Grassley seeks answers in police shooting
Kathie Obradovich, email@example.com 11:11 p.m. CST December 6, 2014
The family of an unarmed man who was shot in his home and killed by police in Fairfax County, Va., has been trying for 15 months to get local officials to answer basic questions: Who was the police officer, and why did he shoot?
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to know, too. He wrote letters last month to the Fairfax County police chief and the U.S. attorney’s office seeking answers not only about the facts of the shooting of John Geer but also about the startling lack of transparency.
Geer, 46, was killed by a single shot fired by a police officer on Aug. 29, 2013, at his home in Springfield, Va. A press release from Fairfax County police said officers responded at 2:40 p.m. to a domestic dispute at Geer’s residence.
Geer was upset that his girlfriend of many years was moving out and taking the couple’s two daughters, according to Geer’s father, Don Geer.
Police later seized guns from the house, but Geer was reportedly unarmed during the encounter. Don Geer said when he arrived at his son’s home during the standoff, John Geer had his hands on top of his head or on the door frame while three police officers pointed guns at him from the yard.
While officers were attempting to persuade John Geer to come out of the house, a police officer fired a shot.
“I heard the shot, and John grabbed his side,” Don Geer said. The injured man went back inside the house and shut the door. By the time police entered the house, which witnesses reported was at least an hour later, John Geer was dead.
Since then, Geer’s family, friends, the media and now Grassley have been unable to find out the identity of the police officer, who remains on administrative leave. They don’t know why the officer fired or why the other police did not. In January, Fairfax County chief prosecutor turned the case over to federal prosecutors, citing a conflict of interests. Nine months later, John Geer’s girlfriend filed a wrongful-death suit.
Grassley got involved after reading an editorial about the case in the Washington Post.
The police chief and an assistant U.S. attorney responded to Grassley’s letters last week — but still have not answered those questions. The federal prosecutor, Peter Kadzik, indicated in his letter dated Nov. 21 that the Department of Justice had to go to court to get information from the county and that information remains under seal.
“Incredibly, it looks like the Fairfax County Police Department resisted the U.S. attorney’s investigation and lost in court, though the details are unclear,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday. “While that explains some of the delay in the case, it doesn’t explain everything.”
Grassley noted the U.S. attorney’s office said it is not preventing the police department from releasing information about the shooting. It has only advised the police department to refrain from disclosing information about the federal investigation.
“So, there is no reason to keep the family and the public in the dark,” Grassley said.
A Grassley spokeswoman said the senator’s staff will meet with a member of the Geer family this week.
Don Geer said in a phone interview that he was appreciative of Grassley’s efforts, but he remains frustrated by the lack of answers.
“He didn’t get many answers, did he? I think he’s doing the best he can. He did a really good job in sending the initial letter to the Fairfax County police and the Justice Department, but he got stonewalled just like I’ve been and our attorneys and everyone else have been for the last 15 months,” Geer said.
Geer noted that in Ferguson, Mo., the police shooter’s name was released just seven days after Michael Brown’s death, and the grand jury decision was handed down in less than four months.
There was a grand jury decision in New York City six months after Eric Garner died after being restrained in a choke hold by a police officer.
“The whole situation is troubling,” Geer said. “You think justice will prevail and our judicial system will do the right things and be good about the whole thing.” But at times, he says, he wonders whether his son’s case will ever be resolved.
Grassley is still working on a separate case involving the May 31 death of a 20-year-old Iowa man, Brandon Ellingson, who drowned in Lake of the Ozarks while in the custody of a Missouri state trooper. In that case as well, the family has raised concerns about lack of transparency from authorities.
A Grassley spokeswoman said the senator is waiting for some information from the Ellingson family’s attorney before asking the attorney general for an investigation.
Grassley is doing a real service in investigating these cases, but this is too important to address on a piecemeal basis. Beyond the issues of racial politics, there needs to be a serious discussion about how public disclosure is handled in these cases around the country.
There’s a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. The Geer family has been denied justice for over 15 months. They deserve answers.
—The Justice Department says Fairfax County withheld information sought by federal prosecutors in their criminal investigation of a fatal shooting by a county police officer.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R–Iowa, asked the Justice Department last month to explain why the investigation into the August 2013 shooting of 46-year-old John Geer of Springfield is taking so long.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said part of the delay is that the Justice Department had to sue to obtain material for its investigation from Fairfax County.
County spokesman Tony Castrilli said that all information sought from the county Police Department has now been provided.
Witnesses say Geer was unarmed when shot by an officer responding to a call for a domestic dispute.
Rookie NYPD cop texted union before calling 911 after accidentally shooting innocent man
By RYAN GORMAN
A New York police officer who shot a man dead in a Brooklyn housing project texted his union before calling 911, a new report has revealed.
