LA CROSSE, Wis. — A La Crosse police sergeant has been charged with a felony accusing him of threatening to kill his family after his wife asked for a divorce.
Patrol Sgt. Alan Iverson, 45, was charged Tuesday in La Crosse County Circuit Court with threats to injure and disorderly conduct as a domestic abuse offense, the La Crosse Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1fqYPO2 ).
Iverson's wife said he drove to her workplace and asked if he should get his gun and "take care of this right now," according to investigators' reports.
His wife also told investigators that Iverson brought his gun home later that night and threatened her again the next day during an argument in which she tried to walk away.
"He said, 'If you are going to walk away, I am going to kill you, (their children) and myself," she told investigators. "'If you go to the police, there is going to be a catastrophe.'"
The La Crosse police department has placed Iverson on paid administrative leave. His case will be handled by a judge from another county.
Iverson's attorney did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press for comment.
By John Turk
The Troy police officer accused of drunken driving will soon face jury trial in district court.
Candace LaForest, 34, who is charged with operating a vehicle with a high blood-alcohol content, stood Tuesday in front of 52-3 District Judge Julie A. Nicholson for a pretrial hearing.
The officer, who has been with the Troy Police Department for 12 years, appeared with Farmington Hills attorney Arthur J. Weiss, who requested the case be set for jury trial.
Weiss mentioned that LaForest “has been alcohol free” since her Jan. 18 arrest after a traffic stop on Big Beaver Road near Rochester Road, and that she had “completed an in-patient program at Sacred Heart,” as well.
Nicholson, in a short hearing, set a future hearing for jury selection at 9 a.m. April 11 and continued LaForest’s $1,000 personal bond.
Nicholson also ordered that LaForest verify counseling and disclose “any and all” prescribed substances she may be taking with pretrial services.
LaForest pleaded not-guilty during her early February arraignment in Troy’s 52-4 District Court, and the case was swiftly moved to Rochester Hills when judges in Troy recused themselves.
Her charges, which fall under Michigan’s super drunk laws, come after she was stopped by colleagues while off-duty, driving home from Troy bar “Norm’s Field of Dreams.”
The officer broke down while being taken to the Troy Police Department lockup, and agreed and refuse a Breathalyzer test twice before officers obtained a warrant for a blood sample from her. Her blood-alcohol content was later found to be 0.27 percent.
Weiss, who called the case “a tragedy” out of the courtroom, declined to comment further.
BY MENSAH M. DEAN,
THE FALL FROM grace is almost complete for onetime hero police officer Richard DeCoatsworth, who entered a courtroom yesterday and pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, simple assault and drug possession.
DeCoatsworth, 28, could face seven to 14 years in state prison when sentenced March 11 by Common Pleas Judge Charles Ehrlich.
His attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., however, said DeCoatsworth has changed, no longer uses heroin to cope with the pain of a gunshot wound to the face he suffered in the line of duty and should be released with credit for time served.
Behind bars since May on bail amounts ranging from $60 million to the current $3 million, DeCoatsworth's current predicament is a far cry from how his law-enforcement career began.
In September 2007, the 21-year-old rookie cop made headlines for surviving a shotgun blast to the face and helping to catch the gunman during a traffic stop.
DeCoatsworth was soon transferred to the Police Department's elite Highway Patrol, and in 2009 was invited to sit next to Michelle Obama during President Obama's first address to Congress.
He retired abruptly in 2011. By then, the city had settled a series of lawsuits - the largest for $1.5 million - in which DeCoatsworth was accused of misconduct.
DeCoatsworth apparently hit rock bottom in May, when he was arrested for choking and punching his girlfriend and for serving as a pimp for two prostitutes.
The disgraced ex-cop was initially charged with more than 30 crimes that could have resulted in a lifetime in prison. The charges included rape, aggravated assault, human trafficking, witness intimidation, terroristic threats and impersonating an officer.
All but the three charges he pleaded guilty to were dropped yesterday, which prompted DeCoatsworth's father to question the validity of the entire case.
"From a $60 million bail to this? Apparently, there was no case," Mark DeCoatsworth said.
"These women . . . were hookers before he knew them and they are hookers now," he said of the two women for whom his son pleaded to pimping.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley Lynam disputed the senior DeCoatsworth's assessment of the case, saying the former cop would not have pleaded guilty if the case lacked merit.
