Friday, August 08, 2008

Officer Frank White Charged in Road Rage Shooting

An off-duty San Diego police officer pleaded not guilty July 29 to charges relating to the shooting of a mother and her 8-year-old son in March.

Franklin “Frank” White is charged with one 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 up to nine years in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Rachel Silva and her son, Johnny, were shot March 15 after she and White, 28, were involved in a traffic dispute that prompted the off-duty officer to fire five shots into Silva’s car at a home-improvement store parking lot in the 100 block of Old Grove Road in Oceanside, according to court documents.

Before White fired into Silva’s vehicle, striking her twice in the arm and her son twice in the leg, Silva allegedly pursued and struck White’s vehicle, which contained him and his wife, court documents state. Further, Silva allegedly nearly caused a collision with another vehicle just prior to the incident with White.

“Every officer-involved shooting is carefully reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges should be filed,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said in a press release. “Based on the evidence and the law, these charges are appropriate.”

Police Chief William Lansdowne declined to comment on the charges.

White has been placed on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation that could take up to 90 days, said Monica Munoz, a spokeswoman with the San Diego Police Department.

Last month, after reviewing 2,500 pages of documents, including an accident reconstruction report, the state Attorney General’s Office concluded that there was insufficient evidence surrounding the circumstances of Silva striking White’s car to file assault charges against her.

However, because she’d allegedly been driving with a .15 blood alcohol level, the state charged her with child endangerment, driving under the influence and possession of marijuana.

The state Attorney General’s Office took over Silva’s investigation from the San Diego District Attorney’s Office last month after the two agencies met with the Oceanside Police Department, which initially investigated the case.

Silva, who was driving on a suspended license at the time of incident, is currently in a court-ordered rehabilitation center, her attorney Michael Pancer said.

“She’s pleased to see the District Attorney’s office took some action and feels somewhat vindicated,” Pancer said of Silva’s feelings about White being charged.

This is the first time since 1995, when former San Diego Police Officer Christopher Chaney shot a fleeing suspect in the arm and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, that an officer has been charged in connection with an officer-involved shooting, Steve Walker, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said.

A jury acquitted Chaney after only a few minutes of deliberations, Walker said.

Civil lawsuits have been filed against the San Diego Police Department, Lansdowne and White by Silva and her ex-husband on behalf of their son. In addition to monetary damages, the suit also seeks policy changes for law enforcement personnel of the San Diego Police Department.

Pancer, who’s also representing Silva in her civil case, said he believed the criminal charges against White “impacted the civil claims a great deal.”

Officer Carlos Peralta Charged with Rape

A New Orleans police officer was charged with rape Thursday by the Orleans Parish district attorney's office.

Carlos Peralta, 38, was charged with forcible rape in connection with an assault in March 2007. Peralta has worked for the New Orleans Police Department since 1996 and was assigned to the 4th District as a patrol officer at the time of the incident, according to Civil Service records.

This is the second time Peralta has been charged in connection with the incident. In December, the district attorney's office filed a bill of information charging Peralta with second-degree battery in the same assault, which Assistant District Attorney Robert White said was part of a plea deal that the woman had consented to. But last month, Peralta declined to plead guilty to the battery charge, prompting White to file the forcible rape charge, a far more serious charge that carries a sentence of up to 40 years.

White said the second-degree battery charge made sense only as part of a plea deal. "The elements of the crime would most closely match up with forcible rape," he said.

Also on Thursday, the DA's office charged a former New Orleans police officer, Joseph Lusk, with malfeasance; he is accused of tipping off a woman to drug surveillance activity.

In the rape case, Peralta was investigated by an internal police unit as well as the district attorney's office, White said.

Peralta's attorney, Robert Jenkins, has denied that Peralta ever intended to take a plea deal. He called the new charge an attempt by the district attorney's office to pressure his client to plead guilty and he reiterated his commitment to fight the case.

"We're ready to go," Jenkins said. "Mr. Peralta is innocent and we're going to prove it."

During a recent City Council hearing, New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley was asked about the case, and said Peralta has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Peralta allegedly raped a woman at a party attended by several off-duty police officers, Riley said. The Police Department did not terminate Peralta because of "conflicting stories" in the initial police report, he said, adding that officers could not locate the alleged victim for some time.

