, additional discovery materials were needed. Marshall opted to schedule the next hearing for Feb. 18.
Stuart pleaded not guilty in November to first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in connection with a fatal shooting on Jan. 5 at his Stanford Avenue home in Deptford.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, Stuart called a side phone line at his police department because his friend, David Compton, had been "shot in the cheek."
On a recording of the emergency call, a calm Stuart told dispatchers Compton was “playing with my [service] weapon. It was loaded. There was a shot fired.”
Compton, a Woodbury resident, was taken off life support six days later and died of his injuries. His family said last year that Stuart's call to his own police department was "self-serving."
Monday, Bill Compton, David's father, said the delay is frustrating, particularly because attorneys claim to be missing discovery information.
"What frustrates me the most is things are missing," said Bill, who appeared in the courtroom with his wife, Maureen, and David's sister, Tracey Sharpe.
"I just have to have faith that justice will be served," Bill Compton said.
Stuart, whose attorney John C. Eastlack could not be reached for comment Monday, is free on bail.
By Jason Meisner and Joseph Ryan, Tribune reporters
8:14 a.m. CST, January 15, 2014
The former cop and death row inmate was callous and calculated, quoting military tactics as he considered which of two targets it made the most sense to kill in order to take over their chunk of a lucrative strip club, federal authorities allege.
"You chop the snake's head off. Pow," Steven Mandell allegedly told an undercover informant in September 2012 as a hidden video recorder rolled. "I still don't think you have a clear path on how it plays out, but at least we'd be on our way, wouldn't we?"
In the end, Mandell decided to kill the more vulnerable of the two — and his wife if necessary — then place a threatening phone call to the second target's wife to convince him to walk away, according to transcripts of the secret recordings filed recently in federal court.
And in case anyone thought the Chicago Outfit's infamous Elmwood Park crew didn't have muscle anymore, Mandell had a special message.
"Tell that (expletive) husband to leave this situation alone, or else," Mandell said he would tell the wife, according to the government filing. "'Cause I'll show you what Elmwood Park really looks like. I can get really nasty."
On the FBI video, Mandell then drew a hand across this throat and made a "slitting sound," the filing said.
The chilling new details have emerged a month before Mandell, 63, is set to go on trial in U.S. District Court in connection with a series of alleged plots, including a gruesome scheme to kidnap and extort a local businessman, then kill him and dismember the body.
Now, through details provided in the court record, the Tribune has confirmed that the strip club associate Mandell had allegedly planned to kill, identified in the government filing only as "Victim 2," was Anthony Quaranta, a former Franklin Park cop known as "Tony Q." He also allegedly targeted Quaranta's associate, Demitri Stavropoulos, a highly paid "consultant" at the Polekatz strip club in suburban Bridgeview who was identified in the court record only as "Associate 1."
Cloak and dagger
The court document also paints a more detailed picture of just how reckless and daring Mandell — formerly known as Steven Manning — had allegedly become before his sensational arrest in October 2012.
According to the government filing, for several weeks that fall, Mandell and his alleged associate, Gary Engel, were conducting cloak-and-dagger surveillance of Victim 2's pregnant wife while at the same time outfitting a vacant Northwest Side storefront with the industrial equipment needed to chop up a body as part of the separate plot to kill the businessman.
At one point, the FBI was conducting aerial surveillance as Mandell crouched down next to a car in a suburban mall parking lot, allegedly to install a tracking device on the car of one of his girlfriends, according to court records.
In recent months, Mandell's case has also been linked to the suspicious death of Giacomo Ruggirello, a Lake County restaurateur who perished in a fire in September 2012. The Tribune has previously reported that someone had broken into Ruggirello's Highwood restaurant on the same day as the fire and taken the office safe. Mandell's attorneys have subpoenaed the records from the suspected arson investigation.
Authorities have alleged that Mandell's schemes didn't stop with his arrest. Days later, he called his wife — an 82-year-old Buffalo Grove woman — from a federal Loop jail and asked her to get rid of evidence in the case, his indictment alleged.
