Friday, July 25, 2008

Probation Officer Daniel Hendrickson Accused of Touching Woman


A Kent County probation officer accused of inappropriately touching a woman in his office appeared before a judge Wednesday, in the same 63rd District Court building where he has worked for the past three years.

Daniel Neland Hendrickson, 35, is charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a prisoner or probationer, court records show. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Hendrickson remains free on a $25,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is slated for Aug. 13.

Authorities say he inappropriately touched a 24-year-old woman in his office in the court building, at 644 Kenmoor Ave. SE. The victim had to appear before Hendrickson monthly because of a drunken-driving offense.

The complaint alleges Hendrickson acted inappropriately between Feb. 1 and April 30.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth declined to go into detail about the allegation, but said the alleged victim did not immediately report the incident to police.

"She told somebody, who told somebody, who told somebody here, which started the investigation," Forsyth said.

That investigation led to Hendrickson losing his job last week, and to Wednesday's arraignment.

He appeared before Allegan District Court Judge Joseph Skocelas, who stepped in for 63rd District Judge Sara Smolenski.

Before working in that court, Hendrickson worked in the Kent County Prosecutor's Family Law Division and in 61st District Court in Grand Rapids.

Calls to Hendrickson's home and to his lawyer, Daniel Elwe, went unanswered.

Officer Pours Hot Water on Inmate

A federal grand jury in Jacksonville has indicted a state corrections sergeant on a civil rights violation stemming from an August 2005 assault on a suicidal inmate in Raiford, state and federal records show.

Paul Gregory Tillis, 43, was charged with violating the civil rights of the inmate at Florida State Prison by pouring hot water on him as he laid on a floor with a sheet tied around his neck, records show. The inmate, identified in records only by his initials, suffered second-degree burns to his upper torso and shoulder.

The indictment was handed up Wednesday. Authorities did not say if Tillis had been jailed.

The case was initially investigated by the Florida Department of Corrections Inspector General’s Office and turned over to the Jacksonville office of the FBI as a civil rights violation.

State records show that Tillis became a corrections officer in July 2001 at Florida State Prison in Bradford County. He was promoted to sergeant in July 2005 and resigned from his $38,000 a year job in April 2008, records show.

Tillis, who appealed his dismissal, worked out a settlement agreement with the state in which his dismissal letter was rescinded and he resigned. That also released the state from any liability in its action against him, records show.

Officer Jason Barber Free Again on Bond


A Metro police officer arrested, released on bond and then arrested again for violating his bond is out of jail once again.

Jason Barber, 32 -- charged with selling a gun to a known felon -- had his bond revoked earlier this month after he sent text messages from his personal cell phone to several officers asking that they pray for him, court documents show.

One of the conditions of his original $5,000 bond was that Barber would immediately sever all ties with officers from IMPD.

Thursday, Judge William Young said Barber had violated the spirit of his order, but not in an effort get information about his case, so he granted him bond once again.

The 8-year veteran officer was suspended with pay and recommended for termination from the department.

He faces up to an 8-year prison sentence if convicted of selling the gun to the felon.

Barber's trial is set to begin in September.

Officer Charged with Sharing Classified Files

A Hayward police officer on military leave is one of two Marine Corps reservists charged with sharing classified files in a terrorist probe without authorization, authorities said Wednesday.

Master Sgt. Reinaldo Pagan, 42, was charged by military officials in connection with an investigation into the "mishandling and compromise of classified information," said Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine Corps spokesman.

Pagan has been a Hayward police officer for nine years and most recently worked in patrol. He is on military leave from the department.

Johnston declined to elaborate on the allegations, but according to media reports in San Diego, Pagan and Gunnery Sgt. Eric Froboese allegedly shared classified files from Camp Pendleton (San Diego County) with an anti-terrorism group of law-enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this year that Marines at Camp Pendleton had stolen FBI surveillance files on Muslim religious sites in Los Angeles and the Islamic Center of San Diego. It is unclear how the Marines would have had access to the files.

