Friday, July 11, 2008

Jailer Accused of Clearing his Own Warrant

A Greene County Correctional Officer lost his job for erasing his own warrant. Court documents say Greene County Deputy Steven Donovan was frustrated that a warrant he thought was dropped was still on the books in Phelps County.

Investigators say Donovan took matters into his own hands and erased the warrant.

Donovan was fired from his job on Monday.

He's charged with misuse of official information by a public servant. The charge is a misdemeanor.

Sheriff Jack Merritt says the department has already restricted access to the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System. That's the system Donovan allegedly used to erase the warrant.

Sheriff Merritt said:

"It's a very difficult situation. The young man was faced with trying to get the record straight. A warrant was issued, the prosecutors office wasn't pursuing it but it wasn't lifted. They didn't fix it. So he did. He made a very bad choice and took the warrant out himself."

In a taped interview Donovan stated he acted alone when he removed the warrant from the MULES system.

Female Officer Arrested for Drunk Driving

A pretrial hearing was postponed in Merced Superior Court on Friday for a lieutenant with the Bakersfield office of the California Highway Patrol.

CHP Lt. Deborah Pierce, 49, is facing one misdemeanor count of drunken driving stemming from her arrest Dec. 28 in Merced County.

Pierce spent the night in custody and was released the following morning. Her hearing has been postponed at least three times.

Capt. Brian Smith, commander of the CHP’s Bakersfield office, said Friday he cannot comment on Pierce’s employment status except to say that she is on the job.

He added that he hasn’t heard any recent updates on her status.

Contacted through her superiors, Pierce has declined to comment.

Pierce had only been in Bakersfield a matter of months when the incident occurred. She transferred from the Sacramento CHP office in August, Smith said.

Pierce’s next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 15.

UPDATE on Officer Accused of Sexual Battery

OCOEE, Florida

A central Florida police sergeant is free on bond after being charged with stripping, fondling and spanking a woman against her will.

Ocoee police Sgt. Thomas Maroney was released from the Orange County jail late Thursday. His alleged victim told investigators the assault happened during a party earlier in the week. The woman said she and Maroney were walking around an apartment complex pond when he asked her for oral sex, pulled down her pants, touched her genitals, pinned her across his legs and spanked her on her bare backside with his hand -- then a leather belt.

A sheriff's report says Maroney admitted he spanked the woman but said it was consensual.

The woman's attorney, Mark Lippman, disputes that, saying: "He brutalized her."

Officer David Essad Discharged After Assaulting his Wife

A Shelby Township police officer has been discharged from the force amid allegations that he assaulted his wife in April.

Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Leman officially notified David Essad of his termination via a memo dated June 26. The termination was the result of an administrative investigation conducted by Leman and Shelby Township Police Capt. Steven Stanbury concerning Essad’s April 12 arrest in Rochester Hills.

Essad, who had served in the department for eight years, was arrested following an incident involving his wife, Julie Essad, on April 11. The couple had been celebrating Julie Essad’s birthday at a bar in downtown Rochester and left the bar at approximately 11:30 p.m. On May 13, in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills, Julie Essad testified that the couple left the bar because her husband was intoxicated and had become angry when Julie Essad spoke to an ex-boyfriend.

During the drive home, the couple argued and David Essad allegedly became violent, pulling his wife’s hair and verbally assaulting her. Julie Essad testified that her husband hit the dashboard and radio of the car, bit her ear and pulled out his gun.

The couple pulled over into a parking lot at Tienken and Rochester roads, and David Essad allegedly unloaded his gun, punched the windshield with the weapon’s barrel and then chased his wife out of the vehicle before pushing her to the ground, slamming her head against the pavement and choking her. Police arrived to find both David Essad and his wife lying on the parking lot. David Essad was arrested and arraigned April 12 and, on May 13, bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court on charges of felonious assault and aggravated domestic assault.

The event received media attention throughout the metropolitan Detroit area, which Leman said damaged the reputation of the department.

“Your conduct on April 11, 2008, violates state law and department guidelines,” Leman wrote in his memo to David Essad. “Your behavior also tarnishes the police department’s mission to serve and protect the citizens of Shelby Township.”

