Thursday, July 31, 2008

District Attorney Accused of Having Sex at Courthouse


It is alleged that Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins has engaged in a sexual relationship inside the courthouse. County commissioners confirm they are investigating the allegations. Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office and a judicial code of conduct board have all been put on alert.

Bedford County Commissioner Chairman Michael Herline said he was alerted to the incident when the family of the woman involved contacted his office. The investigation will determine what wrongdoing, if any, was committed by Higgins and how to move forward.

It all started at a Republican committee meeting on July 10 at the Carriage House restaurant. Higgins attended the meeting as the vice chairman.

Commissioner said the woman involved is not a county employee.

The investigation showed Higgins and the woman went back to Higgins office, located in the older portion of the renovated courthouse. It was there, Higgins admitted that they were involved in a sexual relationship.

Since it occurred in the courthouse, the commissioners said they have an obligation to address any situation involving county property, resources or employees.

The commissioners have interviewed people from before and after the incident. They have also been in touch with the county solicitor.

Attorney Higgins said that this is an unfortunate incident, but it is of a personal nature and he is working it out with his wife.

However, some wonder what kind of discipline can be taken against him? According to the county handbook, not much.

Under the sexual misconduct portion, it states that only county employees who violate the code of conduct will be subject to disciplinary action, including being fired. According to commissioners, the guidelines don't pertain to elected officials like Higgins.

Higgins would have to do something illegal, and Attorney General Tom Corbett, said there is nothing criminal about this situation.

County Commissioner Steve Houser also told WJAC that an elected official can actually never show up for work and still get paid, meaning there's no recourse to discipline or fire them.

Still, Bedford County Commissioners are investigating whether Higgins broke any rules by having his affair inside county property.

Two Officers Charged with Disorderly Conduct


Two local police officers and a local businessman are charged with disorderly conduct after a fight at the home of a prominent local attorney two weeks ago.

State police are charging 40-year-old Jamel Mallad of Hollidaysburg, Hollidaysburg police officer Jeffrey Friday and Logan Township police officer Matthew Lindsey after allegedly engaging in a fight at Attorney Tom Dickey's Hollidaysburg area home. Police said during the fight, one of the men was hit over the head with a beer bottle. However, he's not planning to prosecute for the assault.

The charges come after police interviewed a long list of guests who were at the party. On Wednesday, the investigating officer from Bedford met with other officers, as well as the chiefs of the Hollidaysburg and Logan Township police departments to discuss the charges and how to proceed.

District Attorney Rich Consiglio was also at the closed-door meeting, but said the case will not be handled by his office because there were assistant district attorney's at the party.

Consiglio said depending on how police proceed, he may be turning the case over to the Attorney General's office.

Both the Hollidaysburg and Logan Township police chiefs said they'll be handling the incident internally.

Officer Arrested for Stalking, Misconduct and Criminal Mischief

A Lafayette police officer turned himself in Wednesday morning after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Officer James Stafford, 34, was arrested by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of harassment/stalking, official misconduct and criminal mischief related to domestic violence. The harassment count is a class 5 felony.

On Monday, the Lafayette Police Department asked the Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing against Stafford. That investigation led to the arrest warrant.

Details of the case weren’t available Wednesday night, nor was the police report.

Sheriff Joe Pelle said the alleged wrongdoing involved Stafford and a “girlfriend or romantic interest.”

Pelle said an “official misconduct” charge usually means someone misused his or her authority. He didn’t elaborate on what those alleged misuses were in this case.

Stafford, who appeared in court Wednesday afternoon, posted a $5,000 personal recognizance bond and was released later in the day.

Officer Charged with Theft and Misconduct

A 44-year-old Milwaukee police officer was charged Wednesday with stealing money from a vehicle during a search.

Officer Jeffrey Buckson, a member of the force since April 2003, was arrested July 2 by members of the department’s Professional Performance Division, according to an arrest detention report.