Prosecutors have also alleged that Mandell tried from jail to arrange the murder of the FBI's key informant in the case — a man previously identified by the Tribune as Northwest Side real estate mogul George Michael.
Originally from the Italian section of Chicago's Near West Side known as "The Patch," Mandell's criminal history goes back to his days as a Chicago cop in the 1970s and '80s. After he was booted from the force for insurance fraud, Mandell was accused of taking part in a mob-connected jewelry theft ring and other alleged schemes, including the kidnapping and extortion of several drug dealers in Kansas City, records show.
Mandell was eventually sent to death row for the drug-related 1990 slaying of a trucking firm owner, and at his sentencing prosecutors linked Mandell to two additional unsolved murders, including the 1986 killing of his own father, Boris, according to court records.
Both his murder and Missouri kidnapping convictions were overturned on appeal after Mandell alleged authorities fabricated evidence and used a notorious jailhouse snitch to frame him. He sued the FBI and won a landmark $6.5 million in damages from a federal jury in 2005. However, a judge later threw out the award, and Mandell did not receive any money.
Records show that after the jury verdict, Mandell moved to Florida, married and started a lock and safe company out of his wife's home. When he returned to Chicago, he had changed his last name from Manning to Mandell, records show.
Mandell's trial in February will focus on a series of undercover recordings made in fall 2012 at Michael's Northwest Side realty office and the storefront on West Devon Avenue jokingly referred to in recordings as "Club Med," where Mandell and Engel allegedly planned to dismember the businessman's body.
While much of the transcripts have been blacked out for undisclosed reasons, the portions that have been made public in court filings highlight the allegedly disturbing nature of the conversations that jurors in Mandell's trial are likely to hear.
Prosecutors allege Mandell and Engel planned to wage "psychological warfare" on the kidnapping victim to coerce him to turn over his assets. In an undercover FBI recording made at Club Med in the days before the planned kidnapping, the two discussed everything from how to instill the most fear in their victim to how best to drain his body of blood.
According to one prosecution filing, Mandell was referring to the victim's genitals when he asked his alleged accomplice, "You going to put a little blade there?"
"It's like slicing a banana split," the filing quoted Engel as responding.
Following his arrest in October, Engel was found hanged in his jail cell in McHenry County, a death that has been ruled a suicide.
According to court records, Mandell was also captured talking extensively about Quaranta and Stavropoulos and their stake in Polekatz, a multimillion-dollar strip club in the south suburbs that has been engulfed in controversy over its murky finances and alleged ties to felons and organized crime associates.
Stavropoulos, identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as an organized crime associate, was brought on as a $5,000-a-week consultant at the club about a year after his release from prison for running a multistate bookmaking ring, according to court records.
A 2010 Tribune investigation also documented how Stavropoulos partnered with another alleged underworld figure, Michael "Jaws" Giorango, and borrowed millions from the family bank of former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who at the time was running for the U.S. Senate. Giorango and Stavropoulos used the money to launch their own lending business that made high-interest, short-term loans to questionable borrowers, the Tribune found.
Quaranta, meanwhile, quit the Franklin Park police in late 2002 at about the time prosecutors dropped charges that he had illegal steroids delivered to his house, records show. He later lent about $500,000 to Polekatz and became a highly paid consultant to the club. Records show that in addition to his interest in Polekatz, Quaranta either owns or has a financial interest in four other strip clubs and taverns from suburban Bedford Park to Indiana and Texas.
Quaranta did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. His attorney, Ed Wanderling, returned a message left on Quaranta's cellphone and said he could not comment on a pending investigation or "what Steve Mandell's ideas or plans were."
Wanderling said he was not aware of any plans by prosecutors to use Quaranta as a witness in Mandell's trial.
Reached by telephone recently, Stavropoulos declined to speak about the case. When asked about Mandell, Stavropoulos responded, "Who?"