Akai Gurley, 28, was gunned down November 20 by rookie cop Peter Liang. The officer then texted his union representative before calling paramedics to tend to the dying Gurley, sources told the New York Daily News.
Liang fired one shot, then he and his partner went radio silent for more than six minutes, according to the paper. A 911 operator who knew the duo was in the building was even unable to reach them during their minutes off-the-grid.
"That's showing negligence," a law enforcement source told the Daily News. "The guy is dying and you still haven't called it in?"
Text messages received by the police union also showed both officers had no clue which building they were in, the source revealed. They were in the notorious Louis Pink Houses, in the East New York section of the borough, according to reports.
Liang and Shaun Landau, his partner, encountered Gurley while on an interior patrol referred to as "verticals" by police.
A superior officer, Deputy Inspector Miguel Iglesias, had previously barred them from such patrols, the source added. The preferred strategy was to remain outside unless summoned to an emergency.
"But Iglesias' philosophy was, 'I want a presence on the street, in the courtyards - and if they go into the buildings they were just supposed to check out the lobby," said the source.
Iglesias was reportedly furious the pair had gone against his wishes and entered the building, leading to the shooting incident.
The shooting was accidental. The officers Glock .9mm went off as he opened the door while holding a flashlight because the lights were out. The bullet actually ricocheted off the concrete wall and struck Gurley as he took the stairs with his girlfriend. She was reportedly not injured.
An attorney for Gurley's family has called the incident criminally negligent and told the Daily News he would be surprised if it does not reach a grand jury.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson will present the case to a grand jury later this month. The city Medical Examiner's Office has already ruled the death a homicide.
The disturbing details surrounding Gurley's shooting death were made public as the city is in the midst of days of protests over a grand jury's decision to not indict the cop who many believe put Staten Island father Eric Garner in a chokehold that led to his death.
Gurley's funeral is scheduled for Sunday.
Community outraged over John Geer investigation
SPRINGFIELD, Va. (WUSA9) -- There is outrage in Fairfax County after news that the police department blocked a criminal investigation into a fatal police shooting.
John Geer was unarmed standing in his Springfield doorway with his hands in the air when he was shot 15 months ago.
"You're in your house, you think police will protect you, and you get killed. It's really sad," said Malika Derdr, who lived next door to John Geer and his family before he was shot and killed. Now the Geer's townhouse is for sale and his girlfriend and children have moved out.
"I never heard any screaming or saw any trouble for him," said Derdr. She was stunned when she learned police shot and killed him on August 29, 2013.
Neighbors' pictures show Geer with his hands up and at least one officer with his gun drawn and pointed.
"He had his hands up with no movements whatsoever and a shot was fired. I mean, no justification, whatsoever," said Don Geer, John's father who witnessed the shooting. Don Geer believes the county has failed him.
The Geer family has filed a $12 million dollar wrongful death civil suit against Fairfax Police Chief Edwin Roessler, the Police Department and three John Doe Police Officers who responded that day. On December 5th, Geer's attorney Michael Lieberman filed motions to try to force the police to hand over documents about the shooting, including the name of the officer who fired.
But Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh handed the criminal investigation over to the Justice Department which told Senator Charles Grassley that it had to sue the Fairfax Police Department over withheld materials. Sources say police withheld the same files from the Commonwealth's Attorney.
Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity says he remembers being told the officer's name, but he has since forgotten. He says he supports the police policy which allows for the age, years of service and duty station of the officer to be released, unless there's a good reason to withhold that information.
Herrity says he's outraged the county blocked a criminal investigation but does not blame the police chief.
"I don't think this is the police department covering this up I think it's the county attorney's office maybe being a little over protective," said Herrity.
The Board of Supervisors hired the county attorney. "And we have instructed him, perhaps too late, but we've instructed him fully comply and that's why I'm outraged to hear that we stood in the way of justice getting their documents." says Herrity.
Board Chairman Sharon Bulova issued a statement today saying:
"...My colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and I are frustrated and dissatisfied with the length of time this investigation has taken. The Geer family and the community deserve information and closure.
Federal investigators have been provided all information and materials from the County that they have requested. I urge the Department of Justice to bring this investigation to a timely resolution."
Feds say Fairfax County slowed federal investigation of John Geer police shooting
By Tom Jackman December 4
The Justice Department, attempting to explain why there has been no visible movement in the 15-month investigation into the Fairfax County police shooting death of John Geer, says in a newly released letter that Fairfax “withheld materials” from the probe and that there were “a number of challenges in investigating this case.” The letter also says that Justice has not given any instruction to Fairfax not to discuss the shooting, only the federal investigation itself.
