Thursday, August 14, 2008

Officer Indicted in Taser death


A former police officer accused of repeatedly jolting a handcuffed man with a Taser before he died has been indicted on a manslaughter charge.

A spokesman for the Winn Parish district attorney's office says grand jurors also indicted former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent on a charge of malfeasance in office.

Grand jurors spent two days hearing evidence in the death of 21-year-old Baron Pikes before they handed up the indictments Wednesday evening.

Pikes was shocked nine times with a 50,000-volt Taser as he was arrested on a drug possession warrant in January in central Louisiana.

Nugent was fired but is appealing. Nugent's lawyer says his client followed department protocol and didn't use excessive force.

Cop accused of sex with minors considers plea

A former Maricopa police officer accused of sex with minors is apparently mulling over a plea deal. Garry Ferguson is accused of having unlawful sex with three minors in Kings County. He appeared in court Wednesday in Handford.

We called Kings County Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ciuffini who said she offered a plea deal to keep the case form going to trial and that he is considering it.

The plea deal calls for Ferguson to plead to one court of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14 and one count of statutory rape.

In return, Ferguson would get no more than eight years in prison. If convicted, Ferguson could face more than 26 years in prison. Ferguson has until September to consider the deal. His preliminary hearing is also set for September.

Three Officer Indicted for Threatened to Kill Teenagers

Three East Orange police officers have been indicted on charges they threatened to kill two teenagers they believed had thrown rocks at their patrol car, prosecutors said yesterday.

Officers Jon Cato, 31, and Hakim Davis, 34, were charged in the 23-count indictment with kidnapping and official misconduct for allegedly leading the 17-year-olds out of their apartment and making them lay facedown on a porch at gunpoint. Davis, once referred to as a law enforcement role model, is also accused of placing the barrel of a gun inside the mouth of one of the teens.

Officer Dave Sheridan, 24, who did not take part in the threats but allegedly made no effort to stop them, was charged with conspiracy and official misconduct.

Mayor Robert Bowser and city Administrator Reginald Lewis said Police Chief Ronald Borgo took immediate action against the officers.

"In light of the nature of the charges, Chief Borgo has relieved all three officers of their duties, placing them on suspension, without pay, pending the outcome of the judicial process," Lewis said in a statement.

Sheridan's attorney, Patrick Toscano, said his client had done nothing wrong.

"When the matter is over, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office is going to owe him three things: back pay, reinstatement and a huge apology," Toscano said.

The incident took place around midnight on May 31, when a patrol car carrying Cato and Davis was struck by rocks at South Arlington Avenue and Beech Street as the officers were responding, with lights flashing, to a reported shooting, said Peter Sepulveda, an Essex County assistant prosecutor.

Sepulveda said the rocks, which hit the passenger door, did little damage, but the officers said they nearly caused the patrol car to crash.

With other officers continuing the response, Cato and Davis arrested two youths, ages 15 and 16, for the rock throwing, Sepulveda said. He said they then went to a second-floor apartment on Beech Street in pursuit of others they believed.

Two 17-year-olds who lived in the apartment were in bed and later determined to not be involved. But when one of them opened the door to the officers, Davis grabbed him and punched him twice in the face, while Cato pointed a gun at the other boy's chest, the prosecutor said.

"These kids were never part of the group outside," Sepulveda said. "They got out of bed when they heard the knocking and the officer punches one of them in the face."

The officers took both youths to the front porch and made them lay facedown at gunpoint, Sepulveda said. Davis put his gun on the face of one teen and, when he protested, forced it in his mouth and threatened to kill him, the prosecutor said.

Sepulveda said a number of people witnessed the incident. Neither teen was charged with the rock throwing, and the two youths who were arrested earlier had their charges dismissed in juvenile court.

The officers were indicted after an investigation by the East Orange police internal affairs unit and the professional standards bureau of the prosecutor's office.

Cato and Davis are both five-year veterans of the force; Sheridan came on the job in September 2006. Cato and Davis each were earning $59,328 a year, as of March 31, 2007, according to the state Pension Office. Sheridan's salary could not be immediately determined.

Lawyers for Cato and Davis could not be reached for comment.

Davis was once hailed as a law enforcement role model in East Orange.

During a Feb. 5, 2007, swearing-in ceremony for 12 new recruits, former Police Director Jose Cordero told the newest members of the East Orange Police Department to look at Davis, then a detective, and other officers around them as people they should emulate.

"There are no better role models than those around you," Cordero said.