Leman said David Essad also violated several departmental rules, regulations and policies on April 11, including using alcohol off-duty “to the extent that it discredits (himself) or the department,” conduct unbecoming an officer, using his firearm in an unacceptable manner and general misconduct.

“In assessing the appropriate discipline to be applied, I have undertaken a review of factors which might be considered as mitigating against discharge as well as factors which one might consider as aggravating factors,” Leman wrote in his memo. “I find no mitigating factors which warrant against my decision to terminate your employment.”

Essad has the right to take the decision to arbitration. He is scheduled for a preliminary examination in Oakland County Circuit Court on July 15.

Officer Arrested on Felony Drug Charges

A Russellville Police Officer finds himself on the other side of the law. He's been arrested on a felony drug charge.

Officer Gerald Wayne McClurg has been with the Russellville Police Department since 2002.

Wednesday night, the veteran officer was arrested. He's charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, which is a Class C felony.

Police Chief Chris Hargett says McClurg was on duty when he allegedly tried to buy Loricet prescription pills.

"He purchased the pills from one of the undercover informants that we have here at the police department," says Hargett.

Sources tells NewsChannel 19 that Officer McClurg has a history of medical problems and it's likely he became addicted to the medicine.

Chief Hargett describes the incident as a "black eye" for the department, but is quick to point out that it will be handled the same way as any other case.

"We want the public to understand that we're going to police the public as well as the police department," says Hargett. "If someone in the police department crosses the line, then we're going to be there to correct that also. We're going to treat them the same way."

Following his arrest, Officer McClurg was booked into the Franklin County Jail. He was released after posting his $2,000 bond.

The arrested officer is on administrative leave without pay until the internal investigation is complete.

NO DRUGS found in Cookies Given to Officers


The case against a teenager accused of delivering drug-tainted cookies to police crumbled Thursday after scientific tests revealed no traces of narcotics.

Christian Phillips, 18, became a cookie monster and the butt of jokes around the globe following his arrest Tuesday after he left a basket of treats at Lake Worth police headquarters. Authorities said then that "field tests" they conducted on the cookies showed traces of marijuana and LSD.

But lab tests performed by the Tarrant County medical examiner's office were negative for drugs, and Mr. Phillips – who had been charged with tampering with a consumer product – was released from jail shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday. The felony charge was dropped.

Mr. Phillips, of Watauga, was facing up to 20 years in prison and fine of $10,000 if he had been convicted. Neither he nor his family would comment Thursday night.

"These are the facts of the case, and if the lab says it ain't dope, that's what I'm going to go with," Lake Worth Police Chief Brett McGuire said.

Mr. Phillips' attorney, L. Patrick Davis, said that his client was physically fine but that he was "a little upset" about the arrest and subsequent controversy. He said that neither he nor the family was surprised about the negative test results but that no decision has been made whether to pursue further legal action in the matter.

'Rush to judgment'

In an earlier interview, Mr. Phillips' father, Glenn, said the case against his son amounted to a "huge rush to judgment."

"People just need to keep rationale here in perspective and not jump the gun and accuse people of stuff before we know the full facts," he said.

Christian Phillips' story drew worldwide attention – and scorn.

One Australian news anchor referred to Mr. Phillips as "disgruntled." The incident was blogged on USA Today's Web site and on a Corvette forum site. "Tampering with someone elses food? Lock-up and throw key away," one blogger wrote.

Another typed, "Donuts dummy, not cookies."

Mr. Davis said that his client was unfairly targeted by almost everyone who heard about the case.

"He got convicted before he got a chance," Mr. Davis said. "He got buried in the media. He has been derailed, and we need to get him back on course."

Community service

Mr. Phillips was delivering cookies as part of his 80-hour court-supervised community service following his arrest last year on charges of assaulting a police officer. That charge was reduced to simple assault, a misdemeanor, and Mr. Phillips was serving court-appointed community service with Mothers Against Drunk Driving when he delivered the cookies.