The letter is below. It was the second response to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who last month asked five questions of both the Fairfax police and the Justice Department concerning the ongoing investigation. Geer was unarmed and was shot once in the chest as he stood in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse in August 2013 after standing and speaking with officers for 50 minutes. Fairfax police have refused to identify the officer or discuss why the shot was fired, and this week they declined even to reveal his age, length of service and assignment. The Fairfax police general order on release of information after a critical incident states that the department “shall release” such information “unless release may jeopardize the employee’s safety.” Capt. Dorian Portee declined to say why the information was being withheld.
“Incredibly,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday, “it looks like the Fairfax County Police Department resisted the U.S. Attorney’s investigation and lost in court, though the details are unclear. While that explains some of the delay in the case, it doesn’t explain everything. Fortunately, the U.S. Attorney’s letter removes the excuse for not answering questions, since it clearly states that the police department is free to disclose information about the shooting. So, there is no reason to keep the family and the public in the dark. ”
Grassley asked the Justice Department if the Fairfax police “refused to provide to your office any information or documents pertaining to this case — including the personnel file of the officer who allegedly shot Mr. Geer?” Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik responded, “There have been a number of challenges in investigating this case. Issues concerning withheld materials were favorably litigated by the Department in a court matter that is and remains filed under seal.”
Lawyers familiar with federal proceedings said that response is likely a reference to grand jury proceedings, which are under seal, and an attempt by prosecutors and the grand jury to obtain documents from Fairfax County. Lawyers for the county have advised the Fairfax police to resist prosecutors’ attempts to obtain personnel or internal affairs files on the officers involved, several officials familiar with the case said. Geer’s lawyers said when a federal grand jury sought to subpoena those records, Fairfax lawyers likely fought that in court, leading to the Justice Department’s reference to “litigated by the Department in a court matter” under seal, as nearly all grand jury proceedings are.
“I suspect, but I don’t know,” said lawyer Michael Lieberman, who has sued the Fairfax police on behalf of Geer’s family, “that Fairfax County thought it had some kind of privilege or other reasons to withhold information from the grand jury, they went to court and my read is they lost and had to provide the information. There are other possibilities but they are so remote that this is the most logical one.”
Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) said of the Justice Department letter, “If the county attorney actually fought providing information and litigated it, I’m going to be very angry. The county shouldn’t be placing hurdles in front of the investigation, they need to be providing information so that the Justice Department can make the correct determination in a timely basis – we owe that to the officer and John Geer’s family.”
The letter also clarifies the timeline in the case: Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh referred the case to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria in January, not February, which was when he first disclosed the move. Morrogh reportedly also had been seeking personnel or internal affairs records in the case, had been rebuffed by the police, and shifted the case to federal authorities after four months. The Justice Department has now had the case for 11 months.
Fairfax County police did not respond to questions about the letter. Fairfax Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said a written response was forthcoming, which will be included here when it is received. [UPDATE, 4:20 p.m., Dec. 4: Fairfax spokesman Tony Castrilli wrote that, "As the DOJ letter states, certain information was the subject of court proceedings which are sealed by law, but all information sought from our Police Department has been provided...We also are awaiting a conclusion of the investigation and remain committed to our policy not to interfere with or jeopardize that process. " The county declined to answer specific questions about the case.]
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
Geer Lawyer Expects Hearing Before New Year On Springfield Shooting
By Tim Peterson
#Out of 128 requests for the production of documents made by the Geer family lawyer Michael Lieberman, all but two have been denied by Fairfax County.
#In September, Lieberman filed a $12 million lawsuit against the county for the wrongful death of Springfield resident John Geer. Geer died in August 2013 after being shot by Fairfax County Police.
#The names of the officers involved in the shooting have yet to be released, as well as any explanation of why Geer was shot, or why he didn’t receive first aid immediately.
#“Their intentions are very clear,” Lieberman said of the County, “to not give any information until the court orders them to do so, do nothing voluntarily. This is their policy, to stonewall.”
#A spokesman from Fairfax County declined to comment.
#Lieberman said the explanation he’s received for the continued blockade is that a criminal investigation is currently underway.
#Fairfax County Chief of Police Edwin Roessler said in a September interview that the case was being handled by the Department of Justice. However, U.S. Attorney Dana Boente’s office has continued to decline to comment.
#“We have eyewitnesses to the incident who’ve never been called in front of a grand jury,” said Lieberman. “How do we know they’re not even done? After 15 months, I think you give up your right to withhold this type of information. We have a right to know, just like in Ferguson, just like everywhere else.”
#Lieberman is expecting to have a court hearing before a judge in the next two to three weeks.
#“Hopefully we’ll get some answer sometimes soon,” he said. “We pay for this, these folks are responsible to us. Where is the Board of Supervisors on all this? Is this the way they want their county run? They won’t adopt a citizen review board, that’s clear, so how are you doing to be answerable?”