"The fact that Richard DeCoatsworth was a former police officer has absolutely no bearing on any decisions made by us," she said. "It's not going to be relevant at sentencing and it certainly isn't relevant in the plea today."
Peruto said DeCoatsworth turned to heroin after Percocet failed to relieve his pain.
"He's a different person now than he was when he was arrested. When he was arrested, his brains were scrambled. He got involved with things to relieve the pain," Peruto said. "But you don't know what you would do if you got shot in the face."
The last three defendants in a Cherryville police scandal from 2012 were sentenced to prison today in federal court.
Frankie Dellinger, 42, Wesley Clayton Golden, 41, and Mark Ray Hoyle, 40, will each spend at least the next year and a half behind bars for their roles in transporting stolen goods and cash through the area multiple times in 2012, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in the western district of North Carolina.
Dellinger, who worked with the Cherryville Police Department and Gaston County Sheriff’s Office throughout his nearly 20-year career in law enforcement, received a three-year prison sentence in the case followed by supervised release for two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Hoyle, a Cherryville resident and civilian accomplice who also claimed to be a Gaston County Sheriff’s deputy in the conspiracy, received 20 months prison time and two years of court supervision.
Lastly, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Conrad, Jr. sentenced Golden to 21 months in prison and one year of supervised release, federal officials said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) targeted Dellinger after learning he may have been involved in illegal activity.
Federal agents disguised themselves as criminals and worked alongside the seasoned cop and his co-conspirators to transport stolen property on tractor-trailers through Gaston County.
The trucks contained what the convicts believed was more than $400,000 in cash proceeds from the sale of goods along with nearly $160,000 in other stolen property, federal officials said.
Dellinger and his co-conspirators used their badges to protect the goods during transport and accepted cash bribes on certain occasions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Each of the three men pleaded guilty in January 2013 to conspiracy to transport and/or receive stolen property and conspiracy to extort under color of official right, according to the release.
Hoyle and Dellinger additionally pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.
Three other individuals involved in a related area conspiracy were sentenced in November, federal officials said.
Cherryville patrol officers Casey Justin Crawford, 34, and David Paul Mauney, III, 25, received 33 and 18 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
John Ashley Hendricks, 49, a second civilian accomplice and Cherryville resident, received two years of probation in the case.
All defendants have been in federal custody since October 2012, when the FBI raided the local police department.
The FBI and State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) jointly conducted the investigation.
Michael Savage, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, served as lead prosecutor in the case
DOVER, N.H. (AP) — Two New Hampshire police officers have been charged with assaulting a suspect after a traffic stop last year.
A Strafford County Grand Jury has indicted Farmington Sgt. Michael McNeil Jr. and Officer Gregory Gough on simple assault charges.
Randy Gray told Foster’s Daily Democrat that he fled the stop after asking the 34-year-old McNeil, who was off-duty, for ID and McNeil refused.
Police eventually tracked Gray to his home where the struggle occurred. McNeil’s charged with grabbing Gray’s neck and forcing him to the ground. The 24-year-old Gough is charged with grabbing Gray’s arms and torso.
The misdemeanor assault carries up to a year in jail upon conviction.
The officers were suspended Tuesday. Neither had a listed phone number and it could not immediately be determined if they had lawyers.
The officer will be suspended for only a third of the time the Florida teen was wrongly jailed
Owing to a name mixup by a Florida police officer, an innocent teen spent 35 days in jail for child rape charges. Cody Lee Williams, 18, was confused by the cop as Cody Raymond Williams.
While the innocent Williams spent over a month in jail for the mistake, the officer — Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hawkins — will spend only a fraction of that time suspended as punishment (he will be suspended for 10 days without pay). The New York Daily News reported:
In a letter following the investigation, Sheriff Rick Beseler told Hawkins that because of his incompetence, “an innocent man was arrested for an offense that he did not commit.”
The mistake wasn’t discovered until the teen looked into court documents detailing the charges.
According to the investigation, Hawkins interviewed the little girl, who said she was assaulted by a high school boy named Cody Williams, but never showed her any photos to confirm the boy’s identity.
Williams told the Times-Union “his insides just kind of dropped” when deputies arrested him at his home on suspicion of sexual battery in August.
The mix-up wasn’t cleared up until October, after Williams called his mother to say he believed police were looking for the other Cody Williams, a classmate at Clay High School.
By Kathy Jefcoats
ATLANTA — A former Clayton County police officer was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to steal cocaine from a drug dealer for his own personal gain.
