Friday, July 04, 2008

Was Drunk Officer given Favorable Treatment?

More than three months after San Jose police failed to test a former cop for intoxication or cite her after a serious multi-car accident, the state Attorney General has charged Sandra Woodall with felony drunken driving.

Woodall, 39, now an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, is expected in court July 10.

The charge begs a larger and so far unanswered question: Did police officers at the scene of the March 25 nighttime accident intentionally do an incomplete job while trying to protect Woodall from criminal charges?

Soon after realizing one of their own was involved, both police and the district attorney's office agreed to ask the state prosecutor to look into the case, realizing there was a potential conflict of interest.

And there were private worries by officials about whether Woodall was given favorable treatment by fellow cops.

Woodall's husband, Jason, is a sergeant at the department; her father-in-law is Jack Woodall, a former lieutenant at the police department and also a district attorney's investigator.

Officers did not conduct either a field sobriety test or take Woodall's blood, although they had a statement from a witness who claimed to have overheard Woodall talking about drinking. In car crashes, it is common practice to ask for a blood sample if there is probable cause that the driver may be intoxicated.

When asked if state investigators had determined if there was any misconduct on the part of the police, Attorney General spokesman Abraham Arredondo said that he did not know and was not sure it was an issue that was investigated.

"We were asked by the DA's office to look at the DUI because this woman is an employee of the DAs' office and a former police officer," Arredondo said. "When they had that conflict they sent it to us."

"So our people looked at it, reviewed the police report and we decided to file felony DUI charges, there is nothing else that I know of."

A copy of the charges were unavailable today.

Police Sgt. Michael Sullivan said from the moment command staff learned of the case through a citizen complaint they have been "extremely concerned" that the incident may not have been handled properly.

"This why the police department immediately reached out the District Attorney's office and the Attorney General," said Sullivan.

Police confirmed they were investigating what happened that night to determine if the officers acted inappropriately.

Nick Muyo, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined comment, other than to say that Woodall has has been put on administrative leave.

On March 25, Woodall was driving a black 2006 Cadillac Escalade eastbound on Branham Lane, police said, when she rear-ended a 1987 Ford Escort driving in the same direction.

The Escalade drove over the median and hit an oncoming 1995 Volkswagen Jetta. The Jetta hit a parked car and the Escalade ended up partially on the sidewalk. All three drivers - including Woodall - complained of minor injuries and were eventually taken to a local hospital, police said.

The case might simply have disappeared had not an outraged victim called top police officials to complain that nothing was being done.

The officials then reviewed the case and recognized the name of the former officer.

They called the DA's office, which - fearing a conflict of interest - forwarded the matter to the state attorney general's office.

If the officers are found to have botched their response to the crash or to have attempted to cover up the Woodall's potential culpability, they could face discipline ranging from extra training to termination.

The officers who responded to the crash, who have not been identified publicly, remain on active duty.

UPDATE: More Details about Officer accused of Sexual Battery

A woman has claimed that a former Gainesville Police officer coerced and intimidated her into having sex with him.

Gainesville Police received the complaint on May 7, and John Robert Bostick, 34, resigned May 9 from the department at the start of the internal investigation.

The woman wrote in a “victim statement” that Bostick was making her have sex with him to keep him from “messing with” her family and allowing her to drive with an invalid driver’s license, according to the police supplement report.

The woman said that Bostick had called her multiple times, though she did not answer the phone.

The woman told police that she met Bostick at a downtown nightclub where she works.

While on patrol, he complimented her on her looks and asked for her personal information, the report stated.

Bostick also shared confidential police information with the woman regarding her father’s arrest.

In a separate incident, Bostick told the woman that her friend shouldn’t worry about his charges because Bostick forgot to write the citation, according to the report.

The alleged sexual battery occurred outside of Gainesville Police jurisdiction, and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Spencer Mann, State Attorney’s Office spokesman, said the attorney’s office is still deciding whether Bostick could be prosecuted for a sexual battery charge.

UPDATE: Detective Jason Barber Free on Bond


An Indianapolis narcotics detective facing charges of selling a handgun to a felon and official misconduct was released on bond today.

Detective Jason Barber was released after a Marion Superior Court judge reduced his bond from $100,000 to $5,000.

Barber is accused of knowingly selling a firearm to a convicted burglar during a police sting. He is the fourth Indianapolis police officer arrested in two weeks and the third narcotics detective. He has been suspended without pay.

Barber's attorney, Terrance Kinnard, says Barber denies the charges.

As a condition of his release, Judge William Young required Barber to report weekly, surrender his passport and be subject to random drug tests while awaiting his trial in September.

D.C. Officer Arrested for Assault, Abduction, and Rape

A Metropolitan Police Department officer is in jail facing charges of attempted rape, assault and abduction after police said they caught him going after his former girlfriend.

Officer Kelvin Barksdale, a tremendously popular patrol officer on Capitol Hill, is held without bond in the Prince William County jail. Many people expressed shock at the news of his arrest, while others who witnesses the attack, including a Virginia police officer who helped stop it, said it could have been worse.