'Smells like organized crime'
According to the filing by federal prosecutors, to move in on the Polekatz action, Mandell decided that it made more sense to kill Quaranta, who has no criminal record and would therefore have an easier time fighting the takeover in court if he was left alive.
On the recordings quoted in the government filing, Mandell ruminated how Stavropoulos understood muscle and would step aside once he saw that Mandell meant business.
"Although he's got a big ego, when he sees what happens to (Quaranta) and his old lady … he might (expletive) all over himself, too," Mandell allegedly said of Stavropoulos.
Mandell developed a plot to kill Quaranta and his wife at home while their children were in school, according to the government filing. He lamented it might be a "rush job" but was ready to ad lib if necessary, according to the undercover recordings.
"I know from military strategy what George Patton said, battle plans are as good as the first shot fired," the government filing quoted Mandell as saying. "Once that first shot's fired, you're almost into improvisation, right?"
Mandell's attorneys had sought to have the wiretaps barred from trial, arguing the FBI could have used normal investigative techniques to stop the alleged schemes. In denying the request last month, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve quoted snippets of a wiretapped conversation from almost a month before Mandell's arrest that showed he had planned to act dumb and lawyer up if authorities came around asking about Quaranta's murder.
"How can I help you with this (expletive)?" Mandell said he would tell investigators, according to the government filing. 'Wow — he was — this is a murder investigation? … I have a lawyer to attend to this. They'll gladly handle all your questions."
Mandell then planned to point investigators in another direction by remarking on Quaranta's background as a strip club operator.
"Italian guy, Franklin Park cop who runs five joints? That smells like organized crime," Mandell said he would say. "I think you're in the wrong neighborhood. Go beat on someone else's door."
Pawtucket cop remains held at ACI on rape accusations
By Amanda Milkovits
WARWICK, R.I. -- An ex-Pawtucket police officer remains held without bail on charges of raping and assaulting a girlfriend during an argument at his condominium in North Smithfield last November.
Stephen R. Ricco, 40, rubbed his forehead and shook his head at times as the 39-year-old woman testified during his bail hearing at Kent District Court on Monday afternoon.
The only thing that his lawyer and the prosecutor agreed on was that Ricco and his now ex-girlfriend got into a fight in the early hours of Nov. 28.
A young woman whose parents live in the neighboring condo told Judge Anthony Capraro that she heard a loud argument and a woman saying, "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!"
A property manager at the High Rocks mill building testified that she heard the couple arguing that morning, and that the woman asked her to call the police. But, she said, the woman left with Ricco before she could call.
(The Journal does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.)
Ricco was arrested by North Smithfield police on Thanksgiving, hours after the woman reported being assaulted, and he's been held at the Adult Correctional Institutions since then. Ricco is charged with felony domestic violence charges of rape and strangling, as well as misdemeanor charges of domestic disorderly conduct and simple assault.
It was the second time in a year that Ricco had been accused of assaulting a woman, which Assistant Attorney General Maureen Keough pointed out as she asked for him to be held.
Ricco was suspended from the Pawtucket police force in February and later resigned after he was accused of assaulting a different girlfriend while on duty -- including drawing his service weapon and telling her to kill him. A charge of domestic assault was dismissed, and Ricco pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.
Ricco also is married; his wife did not attend the hearing.
His lawyer, David Gentile of Providence, brought up Ricco's past police service and his wife as a reason to release him on low bail. Gentile said later that he believed Ricco had completed his anger management counseling from the case last February.
"He poses no threat to the public," Gentile said, adding that a no-contact order should be in effect.
Gentile attacked the credibility of Ricco's girlfriend, who said they had dated "on and off" for a year and a half.
She testified that she was afraid of Ricco that night, that he suddenly became angry and attacked her in his condo.
When asked repeatedly by Keough and Gentile about why she didn't call 911 or just leave when she had the opportunity, the woman admitted that she was afraid to get Ricco in trouble. His disorderly conduct charge had been filed only seven month earlier and would be destroyed if he stayed out of trouble.