Dwayne Penn was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force at the time of the scheme. He was terminated Aug. 28, the day he was arrested by federal agents. He pleaded guilty Jan. 21 to conspiring to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter said Penn was held to a higher standard as a police officer and violated the public’s trust.
“It is the position of this administration that, I along with the Clayton County community, will always demand that every officer as well as each employee of the CCPD family, be held to a higher standard when it comes to the oath each of us have passionately sworn to uphold,” said Porter in a statement released Monday. “Our core values of honor, integrity, transparency and professionalism must always remain at the forefront of our minds. We owe a duty to ourselves and the Clayton County community to ensure that we remain worthy of our community’s trust and do nothing to tarnish the badges that we wear proudly on our chests.”
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said it was Penn’s job to serve and protect, not seek illegal business ventures.
“The public rightfully expects police officers to protect them from drug dealers, not go into business with them,” she said. “The defendant crossed over to become one of the bad guys and now he will suffer their fate.”
Yates, said evidence and testimony showed that in August, Penn conspired with Adrian Austin, an Atlanta-based drug dealer, to use Penn’s official position as a police officer to stage a fake traffic stop of a car that he and Austin believed would contain 6 kilograms of cocaine.
Penn would conduct a fake arrest of the car’s occupant, seize the cocaine for themselves and then sell the cocaine, sharing their ill-gotten gains, she said. “Fortunately, the person whom Penn and Austin sought to recruit for this corrupt endeavor was cooperating with federal law enforcement and agreed to record meetings with Penn and Austin,” said Yates.
In the lead up to the fake arrest and seizure, Penn and Austin met face-to-face with the confidential informant on two separate occasions to plan their operation. Penn drove his police car to the planning meetings.
As planned, on the morning of Aug. 28, Penn and Austin arrived at the appointed Decatur parking lot. Penn drove his police car and parked it in view of where the drug deal was to occur. Before the deal’s consummation, the confidential informant met with Austin in Austin’s car in the parking lot.
Austin relayed information between the confidential informant and Penn over his cellphone. The confidential informant exited Austin’s car and shortly thereafter met with the supposed drug dealer, who was also a law enforcement source, in the parking lot in view of Penn.
The confidential informant received a shopping bag containing 6 kilogram-size bricks of fake cocaine, walked back to the vehicle, and placed the bag inside, placing 2 kilogram bricks in the back seat and leaving the remaining 4 kilogram bricks in the shopping bag in the front seat, said Yates.
After the confidential informant emerged from the vehicle, Penn sped over in his police car with the lights on and blocked the confidential informant from leaving.
“Penn jumped out of his car with his firearm drawn and pointed it at the confidential informant,” said Yates. “Penn was wearing a bulletproof vest, which read ‘Police,’ and a black baseball hat.”
Penn and Austin were arrested shortly afterward in the vicinity of the Decatur parking lot. Each had a loaded firearm with a round in the chamber. The shopping bag with substituted cocaine was recovered from Penn’s vehicle.
Austin pleaded guilty to the same charge Jan. 14.
In addition to the 10-year term of imprisonment, Penn was also sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to five years of supervised release, 120 hours of community service following his release from prison, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.
Sentencing for Austin is scheduled for April 10 at 2 p.m., also before Totenberg.
UNIONVILLE, Missouri — A former police officer in northern Missouri has been arrested on a charge of child pornography possession.
KTVO-TV (bit.ly/1cmQQ4B ) reports that 23-year-old Clinton Montalbetti was arrested Tuesday in Linn County on an outstanding warrant from Putnam County. The warrant was issued from after suspected pornographic images were found on a flash drive used by Montalbetti while he worked as a Unionville officer in late 2013.
Montalbetti was jailed on a $10,000 cash bond. Kirksville police say additional charges may be filed pending a review of items retrieved from a search of his home near Brookfield.
Trumbull Police Officer William Ruscoe has been charged by state police with three counts of sexual assault involving a member of an Explorer scout program at the department.
"Due to the nature of these criminal charges, Officer Ruscoe has been suspended from duty, and an internal investigation is underway to determine if he has violate any departmental policies or regulations," Trumbull police said in a news release.
State police from the Tolland barracks at 9 p.m. Monday charged Ruscoe, 44, with second-, third- and fourth-degree sexual assault and with tampering with a witness. Ruscoe was initially held on a $50,000 bond. He was released after posting the bond, according to NBC Connecticut.