"I had pulled up at that intersection, Williamstown Drive and Old Triangle and heard all the commotion, all the screaming and yelling." A woman was fighting for her life when Dumfries police detective Mark McCoy jumped out to help. He saw a man, allegedly Barksdale, who is accused of trying to abduct his former girlfriend at gunpoint, possibly using his service weapon.

"Take her to the wooded area over here where he made the threats to kill her and her family, her children." Neighbors credited detective McCoy and others for interrupting the attack and perhaps saving the woman's life. She reportedly had ended a personal relationship with Barksdale a few days earlier.

"I mean, come on. He is a police officer. He should know better than that.," neighbor Dorothy Dye said.

44-year-old Barksdale is a much decorated, veteran officer based out of the First District Police Station. He's well-known and well-liked as a beat cop in Capitol Hill neighborhoods. It was his own department who helped Dumfries Police take him into custody. "They contacted him and at some point encouraged him to come down and turn himself in," McCoy said.

Witnesses said there was such rage involved in the assault, at first they thought the man was a stranger, not someone who could have ever cared about the person he was attacking. "There are crazy people out there in the world who don't have their head on straight. They're in law enforcement and politics and school and everywhere," neighbor Lakisha Ferguson said.

Officer Barksdale will stay behind bars until his hearing at the end of August. Meantime, he's on administrative leave from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Indianapolis Officer and his Wife accused Running Prostitution Ring

An Indianapolis police officer and his wife were accused Wednesday of running a prostitution ring out of their Greenwood home, and a former top criminal justice agency official was arrested and charged with patronizing a prostitute.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Patrolman Jeremy Lee, 30, was fired after Johnson County prosecutors filed a felony charge against him of aiding in promoting prostitution. His wife, Lori Vernon-Lee, 36, faces five felony counts of promoting prostitution.

Jerry McCory, 56, who most recently served as a Marion County sheriff's liaison at Jail II and Liberty Hall, is charged with patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor.

McCory, former director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, a Merrillville police chief and a public safety adviser to Mayor Bart Peterson, resigned from the Sheriff's Department on June 25 without explanation.

Lee was a probationary officer who joined the department in October. His arrest marks the fifth of an IMPD officer in the past 16 days.

"We're disturbed by his conduct; we're ashamed of him," IMPD Chief Michael Spears said. "The thing the public needs to know is this investigation (was made) by the members of our own agency. . . . We're going to be a stronger agency for the removal of individuals like Mr. Lee."

Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner said the charges followed an IMPD investigation submitted to his office early Wednesday. He said a prostitution case involving law enforcement is unprecedented in the community south of Indianapolis.

"That's unusual anywhere," Hamner said. "But we've never seen it here."

According to a probable cause affidavit, Lori Vernon-Lee solicited women to work for her escort service and advertised their services through a local weekly newspaper. Vernon-Lee would arrange for escorts to meet with clients at the escorts' homes or in hotels, where they would perform acts ranging from massage to sexual intercourse, according to interviews with clients and escorts cited in the affidavit. Vernon-Lee would take a portion of the fee for their services.

According to an affidavit, Jeremy Lee told police he answered phones for his wife's service, acted as a bodyguard for women while they were with clients and helped collect money from the escorts while wearing his police uniform.

He said he assisted his wife with her business as far back as 1998, when she ran an escort service in New Hampshire, the affidavit says.

As part of the IMPD investigation, detectives randomly selected six names of clients who patronized Vernon-Lee's service from her log books. Among the names was McCory, whose name was listed under April 24, according to the affidavit.

McCory is accused of hiring an escort to perform oral sex. He was hired by the Sheriff's Department in December to monitor oversight and compliance in the department's work with private-facilities operators. His salary was $69,866 a year. He was not subject to disciplinary action or investigation by the Marion County department during his tenure, said Julio Fernandez, a spokesman for the department.

Since Lee had not completed probation, Spears said he could fire Lee without going through formal procedures that could include a hearing before the department's merit board.

No other police officers or public officials are suspected in the case, said Capt. Chris Boomershine of the IMPD strategic investigations branch.

Lee joins four officers facing charges filed in the past three weeks. Narcotics officer Jason S. Barber, 32, was charged last week with selling a handgun to a felon and official misconduct. He was released from jail Wednesday after a judge granted his request for reduced bond.

The previous week, narcotics officers Robert B. Long and Jason P. Edwards and patrol officer James Davis were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of marijuana. They resigned June 19.

"It's not fair to indict any other part of the Police Department other than to indict the personal decisions to commit intentional actions, which were criminal on the part of these ex-officers," Spears said in reference to the recent police arrests.

McCory turned himself in Wednesday, Hamner said, but paid his bond, which was set at $2,000. He did not return phone calls Wednesday evening seeking comment.

Vernon-Lee was arrested Wednesday and was in Johnson County Jail on Wednesday night on $40,000 bond.

Lee, who was out of town on military training in Massachusetts, received the news of the charges and the warrant in a cell phone call Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted, the Lees each could face a maximum of eight years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 apiece, Hamner said. McCory could face up to a year and a maximum $5,000 fine.