The Professional Performance Division began investigating Buckson based upon information provided by other officers, department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said in a statement.

Buckson, who had been assigned to District 3, has been suspended, Schwartz said.

According to a criminal complaint filed against Buckson:

On the afternoon of July 2, police personnel parked a black Chevrolet Tahoe in the 2600 block of W. Lloyd St. and placed a handgun and $530 in cash inside the SUV’s center console. A man was recruited to loiter near the SUV while police observed.

Buckson and his partner were told the SUV and the man were involved in a drug dealing complaint and drove to the area to investigate.

The officers searched, detained and released the man and searched the SUV. The officers took the cash and the gun from the SUV to be inventoried at the District 3 police station. They had not yet counted the cash.

The officers stopped at an ATM and a Taco Bell while driving back to the district station. While his partner was outside the vehicle using the ATM, Buckson took $100 of the cash, the complaint said.

After returning to the station, Buckson filled out an inventory form and reported that $430 had been found in the SUV. He put the other $100 in his bag in a locker room at the station, according to the complaint.

Police found the money in his bag after obtaining a search warrant, the complaint said.

Buckson told investigators he took the money because he was having financial problems and family issues, according to the complaint.

He is charged with two felony counts of misconduct in public office and misdemeanor counts of theft by an employee and concealing stolen property.

Officer William Rust Arrested for Domestic Violence


A former city police officer was arrested this week on a domestic battery charge.

Officer William P. Rust, 40, 553 Elliott Ave., was arrested at a southside home early Tuesday afternoon. He was released after posting bond about 12 hours later.

He was preliminarily charged with a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum one-year jail term. However, formal charges had not been filed as of Wednesday.

A New Castle woman on Wednesday was granted a protective order against Rust.

Rust was a New Castle police officer before resigning his post in May.

Officer Charged With Sexual Assaulting Two Teenagers

A New Castle police officer has been charged with sexually assaulting two teenagers at his Union Township home.

Richard L. Corbin, 35, of 458 Moore Ave., was arraigned before District Judge Jerry Cartwright on two counts each of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and four counts of corruption of minors. He also is charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors.

Following his arraignment at 8 p.m. yesterday, state police said Corbin was released on non-monetary bond. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Central Court.

According to a prepared statement issued by the New Castle Police Department, Corbin has been placed on leave pending further investigation. The statement did not indicate whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

On Tuesday, state police from the Butler Criminal Investigation Unit probed the reported sexual assault of two teenage girls — one is 15, the other is 14. She was 13 at the time of the alleged incident, which took place in January at Corbin’s Moore Avenue home, police said.

According to paperwork filed in the office of District Judge Jennifer Nicholson, police interviewed the younger girl on Tuesday at the state police station in New Castle.

She told officers that in January, Corbin had offered the two a ride to Club Unity, their intended destination.

Once inside his car, she said, Corbin began touching her over her clothing. She said a bottle of liquor had been found in the back seat and both girls asked if they could drink some before they reached the club. She said Corbin had agreed and suggested they drink the alcohol at his home.

The girl said all three began to drink the alcohol in the living room of the officer’s home.

After drinking seven to eight shots of the flavored vodka, the victim said, she went upstairs to the bathroom. When she came out, she said, Corbin invited her to go into his bedroom, which contained a computer.

The court papers said the girl had reported she “eventually engaged in sexual intercourse with Corbin.”

When they finished, she said, she went downstairs and told the older girl that she had had sex with Corbin. She said Corbin then went downstairs and began “kissing and fondling” the other girl.

The girl said that Corbin and the older girl then went upstairs, returning in about 20 minutes.

Police interviewed the older girl on Wednesday at a treatment center in Farrell. They said she had corroborated the younger girl’s statements.

Officers arrested Corbin yesterday at his home.

According to city records, Corbin was hired as a patrolman on a temporary basis in May 1998 and served in that capacity until Jan. 1, 2003, when he became a full-time officer.