Ruscoe, a 19-year veteran of the department who joined it in June 1994, has served as an advisor with the Explorer program for several years, according to the town police news release.
"I am deeply troubled and concerned by the nature of the charges that have been presented," said Trumbull Police Chief Thomas Kiely in the news release. "We will make every effort to ensure that the integrity of the department and its officers is preserved as this case is investigated, and that the case is handled in a fair and timely manner."
The investigation and arrest was entirely handled by state police, said Trumbull Deputy Police Chief Michael Harry. "We haven't even seen the contents of the arrest warrant."
Criminal investigations of police officers are typically handled by other police agencies.
Ruscoe hadn't been in any kind of trouble with his department until Monday's arrest, Harry said.
Ruscoe received a Medal of Excellent Arrest from his department last August, according to the minutes of the Police Commission meeting (page 5). In that case he had arrested people outside a shopping mall, some of whom were in possession of at total of 53 fraudulent credit cards.
Marion deputy suspended following internal investigation into handling of possible DUI Florida Fraternal Order of Police President says he may call for FDLE investigation
OCALA, Fla. —A Marion County Sheriff's Office deputy has been suspended for two days following an internal investigation into his handling of a possible DUI case.
A Marion County Sheriff's Office deputy has been suspended for two days following an internal investigation into his handling of a possible DUI case.
In the early-morning hours on Jan. 18, Deputy Calvin Batts pulled over 26-year-old Matthew Tillander, the son of former Ocala bar owner and City Council candidate Bobby Tillander.
The investigation was caught on dash camera video.
"You've been drinking a little tonight?" Batts asked.
"No, sir," Matthew Tillander said.
"I can smell it coming off you," Batts said.
According to court records, when Bobby Tillander learned his son was pulled over, he called Maj. Tommy Bibb, the leader of the special investigations unit at the Sheriff's Office.
Matthew Tillander can then be seen answering a phone call during the middle of a field sobriety test.
"Sir, please hang up the phone," Batts said. "I don't want anybody else coming up in this traffic stop."
"This is (Sheriff) Chris Blair. You want to talk to him?" Matthew Tillander said.
"I'd rather not," Batts said.
Batts never got on the phone, but a few minutes later gets a call of his own.
Bibb then allegedly called Batts and told him to hold off on an arrest until he talked with Blair. A few minutes later, Bibb called Batts back and said the Sheriff wanted Batts to "do what he needed to do."
Batts had already decided not to charge Matthew Tillander and let a friend drive him home.
The sheriff's office said questions were later raised about the situation so Blair ordered an internal investigation. It concluded with Bibb being suspended for two days without pay and ordered to make apologies.
"That's the reason why Sheriff Blair himself called for an internal investigation because we want to show transparency here and we want to show that there is no favoritism," said Capt. James Pogue, Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It would appear that Maj. Bibb interfered in the investigation which may or may not have hampered the decision making process of Deputy Batts and he was disciplined."
Batts told the Sheriff's Office he would have arrested Matthew Tillander had he not been influence by Bibb.
There are questions as to whether Bibb's punishment was severe enough. The president of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police said he may call for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.
This is not Matthew Tillander's first run-in with the law. He currently faces felony drug and resisting arrest with violence charges for another traffic stop in December 2013.
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — Two police officers in an oil-rich West Texas city spent weeks competing to see who could take the most cardboard signs away from homeless people, even though panhandling doesn't violate any city law.
Nearly two months after the Midland Police Department learned of the game, the two officers were suspended for three days without pay, according to findings of the internal affairs investigation obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
Advocate groups immediately blasted the department's handling, suggesting that the punishment wasn't harsh enough and that the probe should have been made public much earlier, before news organizations, including the AP, started asking about it.
"The fact that they are making sport out of collecting the personal property of homeless individuals could be seen as them targeting these individuals for discriminatory harassment," said Cassandra Champion, an attorney in the Odessa office of the Texas Civil Rights Project. "Simply holding a sign is absolutely a protected part of our free speech."
Police Chief Price Robinson said the actions were an isolated incident in a department of 186 officers and didn't deserve a harsher punishment. After the investigation all officers were reminded to respect individual rights and human dignity, he said.
"We want to respect people, no matter who they are — homeless, whatever," Robinson said. "That situation's been dealt with. Those officers understand."
The investigation found the two officers, Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, violated the department's professional standards of conduct. There is no ordinance against panhandling in Midland, an oil-boom city of more than 110,000 where a recent count put the homeless number at about 300. About a quarter of those are transient.
