Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Videotape Shows Officer Lied

Around 9:30 on Friday night, a bicyclist pedaling down Seventh Avenue veered to the left, trying to avoid hitting a police officer who was in the middle of the street.

But the officer, Patrick Pogan, took a few quick steps toward the biker, Christopher Long, braced himself and drove his upper body into Mr. Long.

Officer Pogan, an all-star football player in high school, hit Mr. Long as if he were a halfback running along the sidelines, and sent him flying.

As of Tuesday evening, a videotape of the encounter had been viewed about 400,000 times on YouTube. “I can’t explain why it happened,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Tuesday. “I have no understanding as to why that would happen.”

But this episode was not just a powerful crash between one bicyclist and a police officer. It may turn out to be yet another head-on collision between false stories told by some police officers in criminal court cases and documentary evidence that directly contradicts them. And while in many instances the inaccurate stories have been tolerated by police superiors and prosecutors, Officer Pogan’s account is getting high-level scrutiny.

Later that night, Officer Pogan composed a story of his encounter with Mr. Long. It bore no resemblance to the events seen on the videotape. Based on the sworn complaint, Mr. Long was held for 26 hours on charges of attempted assault and disorderly conduct.

Over the weekend, though, the videotape, made by a tourist in Times Square with his family, fell into the hands of people involved with Critical Mass, the monthly bicycle rally that Mr. Long had been riding in.

The availability of cheap digital technology — video cameras, digital cameras, cellphone cameras — has ended a monopoly on the history of public gatherings that was limited to the official narratives, like the sworn documents created by police officers and prosecutors. The digital age has brought in free-range history.

Hundreds of cases against people arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention collapsed under an avalanche of videotaped evidence that either completely contradicted police accounts, or raised significant questions about their reliability. The videotapes were made by people involved in the protests, bystanders, tourists and police officers.

At the New York Public Library, a small group holding a banner against one of the stone lions was arrested and charged with blocking traffic in the middle of 42nd Street, although video showed they were on the steps, and nowhere near the street.

In another case at the library, a police officer testified that he and three other officers had to carry one protester, Dennis Kyne, by his hands and feet down the library steps. Videotape showed that Mr. Kyne walked down the steps under his own power, and that the officer who testified against him had no role in his arrest. The charges were dismissed; the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to bring perjury charges against the officer who gave the testimony.

Dozens of complaints were sworn by police officers who said they had witnessed people violating the law on Fulton Street and near Union Square, but later admitted under oath that their only involvement was to process the arrests, and that they had not actually seen the disorderly conduct that was charged.

An assistant to District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau wrote to the Police Department to stress the importance of officers’ not swearing to things they had not seen for themselves. The prosecutors said the confusion surrounding mass arrests made it hard to bring perjury charges.

The case of Christopher Long and Officer Pogan is shaping up as another example of an official narrative being directly challenged by videotape.

In a criminal court complaint, Officer Pogan wrote that Mr. Long deliberately attacked him with the bike — although the videotape shows Mr. Long veering away from Officer Pogan, who pursues him toward the curb.

The officer said he was knocked to the ground by Mr. Long. Throughout the tape, though, he remains on his feet, even after banging into Mr. Long.

The police officer wrote that Mr. Long had been “weaving” in and out of traffic, “thereby forcing multiple vehicles to stop abruptly or change their direction in order to avoid hitting” Mr. Long. However, in the videotape, it appears that there are no cars on the street.

Mr. Long is due back in court in early September. By then, most of Mr. Long’s bruises are likely to have healed. The prognosis for the truth is not so clear.

Former Boston officer sentenced to 11 years

A former Boston police officer was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison yesterday for conspiring to extort $265,000 on behalf of Colombian drug dealers while in uniform, one of a series of recent corruption scandals in the Police Department.

US District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel sentenced Jose A. "Flaco" Ortiz, 46, formerly of Salem, to 11 years and three months in prison followed by five years of supervised release in connection with extortion and cocaine-related charges.

"Of all our recent cases combating police corruption, this was among the most egregious," US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said in a statement after sentencing. "To have a uniformed officer, carrying his badge and weapon, extort money on behalf of a Colombian drug ring cuts at the heart of our system of justice."

Ortiz pleaded guilty on April 29. He was the fifth Boston officer to plead guilty to federal charges since September. All the cases, including one involving three officers, involved drugs.

His lawyer, Scott A. Lutes, of Providence, said his client is ashamed and still thinks like a police officer. A few nights ago, Lutes said, Ortiz helped save a fellow inmate who slit his wrists and throat at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls.