And, she said, "I love him."
The woman testified that she'd met Ricco when he was a police officer, and he responded to a call at her home in Pawtucket.
They'd broken up eventually, but reconciled in the few days before Thanksgiving. The night before the holiday, he picked her up from her waitressing job and they went out to a tavern in North Smithfield and then a nearby Denny's. His mood changed, she said, and he began slamming the table -- enough to attract attention from other customers and employees.
She said she asked Ricco numerous times to take her home. Instead, she said, he punched her in the head as he drove her to his apartment, where they got into an argument that turned violent, she said. Ricco grabbed her around the neck, and she told him she couldn't breathe. When the neighbors banged on the walls, Ricco released her and shut off the lights, telling her not to answer the door.
The woman said she went into the upstairs bathroom and called Ricco's wife, who hung up on her.
The woman said that Ricco overheard the conversation and grabbed her again -- this time, holding her down in the bedroom, biting her face and raping her, the affidavit said.
The woman said she eventually persuaded Ricco to take her home. He told her not to call the police.
She said she showered and called police in Pawtucket, where she lives, who referred her to the North Smithfield police. Ricco was arrested later on Thanksgiving.
Ricco is held pending a bail review on March 27.
Hearing continued for officer accused of rape
BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio --
The preliminary hearing for a former Barnesville police officer accused of raping a mentally disabled woman has been continued.
Gary Stephen was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, but the hearing was rescheduled to Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.
Officials confirm that Stephen lost his job as a Barnesville police officer in the 1990s after he was convicted of gross sexual imposition.
Stephen is currently the Barnesville VFW post commander, according to Barnesville Police Chief David Norris.
A second suspect, Robert Smith, is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 28.
Officials said Smith went to the grocery store where the woman works and she carried Smith's groceries out to his car. At that time, Smith allegedly touched the woman inappropriately.
Both men are charged with first-degree felony rape for the Nov. 7 allegations -- officials said that due to the woman's mental state, she cannot consent to sexual intercourse even if she wanted to.
Additionally, Stephen is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition and Smith is charged with two counts of gross sexual imposition. Smith's charges stem from the Nov. 7 and Dec. 26 allegations.
Boy, 13, awarded $50,000 by Baltimore jury in wrongful-arrest case
By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
A Baltimore jury on Tuesday awarded $50,000 to a West Baltimore boy who said he was wrongly arrested more than two years ago, according to court records.
The boy, who was 13 at the time, claimed he was assaulted by officers and arrested, then let go, then re-arrested when he sought medical treatment and was handcuffed to a hospital bed. No charges were ever filed against him, according to the complaint.
While the jury didn't find THAT officers had assaulted the boy, according to his attorney, C. Justin Brown, court records show THAT jurors did award damages in the case against Officer Dale Mattingly Jr.
The victim's mother, Nicole Young, said she was pleased with the verdict, though her son remains fearful of police. "I believe that next time, they will probably think twice before they do something like this," Young said.
Young filed the suit on behalf of her son and asked that he not be identified because he is a juvenile.
Attorneys for the officers could not be reached for comment.
In his complaint, the boy said he was walking to his grandmother's home on Hollins Street on the afternoon of July 15, 2011, when officers pulled up and ordered him over to their vehicle.
He claimed that he continued walking and that Mattingly chased him to a fence, grabbed him and threw him to the ground. The boy said he was punched five times in the face as another officer stood by, according to the complaint.
The boy said he was handcuffed and placed in the police car and taken to the Southwestern District station on Font Hill Avenue. He said the officers were then dispatched to a shooting, and dropped him off at his grandmother's house without filing charges.
When the boy's mother saw his injuries, she asked firefighters from a nearby firehouse to treat him. Mattingly and the other officer responded to the firehouse and placed the boy under arrest, according to court documents. They took him to University of Maryland Medical Center, where he was handcuffed to the hospital bed.
"In a case like this, it's nice to see that the system works," Brown said of the jury finding.
