Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Officer Chancy Jones Charged with Murder


A Memphis police officer has been arrested and charged with Second Degree Murder in the death of his mistress.

According to Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, Officer Chancy Jones was in a sexual relationship with the victim, Phyllis Malone, over a period of weeks. Jones was married and had two children. At some point, Jones’ relationship with Malone became troubled. The two agreed to meet at a gas station in the 1700 block of Whitten Road, where investigators believe the murder happened, said Godwin. Malone’s body was found, slumped over the wheel of a car at the Shell gas station in Northeast Memphis, by a Wonder Bread delivery driver, Tuesday, September 9, 2008, around 5:40 a.m.

Director Godwin says an investigation led detectives to Officer Jones as a suspect in the shooting. Investigators say Jones committed the murder and then went to work as scheduled Tuesday afternoon. Investigators say the evidence quickly pointed to Jones and he was called back to his precinct Tuesday evening and taken to headquarters for questioning.

Officer Jones’ Personnel File at the Memphis Police Department shows that Jones appears to have been a model police officer. There was no disciplinary record for Jones, but there were many commendations and comments of praise within his file.

Officers Trying to Get Away with Using Fake Degrees

Berwyn Police Officer Thomas Skryd insisted he was well-qualified for promotion to sergeant: Just look at his test scores and master's degree in criminal justice, with an emphasis in "crimes of the powerful."

But when the city refused to consider the diploma, awarded by a university that approves advanced degrees overnight, Skryd fired back with a lawsuit.

The case, eventually dismissed, is another example tying the suburb's police department with recently uncovered diploma scandals.

Last month the Tribune reported that the names of five other current or former Berwyn police officers turned up on a federal list of 9,600 suspected buyers of degrees from phony schools as part of a Washington state criminal diploma scheme. Skryd is not on the list.

Through city records, it showed that a now-retired Berwyn Fire Department employee claimed a master of science degree in fire-safety management awarded from a university that state and federal officials don't recognize.

Police Chief William Kushner said his department has launched an investigation into whether the police officers and the Fire Department official used bogus academic credentials illegally to gain undeserved promotions and pay raises. Kushner said he also talked to the public integrity section of the Cook County state's attorney's office about possible charges.

And because the City of Berwyn offers a tuition-reimbursement program, Kushner said part of the investigation will look into whether anyone had wrongfully gotten tuition reimbursement for fake degrees, which can go from $500 a year for an associate's degree to $1,500 a year for a postgraduate diploma.

"It's a black eye on a fine department," Kushner said.

Because Kushner refused to honor Skryd's diploma, Skryd is not part of the investigation, Kushner said.

Documents obtained by the Tribune show that one retired police officer was approved for a $1,900 tuition reimbursement for a doctorate in criminal justice from Glencullen University, an institution whose accreditation isn't recognized by the federal government. Kushner said he has yet to determine whether any payments actually went through.

With the exception of Skryd, the Tribune is not naming the officials who allegedly bought the degrees because they have not been charged with a crime. Skryd's name became public when he filed the lawsuit.

Kushner said he has gone through the academic credentials of all current officers to make sure they are legitimate, and he has found no further problems.

Skryd, who never got his promotion, said he was not aware that the Belford University degree he obtained was questionable. He said that his lawsuit, filed in 2006, covered other issues apart from his degree, and that he was embarrassed to learn the nature of Belford University.

"It was one of those situations where I should've known," he said. "It was too good to be true."

Skryd's wife is Ald. Michele Skryd, who he said was unaware of his degree. "Once I realized what had happened, I was probably too embarrassed even to tell her," he said.

Kushner, who assumed his job early in 2006, talked with Skryd before he filed his suit, noting the problems with the university.

Kushner said he asked Skryd if he knew the degree had no value. "[Skryd] said, 'Well, I guess I do now,' " according to Kushner.

Still, he included the degree in his suit—an act he now blames on "cognitive dissonance."

Berwyn officials emphasize that the alleged abuses took place under a previous police chief and mayor, and that Kushner and the human resources department now must approve degrees that are submitted.

The investigation was recently aired at a City Council meeting after aldermen demanded more information.

Some of them had heard rumors that there was no investigation, "which was furthest from the truth," Mayor Michael O'Connor said. "We would never stand in the way."

The names of the current and former Berwyn officers under fire came to light after federal agents investigated the Washington diploma scheme. That probe eventually led to guilty pleas this year from diploma mill officials.

Some of the diplomas allegedly obtained by the Berwyn officers came from schools such as St. Regis University, part of the Washington scheme that federal officials shut down, and LaSalle University in Mandeville, La., which collapsed after its president was imprisoned for fraud in connection with the selling of degrees in the late 1990s.