That case was to have been dismissed on Wednesday if Mr. Phillips successfully completed his community service hours. He was about 10 hours away, his attorney said.

On June 27, Mr. Phillips was videotaped delivering the snacks to Watauga police. He delivered more cookies to Blue Mound police Monday night and on Tuesday delivered another batch at Lake Worth. Officers there were notified by Blue Mound police officers that the cookies might be tainted.

Chief McGuire said a preliminary field test conducted on the chocolate chip cookies by police detected LSD. A canine was brought in and indicated drugs were inside Mr. Phillips' car.

When he was arrested, Mr. Phillips was carrying a list of 25 police agencies in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Thirteen of the names had been checked off. Officers in some of the jurisdictions, including Fort Worth and Watauga, ate the cookies and reported no ill effects.

Lake Worth sent the cookies to the medical examiner's officer for a more thorough review. Officials there conducted more stringent chemical tests and a microscopic examination as well as tests involving gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

Officer stands by nose

Blue Mound police also sent cookie samples to the ME's office and those, too, came back negative for drugs.

But Blue Mound police Lt. Thomas Cain said Thursday that while he respects and accepts the medical examiner's report, he is sure he smelled dope on the home-baked Toll House treats.

"They did have a pungent, rancid odor," Lt. Cain said. "They did have the odor of marijuana. I got within two feet of it; I could smell it."

Blue Mound officers also conducted their own field test that came back positive for marijuana.

"How do you explain it? I don't know," Lt. Cain said.

A little bit parnoid...aren't we??
I think Lt. Thomas Cain has been around a little too much dope.
See...Not everyone is out to get you (law enforcement).

Officer Eric Kaho Arrested for Embezzlement


A former Natchez police officer has been arrested on felony charges of embezzlement.

Eric Kaho, 30, 138 Washington Circle, allegedly embezzled more than $500 from the Metro Narcotics unit to which he was assigned.

Kaho was recently indicted by an Adams County grand jury. He turned himself in at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office Thursday.

Kaho resigned from the Natchez Police Department in January.

“He worked here for about seven years before this happened,” Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins said. “We were shocked and saddened. He had done some excellent police work during his career.”

Mullins said investigations into missing money began in 2007, while Kaho was taking a leave from work due to a knee injury.

“In a routine check of money he was entrusted with, some of it was discovered missing,” Mullins said. “We notified the Attorney General’s office for an outside investigation.”

Since the officer was well known by local authorities, Mullins wanted an outside group to handle the case, he said.

The pool of money Kaho allegedly embezzled from included seized drug money and a fund Metro Narcotics used to purchase drugs from suspected drug dealers. The funds are audited often, Mullins said.

Just before Kaho was scheduled to return to work at NPD in October, he reportedly accidentally shot himself in the chest at his apartment while cleaning his gun. The bullet grazed his heart and he spent more than a month in the hospital recovering.

Kaho was released shortly after his arrest Thursday on a promise to appear in court.

Kaho joins a list of NPD officers arrested that includes Willie B. Jones in 1997, who was charged with felony obstruction of justice for reportedly paying a fellow officer not to pursue a drug charge against a friend, and Keith Fiola who was charged with bribery.

Officer Arrested for Receiving Stolen Property


A Mount Gilead police officer was arrested Tuesday on charges of receiving stolen property -- including a dozen air conditioners used to cool the Morrow County courthouse.

"We were shocked and surprised. News in a small community travels extremely fast," Morrow County Commissioner Olen Jackson said.

Morrow County deputies searched the residence of third-shift village police officer Joe Hughes. The stolen property, a single-axle trailer and several air-conditioning units, were behind Hughes' residence, according to a news release from Mount Gilead Police Chief Brian Zerman.

Hughes was the officer who took the theft report June 9, Morrow County Sheriff Steve Brenneman said.

Hughes has been charged with one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; one count of theft in office, a fourth- degree felony; two counts of receiving stolen property, fifth-degree felonies; and one count of obstruction of justice, a fifth-degree felony.

Brenneman said additional charges are possible.