Retired cop accused of fatally shooting man for texting in Florida movie theater
A retired police officer allegedly shot two people, one fatally, during a cell phone dispute inside a Florida movie theater Monday, authorities said.
The dispute began around 1:30 p.m. at a theater in Wesley Chapel when Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, told 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting during a showing of "Lone Survivor," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said. When Oulson refused, Reeves alerted the theater staff, which escalated the confrontation.
At that point Reeves allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Oulson, authorities said. Oulson's wife, Nicole, put her hand in front of her husband in an effort to protect him and was injured.
Chad Oulson later died from the gunshot.
An off-duty police officer who was present at the scene restrained Reeves until authorities arrived, Nocco said.
Reeves, who retired from the Tampa Police Department in September 1993 as a captain, was charged with second-degree homicide, authorities said.
Nocco said his detectives considered if the case qualified under the state's controversial "stand your ground law," which permits residents to employ deadly force if they fear imminent danger, but decided the criteria did not apply, MyFoxTampaBay.com reported.
"It's absolutely crazy it would rise to this level over somebody just texting in a movie theater," Charles Cummings, a Vietnam veteran who was watching the movie at the time of the shooting, told MyFoxTampaBay.com. "I can't believe people would bring a gun to a movie."
Mercer Sheriff's Officer used pepper spray on handcuffed woman, officials say
Alyssa Mease/The Times of Trenton
A Mercer County Sheriff’s Officer was suspended without pay last month after he allegedly pepper-sprayed a handcuffed woman and then falsified his report detailing the incident, officials said.
Sean Lavin, 42, is charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct stemming from the Dec. 6 incident and the allegedly falsified report, which was dated Dec. 10, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and a complaint filed against Lavin by the sheriff’s office.
“Sergeant Lavin used his department-issued pepper spray to spray an arrestee in the face while she was handcuffed behind her back,” the complaint said. The complaint is dated on Dec. 12.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said the woman was ticketed by Lavin outside of a dance party held at Sun National Bank Center on the night of Dec. 6.
“The victim was issued an improper behavior summons,” DeBlasio said.
Four days later, Lavin submitted a falsified report about the incident, the complaint says. It does not say what information Lavin falsified.
“Sergeant Sean Lavin did file a false Mercer County Sheriff’s Office investigation report,” the complaint said.
Lavin, a Hamilton resident, is a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, and was promoted to sergeant in March 2006.
His lawyer, Darryl Saunders, did not immediately return a call seeking comment last night.
DeBlasio could not say how long Lavin will be suspended for, or whether he will face any criminal charges.
ACLU accuses Newark police of false arrests, excessive force
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union will ask for a federal investigation of the Newark Police Department Thursday, saying it routinely violates residents' civil rights through excessive force and false arrests.
Citing dozens of lawsuits and years of internal affairs statistics, the ACLU says the department is incapable of policing itself. Its report says records show that out of 261 complaints in 2008 and 2009 involving excessive force, differential treatment or improper arrest, entry or search, only one was sustained. One officer has faced 62 internal affairs investigations in an almost 14-year career, according to a lawsuit, and his lawyer said none have been sustained.
Deborah Jacobs, executive director the ACLU in New Jersey, said the petition is the first step in a process she hopes will end with the same kind of consent decree and federal oversight imposed on the State Police a decade ago in response to the racial profiling scandal.
"This is a last resort," she said. "I don’t see how we can get things straight in this administration without external help, expertise and resources."
Top Newark officials said the ACLU petition was undermining progress in the city.
"The city of Newark was extremely disappointed when it reviewed the ACLU’s petition," said Julian Neals, the city’s top lawyer. "The city feels that the ACLU petition is frivolous and submitted in bad faith."
Neals said it’s disingenuous for the ACLU to focus on lawsuits that were submitted before the current administration took office. In addition, he emphasized that many of the settlements paid out by the city were only small amounts and included no admission of guilt.