Evan Rogers, founder of Church Under the Bridge Midland's ministry, said the failure by police to disclose the officers' behavior once discovered made it appear the department was "pushing it under the carpet.
"I think that does give the public the wrong message," he said.
Asked Wednesday about why the investigation wasn't made public earlier, city spokeswoman Sara Higgins said it is not the department's standard protocol to announce when an internal affairs investigation is completed. She said the officers weren't suspended until January because of staffing issues and the winter holidays.
On a recent afternoon, one group of homeless people could be seen near a trash bin behind a fast-food restaurant and another around an intersection. Among their signs was one that read: "Anything helps. God bless."
"If it was them, I guarantee you they'd be doing the same thing," said Desarie Caine, who sought donations on a street corner while eating from a package of beef jerky. "I think they're bored."
The two officers, who did not appeal their suspensions, have been with the department about two years. They both returned emails from the AP declining to be interviewed.
According to the investigation report, eight signs were found in the trunk of Hester's patrol car on Nov. 20 and Zoelzer had thrown the about 10 signs he had confiscated into a city trash container after Hester called him to warn him he had been reprimanded by his superior for having the signs.
The two told the internal affairs investigator, that they were issuing criminal trespass warnings when they took the signs. But according to the report, no homeless people were issued criminal trespass warnings by either officer in 2013. Most of those warnings in Midland are written, but some are verbal.
The investigation also looked into complaints from within the department that Hester and Zoelzer failed to log into evidence brass knuckles, a small set of scales and two knives they had obtained during other patrol stops. The investigation into the signs began after an officer on patrol with Hester when Hester obtained the brass knuckles sent an email to his sergeant Nov. 18 about Hester saying he wasn't going to log them in as evidence.
The signs and the brass knuckles were found in Hester's car during a vehicle inspection two days later.
The contest between Hester, 25, and Zoelzer, 26, was alluded to in text messages on Nov. 21 obtained by the AP. It was unclear which of the officers sent each message.
"My bad man when he first ask me about it he didn't seem mad or anything so I just told him me and u wereaking (sic) a game outta it when we'd trespass them and stuff," one text read. Another read, "Man this is some bs."
Although Rogers said he doesn't believe the officers' actions reflect on the whole department, he considered the penalty insufficient.
"I don't believe three days gives it justice," Rogers said.
Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals this morning reversed a district court and held that the Monroe Police Department falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously prosecuted Annette Brown in 2009.
The court also awarded her $20 thousand in damages, money that the taxpayers of Monroe will have to pay.
This court concurs with plaintiff’s argument that because Det. Dowdy’s investigation was substandard, he failed to perform his duty to correctly identify the suspect prior to her arrest and incarceration and this was the cause-in-fact of the Ms. Brown’s wrongful arrest at her place of employment in the presence of her co-workers. The law imposes a duty on law enforcement officers to correctly identify a suspect prior to arresting and jailing her specifically in instances such as these to prevent injuries of the exact nature that Ms. Brown suffered.
The plaintiff attorney in the case was Anthony Bruscato. Defending was City Attorney Nanci Summersgill.
By ROSE BOUBOUSHIAN
(CN) - A cop must face claims that he helped arrest a black couple whom troopers allegedly tore from their car, choking the husband and Tasering the wife, a federal judge ruled.
The arrest of Nadine Francis and her husband, Odinga Arthur, allegedly occurred while the black couple was moving from Florida to New York for Arthur's job on the night of Feb. 14, 2012.
Francis said she had been driving below the speed limit and obeying all traffic laws on I-95, but that the Pennsylvania state police pulled her over near Chester, Pa., at about midnight. Chester Township Police Officer Richard Barth allegedly arrived as backup.
After Francis provided her license and registration, Troopers Joseph Harmon and James Sparenga asked for her sleeping husband's identification, without explaining why they had been pulled over, according to the complaint.
When Arthur did not immediately present his ID, and instead sought permission to ask a question, the troopers allegedly ordered him to exit the car.
Before he could do so, Sparenga grabbed Arthur's neck in an attempt to pull him through the passenger window, causing the man to choke, according to the complaint.
Francis said she screamed and begged the trooper to stop, at which point Harmon used his Taser on her. Sparenga meanwhile then allegedly slammed Arthur into the ground, handcuffed him and removed his wallet.
Arthur said Harmon asked him how much money he had and where he was going, then removed his wife from the car, held her face down, and handcuffed and interrogated her.