Pagan was charged with dereliction of duty and orders violations. Froboese was charged with dereliction of duty, orders violations, conspiracy and wrongful transmission of classified information.

Neither reservist was available for comment, Johnston said.

Interim Hayward Police Chief Ron Ace said Wednesday that the department would take no action until after the military investigation was completed.

Officer Charles Weigold Jr Charged with Stalking

A Bethlehem police officer, after being released from an area hospital, was arrested Wednesday on charges stemming from a conflict earlier in the week with wife.

Charles W. Weigold Jr., 49, of Danielsville, is charged with stalking, harassment and terroristic threats and is free after posting $10,000 bail set by District Judge Michael J. Koury Jr. of Wilson.

Weigold's status with the Bethlehem Police Department could not be verified Wednesday.

At his arraignment Wednesday, Weigold told Koury his position with the department where he has worked for six years was ''questionable.'' Weigold also said he had voluntarily committed himself the previous night to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.

On Tuesday in Northampton County Court, Weigold and his wife, Donna, 47, who lists her address as ''confidential'' in court records, got temporary protection-from-abuse orders against one another.

She says Monday her husband jammed a clip into his handgun and told her a ''blood bath'' was imminent; he says she sprayed him in the face with bleach during another argument.

She also filed a court petition Tuesday, claiming her husband called her son numerous times in an attempt to get her to drop the protection order. That led to his arrest Wednesday on the harassment charges.

At the arraignment, Weigold used $10,000 in cash that he withdrew from an account in his and his wife's names, which sparked a heated exchange between Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Taschner and defense attorney Bohdan Zelechiwsky of Bethlehem while Koury was out of the courtroom.

Taschner said Weigold withdrew the cash Monday and argued it was part of a pattern of ''harassment'' against his wife. Koury disagreed and permitted Weigold to use it to stay out of prison. Koury also ordered Weigold not to have any contact with his wife and required him to wear an electronic GPS monitor.

Before the arraignment began, Weigold chatted with a county detective about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and showed reporters a large tattoo of the twin towers on his leg.

Weigold told Koury he had been a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, where he served 20 years.

Zelechiwsky said Weigold never had any trouble with the law before and had now found himself in an ''unfortunate situation'' that was ''totally out of character.''

Taschner said events in the Weigold household have been escalating and repeatedly described Weigold as a manipulative person who ''thinks he is smarter than everyone else.''

Officer and Wife Held in Federal Custody


A press conference was held Tuesday afternoon regarding the arrest of an Altamonte Springs police officer.

Officer Clay Adams and his wife were arrested by federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Monday night on drugs and weapons charges.

Adams was arrested when he arrived to work for his shift Monday night.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Bodnar said most of the evidence in this case comes from audio and videotapes revealing conversations with Adams as he attempted to recruit a confidential government informant into an operation to grow and sell marijuana.

"Well it is very troubling, but right now the case is in a complaint stage, we anticipate going before the grand jury in the near future," Bodnar said.

The 36-year-old officer served for nine years in Altamonte Springs and was promoted three times, but was suspended after his arrest.

His wife is accused of ordering marijuana seeds from the Netherlands using her home computer.

The arrest affidavit reported that Adams and his wife ran a marijuana grow house, supplying distributors in Tallahassee and are also accused of dealing in illicit prescription drugs.

Adams is also accused of possession of weapons and explosives.

"To be very honest, I’m extremely disappointed in this whole situation. I’m very upset and we work very, very hard to try to build a reputation in the community, only to have it brought down by the careless actions of Officer Adams is inexcusable," Altamonte Springs Chief Robert Merchant said.

The Altamonte Springs Chief of Police and the Seminole County Sheriff also attended the conference.

The affidavit reported Adams threatened to kill a Seminole County deputy who filed a complaint of poor performance that resulted in Adams' termination from a Seminole County drug task force.