The case against Ortiz stems from an investigation that began in late 2003 or early 2004, according to federal prosecutors. A man identified as Victim A told authorities that two drug dealers approached him and asked whether he knew anyone who might want to participate in drug trafficking.

At the advice of the authorities, Victim A introduced the drug dealers to a man supposedly involved in the drug trade. Days later, the drug dealers told Victim A that the man had stolen from them. They blamed Victim A for the theft.

And then, in a startling twist in August 2006, Ortiz showed up in his uniform at Victim A's job in the Boston area, prosecutors said. He said he was there on behalf of drug dealers who would kill Victim A if he didn't pay $265,000.

In May, the victim gave Ortiz $4,000 in cash and 4 kilograms of cocaine in a Revere parking lot, a deal Ortiz said would settle the debt. The FBI then arrested Ortiz.

Retired police officer charged with sex assault


A former Winnipeg police sergeant with a history of violating a protection order granted to his ex-wife is being held in custody on charges that he broke into her home and violently sexually assaulted her on the weekend.

The 25-year veteran of the force was arrested Sunday and charged with a number of serious offences, including sexual assault causing bodily harm, breaking into the woman's home and assaulting her, forcible confinement and disobeying a protection order she was granted in July 2006.

The criminal complaint alleges he broke into the woman's home in the Winnipeg neighbourhood of Charleswood on Sunday while wearing a mask, repeatedly sexually assaulted her and choked her.

Officer and 5 others Arrested by FBI


A Juárez police officer is accused of leading a gang of kidnappers and killers that was captured after a vehicle chase by federal police in Juárez, officials said.

Federal police Tuesday arrested municipal police officer Juan Gallegos Acosta and five other men, seized four AR-15 and nine AK-47 rifles and three vehicles, including a 2002 GMC Yukon and a 2007 Toyota Solara, both reported stolen in Texas.

"Unfortunately, he is a member of the department," said Javier Torres, police force spokesman. "We are working on purging the department. Bad police officers will be sanctioned."

Federal officials said a chase began when federal police saw the sand-colored Yukon speeding on Zaragoza Avenue while carrying a group of men with assault rifles and bulletproof vests. The chase ended in the Oasis area.

The men and seized items were turned over to a federal organized crime unit in Mexico City. No charges were announced.

The federal agents were part of Joint Operation Chihuahua, the anti-crime offensive sent to Juárez to curb a flood of homicides, which have reached about 650 so far this year party because of a war among drug cartels.

At least seven people were slain Tuesday, including a triple homicide in the southern part of the city.

Chihuahua state investigators said the unidentified bodies of two men and a woman were found shot to death in colonia Hacienda de las Torres III. One man died on the street. The woman was in the front passenger seat of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The second man died in the front passenger seat of a Ford Crown Victoria with Texas plates inside a garage of a home on Calle Del Abrevadero.

In colonia Partido Iglesias, Juárez police went to a home at the end of a bloody trail left where the stabbed body of Armando Santillan Villegas, 48, had been dragged.

Mercedes Elguero Calderon, 38, and brothers Enrique Alonso and Luis Fernando Reyes Murguia, ages 38 and 36, were detained on suspicion of homicide. Later that morning, the body of an unidentified man shot multiple times was found in colonia Senderos de San Isidro.

Two men were killed in the evening in separate cases.

Officer Who Shot Boy Pleads Not Guilty

VISTA, Calif.

A San Diego police officer claims caution prompted him to unload five bullet rounds at an 8-year-old boy and his mother during an off-duty traffic dispute, but prosecutors Tuesday called it a case of "apparent road rage."

Frank White pleaded not guilty to one felony count of discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and one misdemeanor count of drawing a concealed weapon in public. He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors accuse White of firing at Rachel Silva's Honda Accord from the driver's seat of his own car after a screaming match triggered by a near-collision at a busy intersection.

One bullet struck Silva's son Johnny in the knee; the boy was hospitalized and required surgery. Two others struck Silva in the upper arm.

White, 28, answered a single procedural question at his arraignment before Superior Court Judge Marshall Hockett and was released on his own recognizance. He declined to speak with reporters as he left the courthouse with his wife, Jacquellyn.

White's attorney, Richard Pinckard, entered the plea on his client's behalf.

"We don't believe that there's anything to support that our client's conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances," Pinckard said after the hearing.

White was also stripped of his police powers and placed on unpaid leave from the San Diego Police Department while his case is under internal review, Chief William Lansdowne said. White was assigned to administrative duty after the March 15 shooting.