The complaint insists that Francis and Arthur broke no laws, never posed a threat to the troopers, fully cooperated, and did not resist arrest or act violently on the night of the incident.
After the troopers allegedly said that the IDs "came up clean," they held Francis and Arthur overnight at a Delaware County police station without reading them their Miranda rights, according to the complaint.
Arthur and Francis said the officers meanwhile prepared false affidavits of probable cause, charging them with driving in the left lane, disregarding traffic lane, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
Francis and Arthur were released on bail later that day, and the criminal proceedings against them were dismissed in state court on March 6, 2013.
The three officers are accused in the complaint of violating Francis and Arthur's Fourth and 14th Amendments, and of unlawful detention, racial profiling, excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.
U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin refused on Feb. 13 to dismiss the malicious prosecution and false arrest and imprisonment claims against Barth.
"According to the complaint, Barth was present throughout the interrogation and arrest of the plaintiffs, and he participated in preparing the affidavits of probable cause," McLaughlin wrote. "During the time Barth was present, the plaintiffs did not engage in any unlawful or violent activity and did not resist arrest. Because the magistrate judge relied on the statements in the affidavit of probable cause to charge the plaintiffs, it is reasonable to infer that Barth made false statements or omissions or failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in the affidavits."
The court also upheld the false arrest and imprisonment claims, finding that Barth participated in the arrest, despite his ability to determine that the couple had not violated the law.
"The complaint alleges that Barth arrived on the scene shortly after the plaintiffs were pulled over, with time to see for himself that Francis and Arthur were not a threat, were not acting violently, and were not violating the law," McLaughlin wrote. "There are no allegations indicating that Troopers Harmon and Sparenga made statements to Barth regarding probable cause. Barth participated in the arrest of Francis and Arthur without probable cause, and participated in writing affidavits of probable cause by making false statements or omissions. There are no allegations in the complaint that would allow the court to conclude that Barth was acting reasonably under the circumstances. Barth is free to raise the argument again at the summary judgment stage."
BY: LIAM DILLON
Before former San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos’ arrest in 2011, his supervisors knew he had made sexually charged comments to a woman with mental disabilities while transporting her to a hospital. They knew he looked at pornography at work on his department-issued computer. And they knew he had been accused of behaving inappropriately toward a 16-year-old girl during a traffic stop.
Supervisors had also cleared Arevalos of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman while taking her to jail a year before his arrest. They had sent him back out on the streets to patrol downtown alone. In that case, the sergeant in charge of the criminal investigation was convinced of Arevalos’ guilt, and a district attorney who later reviewed the case found problems with the department’s investigation (though still declined to prosecute him for it).
One of Arevalos’ colleagues described him this way: “Teflon.”
“I felt he believed no matter what he did, that he would not get in trouble,” said Henry Castro, who worked in traffic division with Arevalos and said in court filings he’d used the word.
The depth to which high-ranking police officials knew about Arevalos’ behavior prior to his 2011 arrest for soliciting a sexual bribe from a 32-year-old women in a convenience store bathroom is revealed in a trove of interviews and documents from a civil lawsuit filed by Arevalos’ final victim.
With new accusations surfacing against two more SDPD officers this month, the court documents raise fresh concerns about the department’s ability to stop potential predators before they strike. Lawyers in the case are arguing SDPD has a pattern of covering up serious misconduct and are seeking a court-ordered independent monitor to oversee the department.
In the almost three years since Arevalos’ arrest, Police Chief William Lansdowne has admitted the department missed red flags about Arevalos’ behavior. The chief, who retired abruptly Tuesday, has promised numerous reforms to prevent further officer problems, and recently ordered an external audit of SDPD. Shelley Zimmerman, an assistant chief, was nominated Wednesday to be Lansdowne’s replacement. She promised to reinstate an internal anticorruption unit, which Lansdowne had disbanded, to proactively monitor officer conduct.
Arevalos’ final victim is known in court papers as Jane Doe. Among the revelations from her case:
• In the late 1990s Arevalos told his supervisor he’d flirted with a woman with mental disabilities in the back of his patrol car. Officer Francisco Torres, who was on the call with Arevalos, said his partner’s conduct went far past flirting. Torres said in a deposition that Arevalos had also taken naked photos of the woman and the woman had put Arevalos’ baton in her vagina while Arevalos watched.