By Nicholas Rizzi
Peter McLaughlin, 41, an NYPD officer for the 120th Precinct, was arrested by Homeland Security investigators for possession of child pornography, prosecutors said.
WILLOWBROOK — A Staten Island police officer was arrested last week by Homeland Security after more than 100 child pornography movies were found on his computer, prosecutors said.
Peter McLaughlin, 41, a nine-year veteran of the NYPD's 120th Precinct, was arrested last Friday by Homeland Security investigators for having the videos on the computer in his Willowbrook home, according to the NYPD and court documents.
He has been suspended without pay by the NYPD, a spokesman said.
McLaughlin pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Friday in Staten Island Criminal Court, a spokesman for the district attorney's office said.
He was released without bail and is due back in court on Jan. 21, 2015.
Other notable arrests on Staten Island include:
► A man fractured the skull of another man during a bar fight earlier this month, prosecutors said. The victim then went missing for four days.
Erik Gaudioso, 23, punched Philip Caruso, 22, in the face inside Danny Boy's bar at 1815 Victory Blvd. on Nov. 9 at 3:16 a.m., court papers read.
Caruso had a fractured skull, bleeding to the brain and a brain injury from the punch, court papers read.
After the punch, Caruso was seen leaving his house on Nov. 10 and was reported missing, police said. He returned home four days later.
Gaudioso was arrested on Friday and charged with assault at his arraignment on Tuesday, a spokesman for the district attorney said.
His bail was set at $1,500 and he's due back in court on Jan. 21, 2015.
Story by Jana Eschbach/CBS12 News
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBS12) -- A police officer from the Port St. Lucie Police Department has been arrested by the St.Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
Officer Myron Pratt is facing 10 felonies in connection with a relationship police say he had with a 16-year-old girl.
"My initial reaction is shock, disbelief and, as the evidence becomes more and more clear, the shock wears off and you know it's just unbelievable," said Port St. Lucie Police Chief Jon Bolduc.
Investigators said the two met while he worked as an adjunct professor at Indian River State College.
Investigators said Pratt is under investigation for performing two sex acts with the teen in her car in a property adjacent to a church.
Pratt, 30, is accused of use of child in sexual performance, two counts of sexual activity with a minor, possession of child pornography, promoting sexual performance by a child, disseminating information for child pornography, lewd computer solicitation of a child, two counts of traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity and one count of interfering with custody of parent/guardian.
Police also said there may be more victims out there.
Police arrested Pratt Monday night. Investigators said he's refused to answer questions by authorities.
Pratt is former Navy and a graduate of St. Lucie High School.
He's been with the police department since Aug. 2013.
Police said the investigation began after the girl's mother found revealing text messages on her daughter's cellphone.
The daughter, according to police, broke off the relationship with Pratt because she had a new boyfriend.
Adam Casaus, a 12-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department, will serve the maximum sentence for misdemeanor careless driving that led to the death of 21-year-old Ashley Browder. He sped through an intersection in a police SUV, killing the Air National Guard member and injuring her younger sister.
BY RACHELLE BLIDNER
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A former New Mexico police officer whose careless driving killed a 21-year-old Air National Guard member was sentenced to 90 days in jail Friday.
Adam Casaus will serve the maximum sentence and pay a fine of $300 after a jury found him guilty of two counts of careless driving in September.
Casaus ran a red light while behind the wheel of an Albuquerque Police Department SUV Feb. 10, 2013, investigators said. His car slammed into a white Honda CRV, killing passenger Ashley Browder, and injuring driver and sister Lindsay Browder, then 19.
In September, Casaus was cleared of charges of vehicular homicide and reckless driving, felonies that could have thrown him behind bars for up to nine years, according to KRQE News 13.
Prosecutors and Browder's family said they were disappointed and angered that Casaus was charged with only a misdemeanor for Ashley Browder's death. The family asked Judge Richard Knowles to sentence the former cop to the maximum sentence.
"Adam Casaus has given us a life sentence without Ashley, a life sentence of mental and physical pain for Lindsay, and life sentence of grief and sorrow for her father and mother," Chuck Browder, Ashley and Lindsay Browder's father, told the court Friday.
Casaus apologized to Browder's family, saying he is "grieving" with them.
"If there was a way I could switch places with Ashley Browder right now, I would," Casaus said.
He told the court he was speeding to chase after a car driving recklessly, but investigators said there is no evidence of that claim.
The former sergeant testified that he drove through a green light on Paseo del Norte, not a red one, the first time he has claimed so in trial.
Casaus requested to serve his 90 days in house arrest but was denied. He will spend his jail sentence in protective custody at Metropolitan Detention Center, according to KOAT 7.