It was reported that Adams told the police informant that after the situation calmed down, he would "take the supervisor out, using a high-powered rifle and a silencer."

"Threats have been made by both of the defendants in this case, regarding the safety of a confidential informant and others involved in the investigation," Bodnar said.

It was also reported that Adams provided weapons to the police informant who was also a convicted felon and gave that informant information about the names, vehicles and techniques of undercover drug agents.

"I think the public should have trust in the fact that law enforcement has done the right thing here and caught someone that we believe is involved in a criminal enterprise, we still have to prove it of course, but they’ve done their best to remove someone who is a threat to the community off the street," Bodnar said.

Altamonte Springs Chief released Adam’s personnel record showing that while no formal punishments were issued, there were several accounts of citizen complaints stating Adams was rude and disrespectful.

Adams and his wife will remain in federal custody in jail until Friday at the least. Friday is when both the officer and his wife have another court hearing at the Federal Court House to argue for their release.

Altamonte police will investigate all cases involving Adams in the nine years he served on the Altamonte police force to ensure no cases were compromised.

Chicago Officer Accused of Shaking Down Tow Operators


A police officer was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of shaking down tow truck operators for payoffs of up to $400 per vehicle in exchange for steering towing business to them.

Michael Ciancio, 56, was arrested at his home without incident as part of an FBI undercover investigation of allegations that Chicago police have been getting payoffs in exchange for such referrals.

Ciancio was accused in a criminal complaint of getting repairs to his personal car as well as cash in exchange for steering the towing business to companies that paid him.

Ciancio appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance. Defense attorney James E. Thompson declined to comment on the case.

The FBI, which conducted the investigation with Chicago police, said the 21-year veteran of the force had been relieved of his police powers and is no longer on active patrol.

An FBI affidavit filed with the complaint said Ciancio got payments between $40 and $400 for each vehicle towed. It said the FBI received information as early as five years ago that police were demanding such payments of towing operators, the affidavit said.

It said a recording was made in June 2007 by a tow truck operator cooperating with the FBI as Ciancio chased him away from one towing job he had reserved for a favorite truck operator.

"Drop it, drop it and get out of here, you don't belong here, get out," the affidavit quoted Ciancio as saying. It quoted him as threatening to have the trucker "locked up for soliciting" if he didn't leave.

It also said agents made an audio recording in which Ciancio took a payoff from another cooperating witness and described it as "beautiful."

Handcuffed Man Dies After Being Taser Nine Times

WINNFIELD, Louisiana

A police officer shocked a handcuffed Baron "Scooter" Pikes nine times with a Taser after arresting him on a cocaine charge.

Baron Pikes, 21, was Tasered nine times by a police officer in January in Winnfield, Louisiana.

He stopped twitching after seven, according to a coroner's report. Soon afterward, Pikes was dead.

Now the officer, since fired, could end up facing criminal charges in Pikes' January death after medical examiners ruled it a homicide.

Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, said the 21-year-old sawmill worker was jolted so many times by the 50,000-volt Taser that he might have been dead before the last two shocks were delivered.

Williams ruled Pikes' death a homicide in June after extensive study.

Winn Parish District Attorney Christopher Nevils said he will decide on any charges against the ex-officer, Scott Nugent, once a Louisiana State Police report on the case is complete.

"It's taken several months for this case to even be properly addressed, so one has to wonder, why did it take so long?" said Carol Powell Lexing, a lawyer for the Pikes family. "Obviously, a wrongful death occurred."

Nugent's lawyer, Phillip Terrell, said his client followed proper procedure to subdue a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds. But Williams said Pikes was already handcuffed and on the ground when first hit with the Taser, after the 247-pound suspect was slow to follow police orders to get up.