"We are not going to terminate somebody when we have conflicting statements from witnesses," Riley said. "Until the case goes to trial, that person is not guilty."

The Metropolitan Crime Commission, a watchdog group, has been monitoring the case at the request of the woman, who has since moved out of state. Rafael Goyeneche, the commission's president, said the woman will cooperate with prosecutors.

Also on Thursday, Lusk, 46, was charged with malfeasance in office. He resigned from the Police Department in April, the day after a woman told officers that Lusk had warned her via a cell phone text message about drug surveillance in Algiers to help her avoid arrest when she bought drugs. Lusk was booked with malfeasance by the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau the following week.

Lusk, who was a 4th District task force officer, denies the allegations, said Frank DeSalvo, his attorney. "I think Joe has a valid defense and we are going to pursue it," he said.

Jury Awards Former Officer $35,000


Federal jurors have awarded $35,000 to a former state police officer who contended he was battered and unjustly arrested by Albuquerque police three years ago.

The jury ruled yesterday that Albuquerque police used excessive force against former officer Saul Canizales and wrongfully arrested him.

Canizales and another rookie state police officer were off duty in May 2005 when they got into a confrontation with Albuquerque officers.

Canizales and the other officer resigned shortly after their arrests.

Canizales' sued the Albuquerque police, alleging he was falsely arrested and suffered emotional distress after being battered.

The lawsuit contended Canizales was not threatening but was attacked by an officer.

Officer Sandy Casey Accused of Mishandling Funds


State auditor officials are considering doing a second audit of the village of Lithopolis' books in light of allegations about the former fiscal officer's handling of tax dollars.

Village officials contacted the state Auditor's Office and Fairfield County prosecutor in July alleging Former Fiscal Officer Sandy Casey was engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Casey, who was appointed to the position in January 2006, resigned July 23, said Mayor Eric Sandine.

Sandine declined to say what behavior led to the pattern of corrupt activity. Sandine declined to discuss any specifics of the allegations.

Many village residents learned of the allegations and Casey's resignation after receiving the latest copy of the Lithopolis Newsletter at their residences Tuesday.

Christina Goodwin was one of the residents who received the newsletter.

"I'm surprised, but then again, how many times have you heard of this happening?" Goodwin said.

"I mean, I'm surprised, but then, I'm not surprised."

Sandine said Casey chose to resign from her position as fiscal officer rather then face a hearing before the Lithopolis Village Council.

"The disciplinary process would have put her on administrative leave until the council would have had a hearing," Sandine said.

Casey could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Emily Frazee, deputy press secretary for the state Auditor's Office, said the office was working on an audit for the village when they received information about the allegation.

"We are at the end of the village's current audit and so now we will need to decide whether we want to wait and hold this audit or start a new audit narrowed down to this concern," Frazee said.

Fairfield County Prosecutor David Landefeld said his office will take the appropriate steps if an investigation is conducted.

The newsletter sent to residents alleges Casey admitted to the facts of the village's investigation during an administrative interview. It was signed by the mayor.

Mel Meloy, president of the Lithopolis Marketing Association, learned of the allegations this week.

Meloy said Casey once served as treasurer of the Lithopolis Marketing Association.

"She resigned from the position of treasurer in March, but then stayed on another month after that," Meloy said. "She didn't say why she resigned. I assumed it was because she was just overworked."

Sandine stated in the newsletter that information will continue to be released to the public as permitted regarding the incident.

He said the village won't suffer any financial loss because Casey had a position bond, or an insurance policy for people who work with money.

Sandine said fiscal officers carry a position bond in the case of any wrongdoing in office

Undercover Officer Resigns After Posting Online Sex Ads


An Oviedo police officer who posted naked pictures of himself online has resigned.

The photos were next to graphic ads for sex.

Investigators said that they did not know anything about the sex ads online until they received a tip. The pictures of undercover agent Scott Woodlee were posted on Craigslist. He posted several dozen naked pictures on the site advertising sex with men and women.