The 12-year veteran of the police department lost his job and his law enforcement certification months after the accident, the Albuquerque Journal reported. He will not get his job back after serving his sentence.
Browder's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Casaus and the police department.
Ashley Browder served in the Nevada National Guard for three years before moving to Albuquerque with her sister two months before the collision.
Former South Plainfield Police Captain Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sexually Exploiting a Minor
U.S. Attorney’s Office November 21, 2014 • District of New Jersey (973) 645-2888
TRENTON, NJ—A former South Plainfield police captain was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for exploiting a minor girl by enticing her to live-stream sexually explicit acts via the Internet in exchange for payment, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Michael Grennier, 52, of South Plainfield, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to an information charging him with one count of production of child pornography. Grennier was charged by complaint on Feb. 19, 2013, and has been in custody since that date. Judge Wolfson imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On Feb. 14, 2013, Grennier enticed a girl to perform sexually explicit acts and stream images of herself over the Internet while he watched remotely from his home computer. During the webcam session, Grennier exchanged text messages with the minor in which he directed her actions. Grennier admitted during his guilty plea proceeding that he promised to buy his victim clothing in exchange for her performance.
At the time of his arrest, Grennier was working for a private computer forensics firm. Prior to his retirement, he was a computer forensics specialist for the South Plainfield Police Department.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Wolfson sentenced Grennier to serve lifetime supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a later date. Grennier will also be required to register as a sex offender.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, for the investigation leading to today’s plea. He also thanked the South Plainfield Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police James Parker, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Andrew Carey, for their assistance with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fabiana Pierre-Louis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton and Harvey Bartle, the Attorney-in-Charge of the U.S. Attorney’s Trenton Office.
By Mark Mueller |
A year after suspensions, two Edison police officers still collecting salaries of $120K, $89K
4 plead not guilty in Edison police retaliation case
Complaint filed against Edison police chief for bicycle shopping while on duty and in uniform
Texts between Edison cops point to retaliation, assistant prosecutor says
Indicted Edison cops will fight charges, lawyers say
In what amounts to a long vacation at taxpayer expense, two Edison police officers continue to draw hefty salaries more than a year after they were suspended amid allegations of impropriety.
Patrolmen Anthony Sarni, who earns $120,000 annually, and David Pedana, who makes $89,000, were suspended in October 2013 over unrelated episodes of alleged misconduct.
Sarni, while still in uniform after the completion of his shift, returned to the scene of a 911 call at an Edison hotel, where he allegedly tried to coerce a woman to have sex with him. The woman rebuffed the 40-year-old officer and filed a complaint, authorities have said.
Pedana, 35, is accused of sending text messages that contained numerous racial epithets, including some directed at fellow officers.
Township officials signaled their intention to fire the two in May of this year, sending the officers letters saying they were entitled to defend themselves at departmental disciplinary hearings.
But those hearings, akin to trials, have yet to take place. Moreover, they haven't even been scheduled, according to members of the department.
“My God, that’s a good gig if you can get it,” Edison Councilman Wayne Mascola said. “We’re not talking chump change here. We all know what kind of money these officers make. Something has to be done for the taxpayers’ sake.”
Mascola added that because he didn’t know what kind of evidence exists against the officers, he wasn’t advocating for their dismissal. But he urged Mayor Thomas Lankey, the township’s public safety director, to move more swiftly in scheduling disciplinary hearings.
“A decision has to be made, and we have to move on,” Mascola said. “It’s been 13 months. Why are we waiting around on this?”
Lankey declined to be interviewed for this story. In an emailed statement, he addressed the circumstances that required the township to pay the officers during their suspensions. The statement did not say why hearings have yet to be held.
“In the private sector, employees who are accused of wrongdoing can be suspended without pay pending an inquiry or they can simply be terminated,” Lankey said. “The public sector – in our case, municipal government – is constrained by state statute, case law and union contracts.”
Under state rules, police officers must continue to receive pay while suspended unless they’re charged with a duty-related fourth-degree crime, a crime of the third degree or higher, or a crime of moral turpitude. While Sarni and Pedana face multiple administrative counts, they were not charged with crimes.
Pedana could not be reached for comment. An attorney for Sarni did not return several phone calls.
Such lengthy suspensions with pay are not unprecedented, but they are rare, said Wayne Fisher, a former deputy director in the state Division of Criminal Justice and now a professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Criminal Justice.
A police officer in Coconut Creek, Fla., returned to work last year after a suspension of nearly 18 months, according to published reports. In Georgia, seven police officers were placed on desk duty for several years while continuing to collect full pay, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2009.
In the Edison case, Fisher said it is within the mayor’s purview to continue paying the officers, but he said Lankey should publicly explain why the suspension has dragged on.