Winnfield, a sleepy lumber town about 100 miles southeast of Shreveport, Louisiana, is best known as the birthplace of legendary Louisiana governors Huey and Earl Long. It's also about 45 miles northwest of Jena, Louisiana, where a racially charged assault case sparked a September 2007 demonstration by an estimated 15,000 people. Watch racism charges fly after Taser death »

One of the teenage defendants in that case, Mychal Bell, is Pikes' first cousin -- and his lawyer was Powell Lexing.

Nugent is white; Pikes was black. His death led to demonstrations that drew several dozen people in Winnfield, where the population of about 15,000 is roughly half African-American.

"The family wants justice," Lexing said. "This is just another example of why it's very important to stay vigilant with these types of cases, on the injustice that's been perpetrated on the disadvantaged."

But Winnfield police Lt. Chuck Curry said race "isn't an issue at all" in the matter.

"This has come down to a police officer that was trying to apprehend a suspect that they had warrants for," he said. "He done what he thought he was trained to do to bring that subject into custody. At some point, something happened with his body that caused him to go into cardiac arrest or whatever."

According to police, Pikes was wanted on a charge of possession of cocaine when police tried to arrest him outside a shopping center January 12.

"He would not stop for the officer," Curry said. "At some point in there, he was Tased to bring him under control, and several hours later, died at the emergency room."

Terrell said Pikes was fighting Nugent "on uneven ground" amid obstructions such as concrete blocks and barbed wire.

"He's fighting, wrestling with an individual who weighs 100 pounds more than him," he said. "His partner had just come back to the police department from triple bypass surgery and could not assist Officer Nugent."

Terrell said his client "used every means possible" to take Pikes into custody before pulling out his Taser, a weapon Winnfield police purchased in 2007.

"The only thing he could have done other than to say, 'OK, we're going to let you go' is to beat him or Tase him. He did the right thing," Terrell said.

Williams, who ruled Pikes' death a homicide in June after extensive study, said Nugent fired his Taser at Pikes six times in less than three minutes -- shots recorded by a computer chip in the weapon's handle. Then officers put Pikes in the back of a cruiser and drove him to their police station -- where Nugent fired a seventh shot, directly against Pikes' chest.

"After he was given that drive stun to the chest, he was pulled out of the car onto the concrete, " Williams told CNN. "He was electroshocked two more times, which two officers noted that he had no neuromuscular response to those last two 50,000-volt electroshocks."

Williams said he had two nationally known forensic pathologists, including former New York city medical examiner Michael Baden, review the case before issuing his conclusions. He said it's possible Nugent was shocking a dead man the last two times he pulled the trigger.

"This fellow was talking in the back seat of the car prior to shot number seven," he said. "From that point on, it becomes questionable [if Pikes was still alive]."

Curry said Pikes told officers he suffered from asthma and had been using PCP and crack cocaine. But Williams said he found no sign of drug use in the autopsy, and no record of asthma in Pikes' medical history.

In the year since Winnfield police received Tasers, officers have used them 14 times, according to police records -- with 12 of the instances involving black suspects. Ten of the 14 incidents involved Nugent, who has no public disciplinary record.

Nugent was suspended after Pikes' death, and Winnfield's City Council voted 3-2 to fire him in May. He is appealing his dismissal, and his lawyer says he followed proper procedures in Pikes' case. He was trained in the use of the Taser by a senior police officer who was present during the incident that led to Pikes' death, Terrell said.

Curry said Taser International, the device's manufacturer, indicates that "multiple Tasings do not affect a person." But he said he could not explain why Pikes was shocked so many times, and said whether Nugent followed proper procedure was "yet to be determined."

But a copy of the Winnfield Police Department's Taser training manual, says the device "shall only be deployed in circumstances where it is deemed reasonably necessary to control a dangerous or violent subject." And Williams said regulations regarding the use of Tasers were not followed.

"It violated every aspect -- every single aspect -- of the department's policy about its use," the coroner said.