White is the second law enforcement officer that Dumanis charged since taking office in 2003; the first was a sheriff's deputy accused of killing his wife. She has faced criticism in some quarters for declining to pursue charges in other high-profile cases, including the 2006 shooting of former Chargers linebacker Steve Foley by an off-duty officer.

"Based on the evidence and the law, these charges are appropriate," Dumanis said in a brief statement. She refused to take questions from reporters.

White was driving his personal car when he and Rachel Silva nearly collided on a busy thoroughfare in Oceanside, about 40 miles north of San Diego. Witnesses said Silva responded aggressively, tailing White and his wife to a parking lot.

According to an arrest warrant filed Tuesday, White was wearing his .38 Smith and Wesson revolver on his waistband and aimed it at Silva as she pulled parallel to him. Silva called 911 and said, "There's a man who's pulling a gun on me," then sideswiped White's car as she reversed past it after he began to open the driver's side door.

White told investigators that he fired because he thought Silva was trying to hit him with her car, according to search warrants filed earlier in the case. He claimed he did not see her son through the windshield.

White's wife, a police dispatcher, was in their car.

Tests showed Silva had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. The 27-year-old pleaded not guilty this month to felony child endangerment and misdemeanor drunken-driving and marijuana-possession charges filed by the state attorney general's office.

Her attorney, Michael Pancer, said he was pleased by Dumanis' decision.

"She did the right thing," Pancer said.

Silva and her son have each filed lawsuits seeking damages from the city of San Diego. Lawyers for the boy also filed a complaint in federal court in May claiming police were inadequately screened, trained and disciplined.

Officer Can't Control His Own Son

The son of a BSO deputy was arrested on Tuesday, charged with pretending to be a law enforcement officer.

It's bad enough when a son takes dad's car out for a joy ride, without asking.

But when the dad is a Broward sheriff's deputy and the car is an unmarked patrol vehicle, the son could face more than grounding.

Tuesday night, Myko Coker, 18, of Sunrise, was in Broward County's main jail, facing grand theft auto and impersonating a law enforcement officer charges.

Here is how police described what happened:

At about 4:30 a.m., a call came into the Sunrise Police Department saying an unmarked police car was making traffic stops near the corner of University Drive and West Oakland Park Boulevard.

There, a Sunrise officer found someone wearing a BSO T-shirt and driving an unmarked police car. There was a passenger in the car.

The driver told the officer he was a BSO deputy and that he was driving home from work when someone cut him off and he pulled the car over, according to Sunrise police spokesman Capt. Robert Voss.

The name he gave was his father's, who is a deputy with the sheriff's office.

The Sunrise officer allowed Coker to leave.

But moments later, the officer saw the unmarked car again. With emergency lights on, the car pulled into a parking lot in the 4500 block of North University Drive, then pulled out and headed west on Northwest 44th Street.

The Sunrise officer turned on his own lights and went after the unmarked car. But the BSO car kept going.

The Sunrise officer turned on his siren.

The BSO cruiser pulled over.

This time, the Sunrise officer asked Coker to show proof he was a deputy.

But Coker had no badge, Voss said.

''He went to the deputy's house that was being impersonated, knocked on the door and asked him where was his car,'' Voss said.

'He looked outside and said `Uh oh, where's my car?' ''

The deputy's name wasn't released.

The passenger wasn't charged, Voss said.

''The deputy's son did something really foolish, and now they're going to have to deal with it as a family,'' said BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal.

Officer has Sex with Prostitute, Stole the Money

Louisville, Ky.

A Louisville metro police officer is the target of a criminal investigation.

The investigation alleges the officer had sex with the prostitute, stole the money he paid her, and then cited her for trespassing.

Sherry McClean says she owns a massage service. She has her own sexually explicit website and today said that last October, she went to Kenneth Wynne’s Louisville apartment to give him a massage. He paid her 80 bucks and agreed to pay more if she’d have sex with him. McClean claims when she balked at one of Wynne’s sexual demands, he held a gun to her head, wouldn’t let her leave, told her he was a police officer and had to charge her with a crime of her choosing. She picked criminal trespassing. That’s what she was cited for. Then McClean says Officer Wynne took back the money he’d just paid her and kept the condom he’d used. McClean says she finally got to leave, immediately calling her attorney and eventually, the police.

According to court records, the trespassing charge against McClean was dismissed when the police officer, Wynne, was not present in court. McClean has a long list of mostly minor criminal charges including two convictions for prostitution.

She says when she left Wynne, she took some of his DNA with her to prove she’s telling the truth.