"I've been in the business for 20 years and this is very disturbing," said Lieutenant George Ilemsky of the Oviedo Police Department. "It's conduct unbecoming of an officer. There is nothing criminal here. It is strictly administrative."

Investigators said they were able to identify Woodlee in the pictures, because of his tattoos. Channel 9 obtained a copy of the taped interview when Woodlee was confronted and tried to explain his actions.

"Well, like I said, I could sit here and tell you I did it for entertainment purposes, because most of the stuff on there is 90 percent 'BS' anyways, to be quite honest with you," stated Woodlee.

He told investigators that he posted the ads after a long day at work.

"I see maybe if we want to call it poor judgment. I did it on my time and by no means am I minimizing or justifying my actions," said Woodlee.

It is unsure if he will lose his job.

Arraignment for Officer Accused of Forcibly Fondling Prostitute Postponed


The arraignment for a San Diego County sheriff's detective accused of forcibly fondling a prostitute in February was postponed Thursday because he has not yet hired an attorney. Thomas Sadler, 47, is likely waiting for word from the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, which was voting Thursday afternoon on whether to pay for his defense.

An arraignment has been rescheduled for Aug. 28.

Sadler appeared somber during his appearance in San Diego Superior Court Thursday, nearly one week after attempting to commit suicide following his July 31 arrest.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dort requested the judge increase Sadler's bail “due to the defendant planning not to be here today.” But Judge David Szumowski declined, leaving bail at $250,000.

Sadler, accompanied by a woman, remained silent and looked straight ahead as television cameras followed him onto the sidewalk of the courthouse and surrounded him after the proceedings. He eventually gave a slight nod of the head when asked if he was declining to comment.

A 20-year veteran of the department, Sadler is charged with sexual battery by restraint, assault and battery by an officer, false imprisonment, and two counts of accessing a computer to defraud.

He was arrested at the Santee home he shares with his wife after a six-month investigation by San Diego police. He was released from jail early the next morning after posting bail.

San Diego police said Sadler forced a self-admitted prostitute into his unmarked Ford Taurus in North Park while on duty the morning of Feb. 6 and drove her to a parking lot in Mission Valley.

He then forcibly groped her until three witnesses intervened and she escaped, said San Diego police acting Assistant Chief Jim Collins.

Authorities have said the deputy used a confidential computer system hours after the alleged incident to check whether his vehicle license plate was listed as wanted and for information about the location of the incident.

Sadler, who is assigned to the Lemon Grove station, is on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the case.

He faces up to six years and eight months in prison, if convicted.

According to a federal lawsuit, Sadler was accused of similar behavior while on duty in 2002.

Nicole Bowman, 34, claims he stopped her in a parking lot after leaving a Santee bar, pulled up her bra and looked down her pants during a search.

Bowman said she filed the lawsuit in 2003 only after getting nowhere with sheriff's Internal Affairs investigators. The county agreed to pay her $10,000 to settle the case a year later, according to documents.

Two California Officers Arrested in Tijuana


Two Northern California police officers could face up to 20 years in a Mexican prison after being caught in Tijuana with firearms and about 6,000 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

The officers, identified as Hermonegenes Llanos and Jorge Luis Matos, were arrested Friday afternoon by Mexican authorities. Both are from the Monterey area.

Llanos is a patrol officer and eight-year veteran of the Soledad Police Department in Monterey County. Police Chief Richard Cox confirmed the arrest yesterday and said an internal affairs probe is under way.

Matos was identified as a civilian police sergeant at the Presidio of Monterey, an Army installation.

A U.S. consular official in Tijuana, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the officers could face a variety of charges, most of them involving the possession of weapons and equipment restricted under Mexican law to military use.

The official said the charges carry penalties ranging from three to 20 years in prison.

Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, said Llanos and Matos were in custody at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. However, the consular official said a Mexican federal judge ordered Llanos released on bail yesterday.

The two officers had just crossed the border at the San Ysidro port of entry when their SUV was pulled over by Mexican customs officers for a random inspection, Mack said.

The officers found two handguns and “well over 5,000 rounds of ammo” in the vehicle, one official said. A later estimate put the ammunition at 6,000 rounds, Mack said.