Officer Andrew Dale Fired for Sexually Abusing Woman


The Town Board fired a police officer last night who is accused by the town Police Department of sexually abusing a Monsey woman.

The dismissal of Andrew Dale, 34, came a day after an indictment accused him of felony and misdemeanor crimes related to administering gynecological examinations, but was based only on the Police Department's disciplinary charges.

A resolution unanimously approved by the board declared that Dale, a member of the department for 10 years, "is no longer qualified to serve as a Police Officer and is immediately discharged."

The decision was made after board members were provided with a 1,641-page transcript of the six-day hearing, as well as the hearing officer's report.

Hearing Officer John Carey reported finding sufficient evidence to uphold 16 disciplinary charges, including Dale's failure to report the woman's accusations, his lying to the Police Department about the accusations and his participation in the alleged abuse.

Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said last night that he thought it was significant that Carey found "proof well beyond the substantial-evidence test in determining that Dale committed the crime of sexual abuse."

Police Chief Peter Brower and relatives of Dale's declined to comment as they left last night's meeting.

Dale's dismissal was not recommended by Carey, who suggested a one-year unpaid suspension. The officer's annual salary was about $95,000.

Carey, a former Westchester County judge, reported that he took "into account AD's unblemished record in the RPD, his national service as a US Marine, his current service in the US Army Reserve, and his overall performance as a Community Police Officer."

It seemed to Carey that "more good can be done by sending him back to work," with an admonition to use better judgment in the future.

Dale and Zalman Silber were released without bail Tuesday after separate arraignments before Judge Catherine Bartlett in Rockland County Court in New City.

Silber, 41, had already posted $10,000 bail in Manhattan after he was accused last month of misdemeanor charges of sex abuse and a felony charge of practicing a profession without a license. The charges stemmed from accusations that Silber examined several women while posing as a gynecologist.

In the Rockland indictment, Silber and Dale were accused of 34 charges, including the felony of performing medical examinations without a license between 2005 and 2006. They also were accused of four counts of fourth-degree aggravated sex abuse, a felony, and 24 counts of third-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor. All the charges related to the alleged contact with the Monsey woman.

They pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys predicted they would prevail at trial.

One of the lawyers, William Aronwald of White Plains, said the woman was "mentally unbalanced" and had ulterior motives for her accusations.

In a footnote of the hearing officer's report, it was stated the woman wrote that she was withdrawing her claims against either Dale or Silber or both.

"I am not in good mental health and approached the DA's office with an unstable mind when I submitted my claim," the woman was said to have written on Dec. 10, 2007.

That was the same day she taped three conversations with Dale for the Police Department, and the day when Dale later met with Silber.

The hearing officer determined that the woman's testimony against Dale at the hearing "was more credible" than the letter.

Carey wrote that Dale implicated himself beyond what was recorded on tape.

While the woman, in the conversations, accused Dale only of sexual abuse, he later gave police details that he could not have known, "except for (his) personal participation," Carey wrote.

Officer Alph Coleman Arrested for Aggravated Robbery

Dallas police officer Alph Coleman was arrested on suspicion of aggravated robbery on June 27 of the Sam's Club in the 2900 block of West Wheatland Road.

Court records show that Coleman tried to rob the Red Bird-area Sam's with two other men, and made up a story covering his participation. You have to read the story involving a bullet-proof vest that Coleman says was shot at, but evidence shows wasn't. It's all pretty elaborate and also seems clearly fake. It also sounds like they never ended up actually taking anything. One of the other two men has been arrested; the other is still at large.

He said he was held at gunpoint in a Sam's Club robbery was accused Tuesday of staging his role as a hostage in the failed heist.

Dallas police Officer Alph Coleman was charged with aggravated robbery after evidence implicated the four-year veteran in planning and carrying out the June 27 holdup, Dallas police Lt. Vernon Hale said.

Coleman was in custody at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center on a $50,000 bond for the aggravated robbery charges, a jail spokesman said. It was not immediately clear if Coleman had an attorney. He has been placed on administrative leave.

Coleman was working off-duty as a security guard, but in his police uniform, when he told investigators that a man held a pistol to his head inside a Sam's Club store and forced him against his will toward the accounting office.

The robbery failed when employees barricaded themselves inside a storage room, police said. Coleman had said he was walked outside the store, pushed to the ground and heard two gunshots.

Coleman fired three times at the suspect, according to a Dallas police report. The suspect fled and was not caught, and Coleman was hospitalized with a shoulder injury.