Hughes was hired as a part-time Mount Gilead police officer Feb. 7, 2006, and made full-time a year later. He was cooperative when he was taken into custody at the Morrow County Correctional Facility. Hughes was released on $5,000 bond, Brenneman said.

"Our maintenance staff had gotten the air conditioners out of storage for the winter," Jackson said. "They loaded them up to take them to a service location, to wash and clean to put back into use. Before they could be put into service, the trailer and air conditioners came up missing."

Hughes was placed on unpaid administrative leave. If convicted on all charges, Hughes could face up to 9 1/2 years in prison and $12,500 in fines.

Officer Accused of Sexual Battery

OCOEE, Florida

A Central Florida police sergeant is the target of a sex crimes investigation.

Ocoee police Sgt. Tom Maroney is accused of sexual battery but has not been charged with a crime, officials said.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office said detectives are looking into the case but refused to comment on the case because of the ongoing investigation.

The police chief was terminated after he was accused of borrowing prescription medication from another employee and then using it on duty.

Maroney has been placed on paid leave.

UPDATE: Donyell Shanchell Car Chase


Mississippi River bridge police on Wednesday handed the Orleans Parish district attorney's office new video and audio footage of the aftermath of a high-speed pursuit of a New Orleans police officer.

Officer Donyell Sanchell was suspended after he allegedly led Crescent City Connection police on Saturday's chase. Authorities said he fled after being pulled over and later slapped a bridge police officer who followed him to his district station.

Sanchell was arraigned Tuesday in municipal court on two counts of battery and trial was set for Aug. 6. Sanchell also received citations for careless driving and hit-and-run.

The bridge police said they want an outside opinion on the appropriateness of municipal charges _ which carry lighter penalties _ against Sanchell.

Because Sanchell was cited with a municipal summons, he was not arrested and will not face state criminal charges. Had the bridge police pursued the more serious charge of simple battery on a police officer, Sanchell could have faced more severe penalties, including at least 15 days in jail if found guilty in criminal court.

The leniency has led some outside observers to question whether regular citizens would receive the same treatment in an altercation with an officer.

"I think any time a police officer gets struck by someone, the suspect is going to be charged with battery on a police officer," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a watchdog group. "The fact that he was charged with simple battery is an indication that maybe a different standard was applied to Officer Sanchell."

New footage from Crescent City Connection Police Sgt. David Kramer, who was called to the police department's 1st District headquarters after the altercation, suggests that department officials kept the bridge police officers from apprehending Sanchell at district headquarters.

Additional discussions between the bridge police and department officials indicate that Sanchell was kept behind closed doors until officers with the department's Public Integrity Bureau arrived. The sound recording also indicates that officers moved Sanchell's truck before the investigation was completed.

"We have the material and we'll review it and make a decision on what to do after that," District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson said Wednesday.

Police spokesman Bob Young limited his comments on the incident, saying the department is conducting an internal investigation that will be submitted to Superintendent Warren Riley.

"After reviewing the incident, he will take the appropriate action," Young said.

UPDATE: Suspect Dead in His Cell

The killing of a Prince George’s County police officer and the homicide of his suspected killer two days later in his jail cell have sparked questions about the county’s reputation for excessive force — and has county leaders scrambling to quell concerns.

‘‘We should all wait to see what the results of the investigation are before we start indicting the reputation of the entire public safety department,” said Vernon Herron, county director of public safety.

Cpl. Richard Findley, 39, was killed June 27 after he approached a pickup truck that was believed to have been stolen. The truck hit him, injuring him fatally.

The same day, Ronnie L. White, 19, of North Laurel was arrested and charged in Findley’s death. On Sunday morning, White, alone in a maximum security cell in the county’s correctional center, was found dead. An autopsy showed White died of asphyxiation. The FBI and Maryland State Police have taken over the investigation.

Prince George’s has a history of problems with the way it treats suspects. Since 2004, the county police department has been monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice to curb ‘‘patterns of excessive force,” most notably among the department’s police canine unit. Claims of police abuse swirled in the 1990s and, in 1999, 12 people were shot by officers and two others died while in police custody.