Arevalos’ supervisor at the time, Rudy Tai, who now leads the department’s criminal intelligence unit, gave Arevalos a verbal warning after the incident. Tai said in his deposition he doesn’t recall being told of the more serious allegations. If he had, he said, he would have acted on them.
• In 2007, department officials found Arevalos repeatedly visited a pornographic website on his work computer while on duty. Arevalos was transferred to the traffic division as a result.
In a deposition, Arevalos’ supervisor in the traffic division said it’s department policy to advise new supervisors of any disciplinary transfers. She said she had no idea Arevalos had been transferred because of pornography on his computer.
• Later in 2007, the father of a 16-year-old girl complained to two of Arevalos’ supervisors about a traffic stop in La Jolla. He alleged Arevalos made his daughter, who was driving alone, get out of her car and bend over in front of him, ostensibly to check her registration tags.
Arevalos again was issued a verbal warning by his supervisors, who determined he had no reason to be in La Jolla because he was assigned to patrol downtown.
• In 2010, Arevalos was transporting a DUI suspect to jail when the arrestee alleged he pulled over and forced his hand inside her vagina.
At the jail, she immediately complained about being sexually assaulted. Two investigations were launched as a result of the complaint. An Internal Affairs investigation cleared Arevalos of wrongdoing. A criminal investigation was more controversial.
Sgt. Dan Cerar, who oversaw that investigation, concluded that Arevalos was guilty. He said in a deposition that his investigation was hampered by shoddy evidence gathering. A prosecutor, Sherry Thompson, agreed.
“I thought that the case was troubled in the way the police department handled it,” Thompson said.
Cerar said he wanted to bring in experienced detectives to work the case. His supervisor told him he couldn’t. Cerar also wanted to interview Arevalos’ colleagues in the traffic division. His supervisor denied that request, too.
“I was told this is as far as we’re going to go,” Cerar said.
The district attorney’s office decided not to bring charges against Arevalos. A year later, he was arrested in the convenience store bathroom incident. During that time, Arevalos solicited sexual bribes from at least three other women.
When San Diego police officers are punished, Lansdowne said in his deposition, everyone’s aware of it.
“There are no secrets in this police department as it relates to discipline in this organization,” Lansdowne said. “It’s almost always common knowledge.”
In its legal filings, the city argued SDPD acted appropriately against Arevalos at all times, given the information available. The city says each incident either wasn’t sexual misconduct, didn’t happen or was properly investigated.
Still, the department’s failure to fully document problems with Arevalos’ behavior left him with a record that looked better than it should have.
Arevalos’ supervisor in the traffic division didn’t know about Arevalos’ previous discipline when he was accused of acting inappropriately toward a 16-year-old girl. Cerar, the sergeant who supervised the 2010 sexual assault investigation, didn’t know Arevalos had been punished before, either.
Had Cerar been allowed to interview Arevalos’ colleagues, he might have learned about the officer’s reputation. Arevalos’ fellow officers knew that he passed around the driver’s license photos of good-looking women he had pulled over, and they believed he profiled attractive women for traffic stops.
Tai, who was Arevalos’ supervisor in the 1990s, led the sex-crimes unit when Arevalos was arrested in 2011. Tai didn’t tell his own investigators Arevalos had admitted to flirting with a woman with mental disabilities in the late 1990s. He said in his deposition he didn’t think the incident was relevant to the case.
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Jury hung on 10 counts in case of former West Sac cop accused of sexual assault; reading of verdict continues Thursday
By SARAH DOWLING
A Yolo County jury hung on 10 counts Wednesday in the case of a former West Sacramento police officer accused of sexual assault; however, the remaining 17 charges were not read until Thursday morning.
Jurors were not able to come to a decision on the following charges Sergio Alvarez, 38, faced: three counts of rape, sexual penetration, and oral copulation by threatening to use his authority as a police official, four counts of rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation by means of duress, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.
Yolo County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall declared a mistrial on those 10 counts. Before he could read the definitive verdict on the remaining charges, Fall found an error on the verdict form for count one and ordered the jury to correct the error and continue deliberations.
After 30 minutes, Fall addressed the court, continuing the reading of the verdict to Thursday morning in Department 2.
The jury was given the case on Friday, Feb. 14. Jurors were on their eighth day of deliberation, not deliberating on Presidents' Day Monday, Feb. 17. The jury entered Department 2 at the Yolo County Courthouse one by one on Wednesday afternoon, the jury foreman with a smile on his face. The foreman read a list of 10 charges that the jury was not able to reach a decision on.