Coleman's uniform shirt and ballistic vest were taken to the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences but a trace evidence analyst found no gunshot defects, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. No gunshot residue was found on the shirt or the vest.

Coleman has been with the department since 2004 and has no history of disciplinary actions, police said.

Faced With Being Fired Officer George Benjamin Retires

Faced with being fired, an Indianapolis police officer retired Tuesday, the same day prosecutors charged him with a felony and five misdemeanors in connection with two alcohol-related crashes involving his department-issued cars.

George Leon Benjamin, a respected robbery detective and the brother of a deputy chief, allegedly was involved in accidents with four department-issued vehicles since 2002, yet was allowed to stay in the department and continued to drive take-home vehicles.

Weak evidence, lenient policies and the fact that Benjamin was widely regarded as a "good officer" helped him keep his job until the most recent incidents came to light Monday.

Benjamin, 46, checked himself into a treatment program Tuesday shortly after he told supervisors he would retire.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Michael Spears said he was going to seek to have Benjamin fired. A firing would not have changed Benjamin's pension or benefits.

"We take a pretty serious stance with" drunken driving, Spears said. "This is the only area of disciplinary action that is specifically outlined in policy. Regardless of who you are, you know what the consequences will be."

Under the current policy, any officer who crashes a department vehicle with even a trace of alcohol in his or her system faces a 30-day suspension for a first offense and termination for the second offense.

Prior to 2005, officers typically received a 15-day suspension for crashing a squad car while intoxicated. Benjamin's first two incidents occurred before the new policy was in place.

Officials say Benjamin committed two alcohol-related offenses in the past three weeks.

Prosecutors charged him with public intoxication and two counts of drunken driving after he allegedly crashed his department-issued Ford Taurus into a fence in the 7300 block of West Morris Street on Sunday night.

Benjamin also was charged with criminal mischief, public intoxication and failure to stop after an accident in connection with a July 22 crash in which Benjamin's department-issued Ford Crown Victoria struck and damaged a maintenance building in the Westpark Townhomes, 7800 block of West 10th Street.

The criminal mischief charge is a felony and carries a sentence of six months to three years in prison if convicted. The other charges are misdemeanors. Benjamin is scheduled to appear in Marion Superior Court today for a hearing.

Benjamin's brother, Deputy Chief William Benjamin, removed himself from the investigation to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The investigating supervisors, who typically reported to William Benjamin, reported directly to Spears, the chief said.

"He completely recused himself from any part of that investigation and has remained out of it," Spears said.

George Leon Benjamin had been working as a detective in the department's robbery section. He has 11 commendations and awards, including being named officer of the month for January 2001.

But off-duty, Benjamin had problems.

In 2004, he served a 10-day suspension and was required to undergo counseling after he struck a metal gate with a department vehicle, causing about $2,000 in damage to the vehicle. Benjamin was not arrested because no one witnessed him behind the wheel, a key element needed to prove a drunken-driving case.

Benjamin was suspended for five days in December 2005 after he failed to comply with the terms of a treatment program. Officials declined to elaborate.

In 2002, while Benjamin was assigned to then-Mayor Bart Peterson's security detail, he was off duty and behind the wheel of an unmarked patrol car that struck another vehicle outside a strip mall at 56th Street and Georgetown Road. Witnesses and authorities said Benjamin smelled of alcohol, but the officers who investigated did not give him a field sobriety or breath test. No arrests were made and no discipline was handed out, although he later left the mayor's security detail.

Department officials at the time criticized the Marion County sheriff's deputy who investigated the case for choosing not to test Benjamin's sobriety. Deputy Larry Crowe said he did not have enough probable cause to ask Benjamin to undergo the tests.

Public Safety Director Scott Newman said Tuesday that Benjamin's arrest and forced retirement show times have changed in the Police Department.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago, if you were pro-police, it meant you defended every officer no matter what," Newman said. "Now, even the union considers whether an action was within a framework of something that can be defended."

Bill Owensby, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, worked alongside Benjamin early in their careers.

"I thought he was a fine police officer," Owensby said. "I'm not blowing smoke. I thought he was a good cop."

Benjamin's alcohol problems happened while he was off duty, Owensby said. Benjamin's on-duty performance was not in question.

"If these incidents surfaced every few years or so, it's possible that he stayed under their radar," Owensby said. "They surfaced every so often, but not often enough to put a bull's-eye on his back."