‘‘There are a number of questions that go into this from the past,” Ronald Walters, a political expert and professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, said of revived concerns from the community about law enforcement officers. ‘‘You have to look at the number of things that were countenanced in this county.”

On Monday night, County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) stressed that White’s death occurred at the correctional center and appeared ‘‘unrelated to any acts of the Prince George’s County Police Department.”

Other officials also walked a fine line between mourning Findley’s death and acknowledging White’s homicide. County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville expressed sympathy at Tuesday’s council meeting for the officer’s family, and an hour later, a spokeswoman released an e-mail amending his condolences.

‘‘We also extend our sympathy to the family of Ronnie White,” the statement read. ‘‘We will keep all those affected by these tragic events in our thoughts and prayers.”

County officials have noted repeatedly that White’s death does not involve the police department, but the Department of Corrections, which has had its own share of strife over the past year.

Last month, corrections chief Alfred McMurray was fired after a string of security failures, including the disappearance of four guns from the prison armory. Earlier in the year, a corrections officer was accused of smuggling cell phones to gang members; two prisoners were discovered with handcuff keys; and two female correctional officers were suspended for allegedly having sexual relations with male prisoners.

Further concerns were sparked when county officials rejected calls to suspend the jail officers who had access to White’s cell, some of whom refused to cooperate with the homicide investigation.

‘‘There are nine individuals that have been identified already, and all of them, we find, are still employed and still on duty,” said June White-Dillard, president of the county NAACP. ‘‘We feel it is imperative that they are placed on administrative leave until a complete and thorough has been completed into the homicide of Ronnie White.”

Johnson, the county’s former prosecutor, defended the decision to keep the officers on duty.

‘‘No one is a suspect yet,” Johnson said. ‘‘We have standard procedures that have worked for many years. When [White] came in, he was given a physical, he was processed ... there is nothing to indicate that the standards [were not met].”

Others urged people to remember Findley’s service and the loss to his family, frien.ds and the police department, where he worked for 10 years, and the fire department, where he was a longtime volunteer.

‘‘Unfortunately, public attention has shifted away from remembering the heroic sacrifices of Cpl. Richard Findley,” said Mel Franklin, president of the Greater Marlboro Democratic Club.

Funeral services held July 3 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beltsville were attended by more than 1,000 people and 500 police and firefighters. Dignitaries included Johnson and County Police Chief Melvin C. High, who announced Findley’s posthumous promotion to sergeant.

‘‘He made all of our lives so much richer,” High said during the service. ‘‘He lived his life the way God would have him live it. He’s at peace. Take comfort in that.”

Findley, who lived in Westminster, was buried in Davidsonville.

Officer Victor Greenhouse Arrested on Drug Charges

A Marksville police officer is one of two people facing charges following a drug investigation, authorities said Wednesday.

Officer Victor Greenhouse, 40, who's been with the Marksville Police Department for about five years, was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and malfeasance in office, Marksville police Chief Newman Greenhouse said.

The chief and the officer are distantly related, the chief said.

Also charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute was Monica Hampton, 29, of 159 Little California Road, Marksville, authorities reported.

The investigation of Victor Greenhouse, of 1474 La. Highway 453, Marksville, and Hampton came after a package coming across the U.S.-Mexico border was flagged for containing drugs, Newman Greenhouse said.

The Marksville Police Department worked in conjunction with State Police and the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Office on the investigation and conducted a search warrant on Hampton's home, where Victor Greenhouse often stayed.

There, officers found a little more than seven pounds of marijuana -- with a street value of $10,000 to $20,000 -- and other suspected narcotics-related paraphernalia, the Sheriff's Office said.

Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson said information received from the Houston Police Department and further investigation led officers from the three agencies to Hampton's home.

Victor Greenhouse was immediately placed on administrative leave without pay after the arrest pending the outcome of his charges, Newman Greenhouse said. His role at the department was as patrol officer responding to calls and handling traffic incidents.

Victor Greenhouse and Hampton remained in the Avoyelles Parish Jail on Wednesday night pending a bond hearing, jail officials said.