Winnfield has seen a spate of high-profile corruption cases in recent years. One of Nevils' predecessors as district attorney, Terry Reeves, killed himself amid allegations of embezzlement and extortion. The town's current police chief, Johnny Ray Carpenter, is a convicted drug offender who received a pardon from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards who himself is now serving a federal prison term for racketeering.

And Carpenter's predecessor, Gleason Nugent -- the father of Pikes' arresting officer -- committed suicide in 2005, after allegations of fraud and vote buying in the race for police chief, an elected position in Winnfield.

Now Nevils is awaiting the state police report on Pikes' death, which will be presented to a grand jury for possible charges against Nugent -- a possibility Curry said would be a blow to the department.

"It's one of these no-win situations he said. "No matter the outcome, nobody's going to win in this case."

Officers Dog Left in Car Dies of Heat Stroke


The San Diego police dog left in the back of his handler's patrol car last month died of heat stroke, county investigators said Tuesday, and it will be up to the District Attorney's Office to determine whether a crime was committed.

A monthlong investigation by the county's Department of Animal Services found that the 5-year-old Belgian Malinois was left in the car with the windows rolled up.

Officer Paul Hubka told authorities he found his dog Forrest in the car parked in the driveway of his Alpine home July 20. Temperatures reached 108 degrees that day.

Hubka, a 22-year veteran of the Police Department, declined to give any further statements to investigators on the advice of his attorney, Animal Services director Dawn Danielson said.

Investigators say the dog was in the car for possibly as long as seven hours, although even a half-hour could be fatal. Interior car temperatures can reach 130 degrees on such hot days.

“It's a horrific way to die,” Danielson said. “He's panting hot air, his insides heat up, he bleeds internally. He's in a state of panic, trying desperately to get out.”

The necropsy, performed by a veterinary pathologist with the county's Animal Disease and Diagnostic laboratory, found no signs of diseases or injury.

The investigation's findings have been forwarded to the District Attorney's Office, which will decide whether to charge Hubka.

The Police Department will launch an administrative investigation into the death once prosecutors are finished with the case, said department spokeswoman Monica Muñoz.

Hubka, who also serves on the board of the San Diego Police Officers Association, is working a desk job in the meantime.

Another of Hubka's police dogs, named Rexo, died last year from gastric torsion, a condition also known as bloat, Danielson said. Deep-chested dogs are susceptible to the sudden illness, associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.

Rexo died in the care of another officer while Hubka was on vacation in June 2007.

Every year, police dogs die from being left in squad cars or working in sweltering conditions, according to the U.S. Police Canine Association. However, no agency tracks the number of heat-related deaths.

In Chandler, Ariz., a K9 sergeant was arrested last year and charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty for leaving his dog in the back of his car for 13 hours, according to news reports. A trial is pending.

In 1999, a San Diego police dog died when left in the back of a hot patrol car for 90 minutes during the summer.

Officer Lawrence Cahill said his air-conditioning wasn't working well that day but it was functioning. He chose to leave the dog in the car, with the windows rolled up, rather than put him in a kennel a few feet away.

The air-conditioning gave out, however, and the dog died of heat exhaustion.

Cahill was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, but his 2000 trial ended in a hung jury. The City Attorney's Office later decided to drop the case completely.

Officer Acquitted of Posing as Deputy


A former Alorton and Red Bud police officer has been acquitted of felony charges that he posed as a sheriff's deputy when he tried to arrest a young woman.

But 36-year-old Jon Lair was convicted Thursday of misdemeanor drunken driving.

Authorities say Lair told a 19-year-old woman he was a sheriff's deputy when he allegedly tried to arrest her in Belleville in January of last year and tried to force her into his pickup truck.

Investigators say the woman recognized the arrest was false and managed to escape. Lair was later arrested by Belleville police.

The St. Clair County jury acquitted Lair of unlawful restraint, impersonating an officer and two counts of official misconduct. Sentencing is set for August for the DUI.