Tasered to Death

Case of Louisiana Man Tasered to Death by Police Officer While in Custody Heads to Grand Jury

The case of a former Winnfield, Louisiana police officer who zapped a handcuffed suspect nine times with a Taser goes now before a grand jury to consider whether he will be charged in the death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes.

Pikes, the first cousin of lead Jena Six defendant Mychal Bell, died in January after former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent used 50,000 volt Taser strikes on him at least nine times, authorities said.

District Attorney R. Chris Nevils of the 8th Judicial District, which includes Winn Parish, said Monday he will convene a grand jury on Aug. 12 to consider possible charges against Nugent.

Winnfield is less than 40 miles from Jena, Louisiana, the scene last year of one of the largest civil rights marches in recent history.

Nugent has acknowledged using a Taser multiple times on Pikes on January 17, 2008, while Pikes was in police custody. Pikes died a short time later, Nevils said in his statement.

Jailer accused of soliciting sex from teen

Corrections officer from Madison County thought he was corresponding with 14-year-old girl who was actually a federal agent, according to U.S. attorney.

A Madison County corrections officer was arrested in south Baldwin County on Monday morning on federal felony charges of attempting to use the Internet to solicit sex from a minor.

James Norbert Stracke, 55, of Meridianville was arrested when he arrived in Foley, said Tommy Loftis, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Mobile. Stracke was also charged with attempting to transfer obscene material.

Stracke has been a corrections officer for the Madison County Sheriff's Office for 15 years, said Chris Stephens, chief deputy.

Last week, Stracke began corresponding on the Internet with a person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, according to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Deborah Rhodes. The person was an undercover federal officer, the statement said.

In Foley, Stracke was arrested by officers from the city police, the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force and the U.S. Attorney's Office Project Safe Childhood Task Force.

Stephens said that Madison County officials placed Stracke on unpaid leave Monday after being informed of the arrest. He said Stracke has been a corrections officer assigned to overseeing jail inmates since being hired.

Stephens said the jailer had no record of disciplinary problems.

"He was kind of a quiet guy, kind of reserved," Stephens said Monday. "There was never any indication of anything such as this."

Stephen said Stracke did not have access to county computers or the Internet as part of his jail job.

Stracke made an initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Cassady, and is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.

A defendant convicted of enticement of a minor could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000, according to federal officials. The charge of transfer of obscene material to a minor carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

Stracke's case will be presented to the federal grand jury next month, Loftis said.

Deputy Accused Of Sex With Minor Held On High Bond


On Tuesday morning, bond was set at $250,000 for an Orange County deputy who was arrested on child sex charges.

The Sheriff's Office said Louis Mercado, 45, was taken into custody Monday on charges of sexual battery on a minor.

Deputies said the alleged abuse began in January 1992 when the boy was 7 to 9 years old, and it continued until the victim was 16 or 17 years old.

According to officials, the sexually explicit activity often happened when the boy spent the night at Mercado's home.

Mercado has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. He has been with the Orange County Sheriff's Office since 1992 and was currently serving as a school resource officer.

Mercado has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case.

The victim is now 24 years old and his aunt called investigators.

Police revealed that a couple of days ago, Mercado made contact with the victim. They said he called him on the phone, admitted to the abuse and apologized.

Officer Accused of Stealing Garden Hose in Court


An Ansonia police officer who was charged with larceny and accused of stealing a $25 garden hose from the police department will be in court Tuesday.

Antonia police arrested Mustafa Salahuddin, a 20-year veteran of the force, two weeks ago and he has been on paid leave since.

Protestors are coming out in support of him and Salahuddin’s lawyer, Rob Serafinowicz, said this case has nothing to do with a hose, it's about payback.

"This is a clear case that the chief decided that he wanted to retaliate against him for things that happened years ago,” Serafinowicz said. “That's the chief's MO. It's his style, and it's nice that everybody's out here to support Moose based on these stupid charges."

Years ago, Serafinowicz said, Salahuddin challenged the department's policy against facial hair and won the right to wear this beard, part of his Muslim beliefs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Ansonia's mayor said the U.S. Department of Justice would investigate Salahuddin's arrest.

NAACP representatives marched to support Salahuddin Monday and said they will do it again.

Not everyone in Ansonia is as supportive.

“You're in the public eye. You're supposed to be a role model for citizens. Myself, if I do something wrong, I'm accountable too,” said Mike Celestino of Ansonia.