Spears said he hopes Benjamin's swift separation from IMPD reminds other officers to stay away from alcohol whenever they drive their take-home vehicles.

"I clearly will not accept that type of conduct no matter who the officer is," Spears said.

Officer Scott Campbell Charged with Fraud


Another Chicago police officer has been indicted in connection with a scheme to have his car towed away and declared stolen for insurance money.

The U.S. attorney's office says Officer Scott Campbell was charged Tuesday with fraud in a plan to have his Volkswagen towed and cut up for parts. Authorites say Campbell planned to report the auto as stolen once it had been taken away.

A lawyer for Campbell could not immediately be reached for comment.

In June, Officer Joseph Grillo, a 12-year department veteran, and another man, James P. Athans, of Wood Dale, were charged with one count each of felony mail fraud.

Grillo was accused of making arrangements with Athans to have the car taken off the street, and agreeing to help keep other towing companies away from accident scenes as part of the deal.

Officer Herrick Johnson Charged with Having Sex with Teen He Met Online


A central Pennsylvania police officer charged with having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met online wants to retire and collect his pension.

Altoona Police Officer Herrick Johnson is on paid administrative leave. State police say the 49-year-old Johnson met the girl through a site that promoted law enforcement careers. State police say Johnson drove to Indiana to pick up the girl at her family's home in July.

The city's pension board must rule on Johnson's request to retire effective Aug. 20, the day of his preliminary hearing on the charges. Johnson's pension would be based on 50 percent of his base pay.

City officials say the officer likely won't forfeit his pension due to the sex charges.

Officer Sean Bracey Charged with Forcible Rape of a Child


A former Belchertown police officer was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 cash or $500,000 surety after he pleaded innocent today in Hampden Superior Court to forcible rape of a child under 16.

Sean F. Bracey, 40, of 34 Pine Grove St., Springfield, also pleaded innocent in front of Judge Tina S. Page to indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.

Bracey was indicted by a grand jury on Monday and a warrant issued for his arrest. He was arrested Tuesday.

According to the indictments, Bracey is accused of forcible rape of a child under 16 "on or about April 21, 2007," in Springfield.

The indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 charge said that happened between September 2001 and September 2002. The indictments give the initial of the victim in each charge. The initials of the victim in each charge were the same.

Bracey submitted his resignation to Belchertown selectmen in June 2005.

Bracey, convicted of domestic assault and battery by a Hampshire Superior Court jury April 26, 2005, submitted a brief, typed letter of resignation to the board. It said, "For reasons known to the Board of Selectmen and personal reasons, I must tender my resignation from my appointed position as full-time police officer with the Town of Belchertown."

Officer Ian Elsom Charged with Assault

An officer charged Tuesday with assault causing bodily harm used an appropriate amount of force in collaring a man who was resisting arrest, the president of the Calgary Police Association argued.

Calgary police allege Const. Ian Elsom, 38, caused unspecified jaw injuries during an altercation after a traffic stop on Dec. 8, 2007.

But association president John Dooks said Elsom broke no laws.

The offender was resisting arrest and the officer used a reasonable amount of force," Dooks said.

"The officer was involved in a foot chase and the suspect sustained injuries as a result of a struggle, as a result of some of his own actions."

The Calgary Police Service said its Professional Standards Section investigated the incident and sent its findings to prosecutors in Edmonton.

The Crown reviewed the case and recommended last week that Elsom be charged.

"It is very rare for us to charge a police officer. It's all based on the recommendation from the Edmonton Crown," said Calgary police Insp. Monty Sparrow.

"We take all matters seriously and forward all of our investigations of a criminal nature to the Edmonton Crown for review. Upon their recommendation, we lay the charge."

Elsom, who has served with the CPS for the last two years, is on paid relief for the next seven days.

Sparrow would not say much about the incident, saying the matter was before the courts.

"The Calgary Police Service takes any allegations of criminal activity, misconduct or improper behaviour against its officers very seriously. All incidents are investigated thoroughly and impartially," said Sparrow.

The case comes less than a week after another Calgary officer was acquitted of assault charges in court.

Seven-year member Const. Sean Hasson was acquitted Saturday of aggravated assault after an incident that stemmed from an unpaid bar tab. The judge in that case was critical of the Crown's arguments.

Dooks said he knows Elsom and reiterated his belief that he will also be cleared.

"He's a very committed and hard-working officer and I believe his actions were appropriate for the situation. He was lawfully engaged in his duties with somebody who was resisting arrest," Dooks said.