Mayor Cory Booker was angered by the ACLU petition.
"It’s casting unnecessary aspersions on the police department through the distortion of facts."
He said the city had tried to cooperate with the agency on numerous issues but now feels the ACLU has unfairly shut down that relationship.
Booker said the ACLU is promoting "negative stereotypes" of Newark and not giving the city credit for its progress.
Federal oversight of local police departments is rare and used in response to a "pattern or practice" of violating people’s rights. In a 96-page petition being submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, the ACLU says it has documented such a pattern in the state’s largest municipal police department of 1,300 officers.
"Qualitatively, it seems like Newark’s problems are far worse than in other cities where the Department of Justice has intervened," said Flavio Komuves, the ACLU lawyer who compiled the petition.
A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on the petition or whether an investigation will be conducted, but said it will be reviewed.
The state Attorney General’s Office said it has not seen the ACLU petition.
"We are always concerned where there are allegations of police misconduct," spokesman Peter Aseltine said. "But we’re not in a position where we can comment."
The petition, which says Newark police are "beset with serious systemic problems," follows a spike in homicides this summer. It also comes months before the department, in the wake of a city budget crisis, could be forced to layoff 167 officers and demote an another 112.
City officials have maintained Newark police have made progress in some areas. Overall crime in the state’s largest city is down 21 percent from 2006.
Jacobs said she and Newark police have worked together on reform issues. But, she said, those efforts have fallen short and police have failed to improve in key areas.
"Consistently there’s been a will to try and make changes," she said. "But between crime and a lack of resources, things have consistently been back-burnered."
University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor Samuel Walker, a nationwide expert on police accountability who advised the ACLU on its petition, said federal intervention is sometimes necessary to advance reform.
"When you have a really dysfunctional department, federal intervention is a way of forcing a major overhaul," he said. "At some point, that begins to change the culture of the department into a culture of accountability."
Anthony Ambrose, chief of detectives at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and a former Newark police chief, said federal oversight is often resisted but can be beneficial.
"No law enforcement executive wants a consent decree or someone looking over your department," Ambrose said. "But it’s not a bad thing. It’s another avenue for reforms, if needed."
Derrick Hatcher, president of the Newark chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said an investigation is unecessary. "We know how to police our police," he said.
The ACLU cited lawsuits and civilian complaints as evidence of excessive force and improper arrests within the department.
"The individual cases don’t necessarily shock my conscience," Komuves, the ACLU lawyer, said. "What shocks my conscience is the sheer number of them."
Among the lawsuites cited by the ACLU, one claims a man was smashed in the face by a police officer, requiring doctors to wire his jaw shut. A lawyer for another man said his client still has trouble holding a pen in his writing hand after being tackled during an arrest. A third suit, filed in October 2009, said Jose Quinonez was assaulted by Officer Alan Knight, who has faced 62 previous internal investigations.
Knight’s lawyer, Ronald Ricci, said his client was on his way to work and stopped to chase down two suspects when Quinonez attacked him.
"He’s getting sued for trying to protect the residents of Newark," Ricci said.
None of the internal investigations of Knight has been sustained, Ricci said, adding it’s common for suspects to file complaints after being arrested in an attempt to get out of trouble.
"Most of them (complaints) are from people with multiple criminal records," he said. "There are always injuries consistent with resisting arrest. People are just looking for money."
Overall, $2.04 million has been paid out in settlements in the past 2 1/2 years to civilians who filed lawsuits against Newark police, according to the ACLU. Almost half the money went to the family of Rasheed Moore, who was shot and killed by two police officers during a motor vehicle stop that turned violent in 2005.
Another $2.69 million is being paid to officers who sued the department for allegations like harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
"They’re lumping things together to give the impression that Newark has lost all its money due to successful litigation. That is absolutely not true," Booker said of the ACLU. "(Jacobs is) making the implication that there’s a bigger problem than we have."
The ACLU petition names 11 officers who have faced criminal charges in the last 2 1/2 years. Nine remain with the department on administrative duty.