Officer Knocks Bicyclist to the Ground


The New York Police Department has disciplined a Midtown police officer who had arrested a bicyclist he appears to have knocked to the ground, according to a YouTube videotape of the incident released Monday.

The videotape has raised concerns about police Officer Patrick Pogan's sworn account that the bicyclist deliberately drove into him last Friday evening during a Critical Mass bicycle ride in Times Square, a source said.

After the videotape surfaced, the NYPD took away Pogan's badge and gun, temporarily placing him on desk duty. The Manhattan district attorney also announced that it was investigating the incident.

In a criminal complaint, Pogan accused bicyclist Christopher Long of steering into him, the impact flinging Pogan to the ground and causing cuts on his forearms.

However on the video, shot by a bystander, it appears as though Pogan was the aggressor who used both hands to shove the 29-year-old Long off his bicycle as he traveled down Seventh Avenue by 46th Street about 8:30 p.m. July 25.

The videotape shows Long hitting the ground but doesn't show Pogan thrown off his feet.

Police arrested Long, charging him with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, charges that now are under scrutiny given the videotape, a source said.

"The officer has been placed on modified assignment pending further investigation of the incident," said Paul Browne, the NYPD's spokesman. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association declined comment.

Long also declined comment, but a Critical Mass supporter said confrontations like these are common between police and bicyclists.

At their monthly bicycle rides, Critical Mass has at times been accused of blocking traffic and causing disruptions to promote "non-polluting transportation."

"I was just horrified. You see the police officer knocking the cyclist off his bicycle," said Judy Ross of Time's Up!, a promoter for Critical Mass.

However a former NYPD official said the videotape may not tell the whole story.

"You can't see what the bicyclist is doing as he approaches the officer, other than he is coming close to the officer," said security consultant Thomas Ruskin, president of the CMP Group.

Officer Pleads Not Guilty in Road Rage Shooting


A San Diego police officer accused of shooting at a mother and her child while off-duty pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges stemming from the incident.

Officer Frank White faces a felony count of gross negligent discharge of a firearm with two enhancements for great bodily injury and one misdemeanor count of exhibiting a firearm. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of nine years in prison.

White answered the judge's questions during a brief appearance in Superior Court in Vista. He was there with his wife, attorneys and two other people. He did not answer questions after the hearing.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced the charges at a noon news conference and did not take any questions from reporters.

“Every officer-involved shooting is carefully reviewed by the District Attorney's Office to determine if criminal charges should be filed,” she said. “Based on the evidence and the law, these charges are appropriate.”

White was in the process of being suspended without pay Tuesday pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings, said Det. Gary Hassen, a San Diego Police Department spokesman.

The incident occurred the night of March 15, when White and his wife encountered Rachel Silva, who was driving with her then 8-year-old son, Johnny, in the passenger seat.

The shooting evolved from an apparent road-rage dispute and ended with White firing five rounds into Silva's car, officials said. Silva was shot twice in the arm, while her son was hit once in the knee.

White was allowed to leave the courtroom on his own recognizance without posting bail and must return on Saturday to be booked and released. His next court appearance is set for Aug. 26 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.
In April, the Attorney General's Office and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office decided to split the prosecution of the cases. The attorney general took over Silva's case, while the District Attorney's Office handled the investigation into White. Both agencies agreed that it was best to conduct two independent reviews in case both Silva and White were charged.

Silva has pleaded not guilty to felony child endangerment and five misdemeanors: two drunken driving charges, possession of marijuana, driving on a suspended license and driving on a license suspended for a previous drunken driving conviction.

Silva faces up to six years in prison if convicted of the felony. Her preliminary hearing has been set for Sept. 9.

In the interim, Silva has been in a rehabilitation facility where she will remain until counselors say she can leave, said her defense attorney Michael Pancer.

In response to White's charges, Pancer said: “I think the District Attorney's Office got it just right.”

The lawyer said he spoke to his client about the charges filed against White and said Silva “is pleased that Ms. Dumanis had the courage to do this.”

White's defense attorney, Richard Pinckard, said his client denies all of the allegations.

“This case rests on the evidence,” Pinckard said after the hearing. “We'll see how it unfolds.”

Oceanside police conducted an initial investigation and turned the case over to the District Attorney's Office in April to determine whether charges should be filed.

Oceanside police said Silva's blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent – nearly twice the legal limit – at the time. Authorities also said she had marijuana in her system.

Silva has said she doesn't recall how the confrontation started and doesn't know why White fired into her car. She also said she was only trying to get away from him when she saw his gun.

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Silva's son against White, the city of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department and the police chief. Silva has filed a similar claim.