“He has a responsibility to the people of Edison -- the taxpayers of Edison -- to say what is taking so long to bring this to a disposition,” Fisher said. “The inability or disinclination to answer that question in and of itself says something.”
Edison police Chief Thomas Bryan declined to comment on the suspensions, saying he was not at liberty to discuss personnel issues.
Sarni and Pedana are among at least six Edison officers out on suspension.
Acting Lt. William Gesell and two patrolmen, Victor Aravena and Brian Favretto, allegedly conspired with another officer, Michael Dotro, to retaliate against a North Brunswick cop who brought a drunken driving charge against one of Dotro’s associates.
The four were indicted in October on a range of criminal counts related to the alleged retaliation plot, which was not carried out. In an unrelated matter, Aravena was charged with pressuring a fellow Edison officer to change a police report in May 2013.
The officers, all suspended without pay, have pleaded not guilty.
The charges against them grew out of a case that rocked the police department last year: the arrest of Dotro on charges that he tried to kill one of his superiors by setting fire to the man’s house as he and his family slept inside.
The superior, Deputy Chief Mark Anderko, and his relatives escaped unharmed. Dotro faces five counts of attempted murder and other counts for the alleged arson attack.
In the wake of Dotro’s arrest, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office seized cell phones from many of his colleagues to determine if any of them had advance knowledge of the fire. The alleged retaliation plot -- along with the racist text messages on Pedana’s phone -- were discovered during that investigation, authorities have said.
Mark Mueller may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarkJMueller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Kenneth Caplan, a reserve deputy constable for Harris County, Precinct 6 in Texas, has been arrested for shooting a woman in a road rage incident earlier this month.
The incident happened on November 11, and escalated when the woman, who was not identified in multiple reports, said Caplan cut her off in traffic. Annoyed, she honked her horn and then bolted around Caplan’s car and cut him off.
This sent the man into a rage. He pulled alongside the woman. She thought that he was going to cuss at her. She shared the full harrowing experience in comments to the Houston Chronicle, noting that he “drove alongside her, rolled his window down, pointed his weapon and opened fire.”
“I just started crying because I knew I was going to die,” she said. “I wanted to call my mom to tell her ‘I love you.'”
Caplan had a female passenger with him. Together they fled the scene.
“He was aiming at me and I thought he was going to cuss me out. It didn’t register that I was, you know, going to get shot,” the victim added. “The blood was in between my nails, just crazy blood, and all over my cellphone, just covered.”
Click2Houston reports that the bullet grazed the woman’s head and that she was later admitted to the hospital, where she would stay for three days with “non-life threatening injuries.”
The Chronicle states that Kenneth Caplan was not wearing his uniform at the time of the incident, nor was he on duty.
“Precinct 6 neither condones nor tolerates the actions taken by Kenneth Caplan that connected him to this incident, and the necessary measures were taken to collect his credentials and remove him from our status,” Precinct 6 later stated in a news release.
With all the media attention given to officers using deadly force, this latest incident doesn’t help the relationship between peace officers and the general public.
In August, there were two separate shootings that received a great deal of national attention — one involving Dillon Taylor, a white unarmed man who was killed by a police officer, and then Michael Brown, who died after being shot several times by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department.
In both cases, grand juries decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue charges. Nevertheless, stories like these and that of Kenneth Caplan could continue to put the public on edge when dealing with law enforcement.
Do you think the officer who fired at the woman for honking should be given hard prison time?
An officer suffered a serious leg injury Monday morning after he accidentally shot himself while off-duty, according to a Knoxville Police Department release.
The department said officer Bill McMaham was taking his personal, off-duty weapon out of his police cruiser when the gun went off shortly after 6 a.m. Monday. The .40-caliber round shot into his thigh.
A second off-duty officer gave McMaham first aid until crews could take him to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He was listed in stable condition Monday afternoon.
Both officers said when the incident happened, they were getting ready to leave McMaham's home off Papermill Drive for their second jobs at a construction site.
Officials said they're still investigating what happened.
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The Metropolitan Police Department has charged a Prince George's County Police Officer with leaving the scene of an accident.
Officer Mark Samuels-Thompson was arrested on November 30th, Prince George's County Police said. Officer Samuels-Thompson was off duty and was not operating a department vehicle at the time of his arrest, police said.
No injuries were reported, police said.
The Prince George's County Police Department's Special Investigation Response team launched an administrative investigation after the arrest. Officer Samuels-Thompson's police powers had already been suspended for unrelated internal charges, police said.
Officer Samuels-Thompson has been employed by the Prince George's County Police Department for seven years and is currently assigned to the Bureau of Patrol, police said.