Boston Officers were Previously Disciplined

A lawyer for David Woodman's family voiced outrage yesterday after learning that two of the nine officers who were with the 22-year-old Brookline man when he stopped breathing as he was being taken into custody during the Celtics championship celebration on June 18 had previously been disciplined, one for domestic violence and the other for a lack of judgment in dealing with a shooting suspect.

The prior complaints against the officers "could indicate they have anger management problems," said Howard Friedman, who represents the parents of Woodman, a former Emmanuel College student who died in the hospital 11 days after his encounter with the officers.

Friedman said there are unanswered questions about who started the encounter with Woodman.

"We're still in the dark," Friedman said. "But if one of these officers were involved or were the lead, that would be a sign of a more serious problem. That would shed new light on the entire incident."

Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said that neither of the two officers initiated Woodman's arrest, and that one had no physical contact with him, while the other helped push Woodman's arm behind his back while he was resisting arrest.

"There was a violent resistance to an arrest, and the incident was over very, very quickly," Davis said in a telephone interview.

He said yesterday that he asked Donald K. Stern, the former US attorney and now a lawyer in private practice, to review the circumstances around Woodman's death.

The Woodmans have called on the FBI and US Attorney's office to investigate their son's death.

Stern - who now works at Cooley, Godward, Kronish - was head of a panel that reviewed the death of Victoria Snelgrove, a 21-year-old Emerson College student who died in 2004 during a Red Sox celebration after a police officer fired a pepper pellet that struck her in the eye.

"I've worked very closely with Don Stern in the past, and I think he's the perfect person to help with this situation," Davis said, adding that Stern would "really make sure people are satisfied we are being completely transparent on this."

Stern said last night that it is unlikely he would convene a commission as he did in the Snelgrove case, where the facts were more technical and complex. That case involved a review of department weapons and crowd control tactics.

"This seems to me more manageable to get my arms around without forming a commission," Stern said, adding that he will probably serve as an independent investigator and call on specialists to aid in the review.

Yesterday Boston police released the names of the eight officers and one sergeant involved in arresting Woodman, along with their department histories, in response to a request from the Globe under the Freedom of Information Act.

One of the officers, Henderson Parker, 41, a 14-year veteran of the force, was suspended for 30 days in 2002 following "a physical confrontation of a domestic nature that resulted in injuries," according to a police record. The record did not provide any more details, but Davis said the confrontation did not happen while Parker was at work.

Another officer, Dowayne Lewis, 34, who has been with the department for seven years, was suspended two days in October 2005 for acting unprofessionally during an arrest. In that case, a man who shot a gun outside Lewis's house was arrested and placed in the back of a cruiser. Lewis, who was not on duty, approached the cruiser to identify the suspect and opened the door, in violation of department rules. The suspect tried to hit Lewis, who shoved back, Davis said.

Lewis, who has not been disciplined since the incident, was the officer who pushed Woodman's arm while he was being arrested, Davis said. "That's the sum of the contact," he said.

Officer Steven Borne, a 24-year-old former emergency medical technician who joined the department last year, was the officer who administered CPR when Woodman stopped breathing, Davis said. Borne is the subject of a pending internal affairs investigation spurred by a motorist's complaint that he was disrespectful while issuing her a ticket last month, Davis said.

None of the other officers involved in Woodman's arrest have ever been disciplined, police said. The officers are Sergeant James Blake, 42, who joined the department in 2001; Steven Collette, 26, who joined the department in 2006; Michael Condon, 30, who joined in 2006; Carina Acosta, 31, who joined in 2005; and Michael McManus, 30, and Brian Morse, 28, who both joined last year. McManus, Morse, and Borne are all on probation because they are new officers.

Parker, Blake, and Morse had no physical contact with Woodman, Davis said.

The night of Woodman's arrest, he and four friends had left a Kenmore Square bar after the Celtics victory and were walking home when they passed the officers at the corner of the Fenway and Brookline Avenue.

According to one of Woodman's friends, Woodman said, "Wow, it seems like there's a lot of crime on this corner," prompting officers to confront Woodman, who was holding a plastic cup of beer.

The friend said police slammed Woodman to the ground, then ordered them to leave the scene or face arrest. Davis said Woodman tried to flee and resisted arrest. He was charged with public drinking and resisting arrest.

Woodman's parents, Cathy and Jeffrey Woodman of Southwick, have accused police of failing to get prompt medical attention for their son. They said doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told them their son suffered significant brain damage from a lack of oxygen. He died Sunday. Officials are awaiting final autopsy results to determine the cause of death. Woodman had a preexisting heart condition, but led an active life, his parents have said.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who is conducting an investigation with police homicide detectives into Woodman's death, yesterday defended his decision to allow city police to investigate the incident.

"The decision on whether anyone is criminally responsible for anything that may have occurred here is exclusively mine to make," Conley said. "The fact that I'm using Boston police homicide investigators really reflects the faith I have in their integrity and professionalism."