Through a cooperative effort with the New Castle district, Corbin served as a school resource officer assigned to the junior-senior high, according to superintendent George Gabriel.

The policeman served in that position from April 9, 2007, through Feb. 1, 2008, according to the district.

Gabriel would not comment on why Corbin’s duties at the school ended.

The superintendent said the purpose of the program was to have students become familiar with police officers and “mostly to ensure safety in the building.”

Some of Corbin’s responsibilities at the junior-senior high included patrolling the outside the building to detect unauthorized persons or vehicles; monitoring the halls, restrooms and stairwells during classroom changes; and assisting in stopping disturbances and undue distractions in the school and its grounds.

New Castle Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo said he had just learned of Corbin’s arrest this morning and had not had a chance to talk with Police Chief Tom Sansone about the officer’s status.

In a prepared statement sent to the New Castle News this morning, the police department acknowledged that Corbin, one it its officers, had been charged.

“While the New Castle Police Department takes these matters seriously, we must reserve comment at this time pending the outcome of the court process.”

Veteran Officer Jonathan Heard Robs Store

The Central Store was robbed at gunpoint Friday night, and the prime suspect identified by Elmore County Sheriff’s deputies is a former police investigator with 11 years in law enforcement.

Jonathan Heard, a former investigator with the Roanoke Police Department in Randolph County, allegedly wielded a “semi-automatic pistol” and demanded cash from a cashier at the store around 6:30 Friday night, according to the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department.

According to victims and witnesses at The Central Store "9 miles north of Wetumpka on Alabama Highway 9” Heard came in asking for directions to Alexander City around 5 p.m.

Elmore County Chief Deputy Ricky Lowery said Heard returned an hour and a half later, pointed a handgun at the clerk, and left with “an undisclosed amount of currency.”

Roanoke Police Chief Adam Melton said his department did everything it could to cooperate with local investigators, despite their “shock and disbelief” that one of their own could commit such a crime.

“Our thoughts and prayers are, of course, with the victims and with (Heard’s) family,” Melton said Monday. “We’re praying that God holds their hand through this trying time, because this is just awful.”

A witness who saw the robber flee The Central Store in a Chevrolet Avalanche wrote down the truck’s license plate. After a license plate check identified Heard, sheriff’s deputies contacted Melton’s department. They confirmed Heard’s previous employment there, and verified the type of truck he drove.

“While the investigation was going on, we received information that another store was hit in Shorter, and we feel (Heard) is a suspect in that robbery as well,” Sheriff Bill Franklin said.

An Elmore County deputy who knew Heard called his cell phone not long after The Central Store hold-up, and Heard said he wanted to turn himself in, but needed to speak with an attorney first.
“Apparently, that was a ruse,” Franklin said.

A regional bulletin to “be on the lookout,” called a BOLO, was issued.

Lowery also spoke with Heard around 11 p.m. Friday, asking him to come in to talk about “something that happened in the county.”

Heard was apprehended in Biloxi, Miss., parking lot around 4 a.m. Saturday, Biloxi Police Investigator Susan Kimball said. He did not resist arrest, she added, and the handgun allegedly used in the crime was found in Heard’s truck. The former policeman is also suspected in a 2 a.m. robbery at an Exxon station in Moss Point, Miss., Kimball said.

Kimball said Heard is being held at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center. An extradition hearing was planned for Tuesday or today, she added.

Elmore County investigators were surprised to see the tag number lead to a former police officer, Lowery said, but since Heard allegedly “broke the law, we treated him just like any other suspect.”

Melton said Heard patrolled Roanoke in two stints totaling 11 years. A native of nearby Wedowee, he worked for the RPD from 1994-2000 and 2001-2006, before resigning to take a job with a neighboring sheriff’s department, Melton said.

“I’m just at a loss of words,” Melton said. “He had been one of ours, but I believe in punishment for what we do wrong. If we can do anything, for the victims, his family or for Jonathan, I’m happy to talk to whomever.”