By Matt McNulty
Officer Philip LeRoy was the "Cop of the Year" in the 114th Precinct two years ago. Photo: Facebook
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A Queens police officer who once won his precinct’s “Cop of the Year’’ award has been busted on cocaine-trafficking charges, sources said Tuesday.
Officer Philip LeRoy, who works in the 114th Precinct, was nabbed just before midnight Monday in Sunrise City, Fla., with two other men while allegedly buying 10 kilos of cocaine, sources told The Post.
LeRoy — the son of a retired detective — allegedly drove from New York with the intent to buy drugs in the Sunshine State and had his off-duty weapon on him at the time.
“Sunrise PD does this thing called forfeiture, which are like reverse drug-deal stings, where cops pose as dealers selling very cheap cocaine. They’re known for these kind of big busts,” a police source said.
“You got to be pretty stupid to do this deal in Sunrise.”
LeRoy, 28, was charged with felony weapons possession, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, according to court records. His bail was set at $250,000.
The NYPD suspended the cop early Tuesday, authorities said.
He is in jail awaiting formal charges to be brought by state prosecutors, which could take up to 21 days, said an official at the Broward County Clerk’s Office.
Two years ago, LeRoy was picked from more than 100 officers in his precinct to win its “Cop of the Year” award, according to a report at the time.
“As a member of the anti-crime unit, P.O. Leroy has made more than two dozen arrests so far this year for things like robbery and gun possession,” said then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in praising the cop.
‘You got to be pretty stupid to do this deal in Sunrise, [Florida].’
- Police source
LeRoy, who lives in Queens, racked up 188 arrests between January 2009 — when he joined the NYPD — and June 2012.
On Facebook, the disgraced cop has posed for photos with a flashy black Infiniti and some featuring his chiseled abs while he’s surrounded by voluptuous women.
In one picture from 2012, he stands next to a wall emblazoned with the NYPD shield and the words “The Greatest Detectives.”
His family didn’t return messages seeking comment.
A woman who answered the door at his Queens Village address said the family didn’t live there.
LeRoy’s alleged accomplices, Richard Quintanilla and Brian Espinal, are accused of negotiating the deal, sources said.
Quintanilla, 35, and Espinal, 27, were each charged with trafficking cocaine and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
Additional reporting by Larry Celona and Kirstan Conley
By Evan Lips, New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN >> A Quinnipiac University graduate who was arrested during his senior year in 2010 for filming police arresting a classmate outside Toad’s Place recently filed a federal lawsuit against the city and two police officers.
The complaint, filed Saturday by Kenneth Hartford, seeks “money damages” and accuses the officers of using excessive force and violating Hartford’s “constitutional rights to free speech and to be free from false arrest.”
Hartford was charged with interfering with police and disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed more than a year after Hartford’s Sept. 25, 2010, arrest.
New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden has not responded to a message requesting comment.
Hartford’s lawsuit claims the city of New Haven “has incurred municipal liability for the constitutional violations of the individual defendants.” The suit names Officers David Totino and Richard Miller, but Miller said Thursday the suit incorrectly named him instead of another officer, and that he has no involvement in the case. The identify of the other officer could not immediately be confirmed by officials.
An account of Hartford’s arrest that appeared in the Sept. 28, 2010, edition of Quinnipiac Chronicle quotes another student as saying police tossed Hartford to the ground and handcuffed him after he resumed filming following the officers’ commands to stop.
Hartford posted the video online after he was released from jail, about eight hours after his arrest.
According to the lawsuit, Hartford had been filming Totino and the other officer “peaceably and from a distance” as they detained another Quinnipiac University student. The suit claims Hartford did not interfere with the officers and alleges the other officer “performed a mocking dance for the camera, in an attempt to deride the plaintiff.”
Totino is described in the complaint as ordering Hartford to “put your phone in your pocket and get the (expletive) out of here.”
The suit noted that Totino told Hartford he didn’t “have to listen to (expletive)” but added that Totino told Hartford he could get his name and badge number.
“As a direct result of the unlawful intimidation of the defendant officers the plaintiff (Hartford) ceased filming the defendants and retreated from the area,” the complaint states. “Shortly thereafter the plaintiff begins filming the defendants once again. Immediately the defendants tackled the plaintiff, taking him to the concrete sidewalk face-first.”
The complaint also points out that while Hartford was “further away from the defendants than other friends of the arrested individual” and happened to be the only one filming, he was the only member of the group to be tackled to the ground and arrested. Hartford also claimed Totino and the other officer took his phone and tried to erase the video but instead “unintentionally and briefly filmed the plaintiff lying face-down on the ground.”
His arrest report shows police booked Hartford into the city’s jail at 12:16 a.m.
“Therein, the plaintiff was held in a locked cell,” the complaint states. “The plaintiff was not processed until approximately 8 a.m. the following morning.