Alvarez, 38, is accused of using his position as a uniformed police officer to coerce at least five female victims to have sex with him. He pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual penetration, oral copulation and sodomy.
During closing arguments, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton said that Alvarez was a "rogue" police officer who drove the West Sacramento streets in the early morning hours, targeting the "vulnerable members of our society" and using his authority to subdue them.
Hamilton went over each of the five victims, stating that "these women were selected by Alvarez for victims on the belief that they were not going to report it, and that no one would believe them if they did." The alleged victims were prostitutes and drug addicts.
J. Toney, defense counsel for Alvarez, said that this case is really about an embarrassed police force "throwing the book" at an officer. The case, according to Toney, is actually about two things: the women Alvarez admitted to having sex with, and the women that he didn't.
Alvarez admitted to having consensual sexual relationships with three of the five female victims and did not deny that a number of the sexual occurrences happened while he was on duty.
Alvarez was arrested in February 2013 and remains in custody with bail set at $26.3 million.
South Middletown Township >> A former police officer and Carlisle man has been charged with corruption of minors for allegedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a minor, according to Pennsylvania State Police, Carlisle. Daniel M. Lanious, 49, allegedly sent texts to a girl, now 13 years-old, between July 1 and Aug. 17, according to the report.
The messages were found by the juvenile's mother and she reported it to State Police, Carlisle.
Lanious was most recently a patrolman of the Carroll Valley Borough Police, according to their website.
He has been charged with misdemeanor corruption of minors, and will have a preliminary hearing on April 2, according to online court documents.
Natalie San Luis
APD had a pretty rough weekend, PR-wise.
On Thursday, a young woman was detained and then arrested while jogging when she reportedly jaywalked in West Campus. After failing to provide identification, a group of four police officers arrested her.
Photos and a video of the encounter were taken by UT student Chris Quintero, who claimed that an officer ran after her and grabbed her by the arm.
Police Chief Art Acevedo didn't make the situation better when he commented the next day, "In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas."
Did you just do a double take too?
According to Quintero, police officers had been standing on a corner in West Campus writing citations to passersby who were jaywalking.
At one point, the young woman wearing earbuds jogged past. An officer followed her and grabbed her arm, which she jerked away.
In his blog, Quintero wrote,
The cop viewed this as resisting arrest and proceeded to grab both arms tightly, placing her in handcuffs. She repeatedly pleaded with them saying that she was just exercising and to let her go. She repeatedly cried out, "I did not do anything wrong...just give me the ticket." The other officer strolled over and now they were making a scene. She tried to get up. I doubt she was running away as she was in handcuffs, but the second cop pushed her back down to the ground. Because of the commotion, they walked her to the cop car in the alleyway next to Big Bite, where she, overcome with frustration, yelled loudly to gain attention. Because of that, the cops tightened their grip causing her to squirm and kick. Then came two bike cops from down the alley. We now have four cops and one small, helpless girl in the back of a cop car, because she was just going for a run.
After the incident received significant attention from local media, APD Police Chief Art Acevedo addressed the arrest at a press conference. Surprisingly, he vehemently defended the officers involved.
"Whether or not he grabbed her by behind it doesn't...it's not relevant," Acevedo said. "At some point she knows it's a cop. The cop asked her a lawful question that she is lawfully required to answer and she didn't. That's why she went to jail."
"It's kind of interesting what passes for controversy in Austin, Texas," he added. "Thank you Lord that there's a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually had the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them 'Oh my goodness, Austin Police, we're trying to get your attention.' Whew! In other cities, cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas."
I kind of understand the comment that Acevedo is trying to make, but he's not doing himself any favors by patting his officers on the back for not also sexually assaulting citizens.
Also, Art Acevedo doesn't get to evaluate how frightening it is to get grabbed by a strange person in the street until Art Acevedo is a woman who has endured street harassment.
The day after his interview, Acevedo released an apology, in which he said, "In hindsight I believe the comparison was a poor analogy, and for this I apologize. I stand committed to transparent leadership and will continue to engage the community we serve in an open, honest, and timely manner."
RAW VIDEO: Cell phone captures fatal fight between KCPD officer, firefighter: WARNING GRAPHIC, DISTURBING RAW VIDEO: A couple record cell phone video that captured captures the final moments when a routine arrest turned into a fatal confrontation between an off-duty firefighter celebrating his wedding reception and a Kansas City police officer working security.