The ACLU also points to records saying police rarely sustain misconduct complaints against themselves, saying that’s evidence officers aren’t being held accountable.
A 2006 federal study of large police departments nationwide said 8 percent of excessive force complaints are sustained. But Newark police did not uphold a single excessive force complaint in 2009, 2008, or 2007, according to annual reports. In that time period, 195 such complaints were filed.
"You’re going to tell me 200 people made internal affairs complaints and the majority made it up? That doesn’t make sense," Jacobs said. "This attitude that people lie and make stuff up all the time, I find that disrespectful to the citizenry of Newark and I don’t think it reflects the reality."
Asked about the level of sustained complaints within the department, Police director Garry McCarthy said the figures proved nothing.
"So the cop always has to be wrong?" McCarthy said. "Drug dealers make allegations against police officers every day to stop them from doing their job."
Joseph Santiago, the current Irvington police director who previously led the Newark department, said the low number of sustained complaints would be "a cause for concern if I was the director" and may require further investigation.
Newark cop loses job, sentenced to 3 years probation for torching SUV
NEWARK — A veteran Newark police officer was sentenced to three years probation and 200 hours of community service today for torching his SUV in 2012 so he could collect on the insurance, Essex County prosecutors say.
Johnathan Taylor, 41, agreed to forfeit his $102,000-a-year-job in November after pleading guilty to third-degree insurance fraud. The 17-year veteran was facing as much as 10 years in prison.
In March 2012, Taylor set fire to his 2005 Toyota Sequoia and left it burning on Wainwright Street in Newark, prosecutors say.
He then filed a phony insurance claim and tried to collect the proceeds, prosecutors say.
A grand jury in Essex County Superior Court indicted Taylor on charges of insurance fraud, aggravated arson and conspiracy.
"John has proudly served this city since 1996," said James Stewart, the president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police. "Unfortunately, he had a serious lapse in judgment and became involved in a situation that cost him his career. Being the family man that he is, he faced the consequences head on and took responsibility for his actions to put this matter behind him and move on in the next phase of his life."
Taylor is the second Newark police officer to forfeit his job in the past week as a result of criminal charges.
On Friday, an Essex County judge ordered veteran Newark detective Ugo Bellomo, 44, into a court program that allows defendants to avoid criminal convictions.
Essex County prosecutors say Bellomo – the brother-in-law of Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio -- pointed his gun at a motorist on a Millburn highway in November 2012.
The motorist called 911 and a New Jersey state trooper stopped Bellomo a short time later. Bellomo, who joined the department in 1996, was not charged at the time. However, he was indicted this year on a charge of aggravated assault with a firerarm and pleaded not guilty in May.
If Bellomo successfully completes the Pre-Trial Intervention program over the next year, he will avoid a criminal conviction. He’s also barred from taking a job in law enforcement.
Ex-cop sentenced to prison for pointing gun at Holland Police
HOLLAND, MI -- A former Wyoming Police officer will serve time in prison for pointing a gun at police in downtown Holland last summer.
A jury in November convicted Mark Armstrong, 56, of two counts of felonious assault and one count of felony firearms for the July 25 incident. He was sentenced on Monday, Jan. 13, to two years in prison for the felony firearm charge and 13 months for felonious assault, court records state.
Police on the night of the July incident had attempted to talk to Armstrong about threats he allegedly made to his ex-girlfriend and acquaintances. Officers received a tip that his vehicle was in a parking lot at Ninth Street and College Avenue, where police said Armstrong approached and ran while flashing a gun.
During a brief foot chase, police said Armstrong turned and pointed a .380 handgun at two officers while pedestrians were near. No one was injured.
Police cornered Armstrong and he surrendered after 20 minutes of negotiation.
Armstrong in February 2011 was fired from the Wyoming Police Department for allegedly using two derogatory terms in reference to African Americans while in a report writing room with other officers, according to documents previously obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. He was a 26-year veteran with the department.