“Although he violated no law the plaintiff was falsely charged with a crime and forced to appear in court as an accused criminal. No probably cause existed for the arrest of the plaintiff.”
Hartford claims in his complaint that he was tossed to the ground, arrested and jailed “solely because he was exercising his lawful right to record police in the public performance of their duties, as protected by the First Amendment.”
The complaint also notes that the police chief at the time, Frank Limon, “subsequently admitted knowing that it is lawful to record police officers in the public performance of their duties.”
Hartford claims he has suffered “deprivation of rights, loss of liberty, great terror, fear, humiliation, indignity, anxiety, stress, emotional and mental distress, upset, physical injury, suffering and financial loss.”
The complaint does not indicate the extent of money damages Hartford is seeking but claims “attorney fees and costs of this action” and “such other relief as this court shall consider to be fair and equitable.”
His attorney, William S. Palmieri, could not be reached for comment.
According to Hartford’s LinkedIn.com account, he currently lives outside of Philadelphia.
Correction: While the lawsuit names Officer Richard Miller, Miller said Thursday the suit incorrectly named him instead of another officer, and that he has no involvement in the case. The identify of the other officer could not immediately be confirmed by officials.
KING CITY, Calif. —Police Sgt. Mark Baker became the first officer arrested in a King City corruption scandal to enter a no contest plea.
According to the warrant, Kenneth Tippery is a registered sex offender, has been the King City Police Department's IT manager for over two decades, and helped Sgt. Bobby Carrillo illegally gain secret, remote access to the KCPD network.
Baker, 45, of Paso Robles, agreed to a plea deal with the Monterey County District Attorney on Wednesday. Prosecutors dropped a charge of making criminal threats in exchange for Baker pleading no contest to false imprisonment.
He will be sentenced on March 18 and faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Baker must serve five years of probation and cannot possess firearms.
Baker has been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested in February. When asked if Baker will be removed from the police force because he cannot have a gun, Assistant District Attorney Steve Somers said that decision is up to the KCPD.
"In a practical sense, he can no longer be a peace officer. It's a requirement for a police officer to have a gun in order to do his job. I'm not saying what the King City Police Department will do," Somers said.
The district attorney said the investigation into Baker stemmed from an Aug. 19, 2013 incident when Baker's personal truck was stolen and stripped for parts.
Three days later, while Baker was in uniform and on duty, he decided to go find the thief who stole his truck. He found a suspect in a King City motel.
"(Baker) confronted him and threatened him by telling him that he was going to 'make him disappear, and not to jail.' (Baker) was in uniform and armed when he made this threat. The victim, believing the threat, then confessed to possessing the items stolen from (Baker's) truck. Baker gave him two hours to return the items, including $40 for the gas used after the truck was stolen," the District Attorney's Office wrote.
After Baker got his stuff back, he never made an arrest, or filed a police report.
Currently, nearly 40 percent of the King City police force is on paid administrative leave, and the city is being patrolled by 11 sworn officers.
The six officers arrested in the February bust were: Baker, Sgt. Bobby Carrillo, then-Police Chief Bruce Miller, former Police Chief Nick Baldiviez, Officer Mario Mottu, Sr., and Officer Jaime Andrade. Miller's brother, Brian Miller, was also arrested.
Andrade is so far the only officer who has been fired by King City. He was fired by City Manager Michael Powers because of an internal investigation conducted by the city.
Prosecutor Doug Matheson said the investigation into Andrade was spurred when Andrade's stepson, 17-year-old Anthony Ramirez, was arrested by Salinas police in July 2013 for illegally possessing Andrade's handgun. Andrade was charged with two felonies: illegal storage of a firearm and illegal possession of an assault weapon.
Carrillo, both Millers, Baldiviez, Mottu, and Andrade pleaded not guilty and are waiting for their trials to begin.
BY CATHY LOCKE
What is the status of ex-officer Gary Dale Baker’s trial?
– David, Antelope
Gary Dale Baker, a former Sacramento police officer, is accused of raping a woman in her 70s whose speech was impaired due to a stroke.
According to Sacramento Superior Court online records, he is scheduled for trial on Monday.
Police and prosecutors have charged that Baker raped the woman twice in her apartment, in November 2010 and September 2012. According to stories in The Sacramento Bee, authorities said Baker was questioned, arrested and fired in December 2012 after the woman’s son mounted a game-hunting camera over her apartment door and turned over to police a video purportedly showing an assailant entering her apartment to attack her.
The woman suffered a stroke in 2009 that left her with a condition called speech aphasia, which severely inhibits her ability to communicate through written or spoken words.
A detective testified during the preliminary hearing that Baker told investigators that he had sex with the woman, but he insisted it was consensual.