Others, such as Glencullen University, have accreditation that isn't recognized by either the state or federal government, or both.

Records obtained by the Tribune show that the retired Berwyn Fire Department employee was awarded a degree in 2005 by Madison University, a Mississippi institution whose accreditation state and federal officials don't recognize. Fire Chief Denis J. O'Halloran said he turned the case over to Kushner.

As for Skryd's school, Belford University, it grants degrees within a few hours based on undocumented "life experience" submitted by applicants. George Gollin, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a diploma-mill buster, tested the system and was quickly approved for a doctorate in public policy. "I gave them as my life experience that I read the newspaper and I watch the evening television news," Gollin said. "And they wrote back to say, 'Sure thing,' and I think they wanted about 500 bucks for the degree."

To apply to Belford, Skryd said he filled out a multiple-choice questionnaire and submitted his résumé online, listing his years of work on the beat, in-service training and other experience. Within a few days, he was approved for the degree, Skryd said.

But he said the degree didn't help his career; he is still waiting for promotion to sergeant.

"I never did benefit from it," Skryd said, "and I certainly would never do something like that again."

Deputy Jeffery Gerres Charged with Assault

A Harford County sheriff's deputy was arrested Sunday morning in Southeast Baltimore after a woman told police she was coaxed into a residence for a bachelor party and pushed down a flight of stairs, according to court records.

But Deputy Jeffery Gerres, a member of the sheriff's office's violent street crimes unit who received a commendation in 2007, filed his own complaint yesterday against Denise Lillian Rothwell, 47, a twice-convicted prostitute, alleging that she hit him in the eye after he rejected her advances.

Police found Rothwell about 3:30 a.m., crying with her face bruised and bloodied. She told police that a group of five men drove up to her, one of whom flashed a police badge, and asked her to join them for a bachelor party in the 3300 block of O'Donnell St., city police wrote in charging documents.

Rothwell said that she was offered $100 to perform a sex act on the bachelor, who was not identified, but alleged that the man with the badge later asked for the money back, saying that the bills were marked. She added that the man pushed her toward the front door and pushed her again down the stairs, causing her to fall face-first.

Crime lab technicians responded to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she was taken for treatment and examination.

An officer went to the O'Donnell Street residence, where Gerres, 29, of Rising Sun, allegedly answered the door and identified himself as a sheriff's deputy. He said he was standing on the front steps of the home when the woman asked him if he was "looking for a party." When he told her no, she struck him in the eye, he said. The officer later observed that Gerres had bruises around his left eye.

Police charged Gerres that morning with second-degree assault and allowing a person into a building for prostitution; yesterday, Gerres filed second-degree assault charges against the woman in District Court.

A spokeswoman for the county sheriff's office said Gerres' police powers have been suspended pending further investigation.

Officer Anthony Scatena Pleads Guilty to Invasion of Privacy

A Fort Wayne police officer who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor this spring was fired Monday after the city's board of public safety determined the officer had an unacceptable pattern of misconduct and a disregard for a court order.

Anthony Scatena, a 13-year veteran of the department, pleaded guilty to an invasion-of-privacy charge, a Class A misdemeanor, in April. The board had little discussion of board chairwoman Sharon Peters' motion before voting to dismiss him. The two newest board members, Bob Elder and Steve Boerger, did not hear evidence related to the case and abstained from voting.

Scatena declined to comment Monday evening. Police Chief Rusty York said he would be formally notified of the board's decision today.

Scatena was initially arrested on two misdemeanor charges of battery and domestic battery after police were called to his home in November. The Allen County prosecutor dropped those two charges a few days after the invasion-of-privacy charge was filed.

According to court records, Scatena called or was called by the same woman he allegedly battered 261 times between January and February - a violation of a no-contact order issued as part of the domestic battery case. The phone calls ranged in length of one minute to 27 minutes.

York asked the board to fire Scatena in May, and a closed-door evidentiary hearing was held in July to consider whether the officer violated any departmental rules and regulations.

During the hearing, the three-member board learned that Scatena initiated 64 phone calls to the woman. Scatena told the board that the woman, who was living in his house, called him to ensure the bills were paid. An outside employer told the board that the woman tried to contact Scatena at the business several times and had seen text messages and phone calls the woman made to his cell phone, the written findings said.

The board found that Scatena violated the no-contact order repeatedly and showed a "complete disregard for an order of the court." The police department's domestic relations policy states a protective order is a court order and that violators may be arrested, the board wrote in its findings.

The board also cited Scatena's disciplinary history in determining that "Scatena's conduct demonstrates an unacceptable pattern of conduct and a clear disregard for the rules of the department."

The board detailed six reprimands and suspensions. All but one disciplinary action involved complaints that Scatena was rude, made inappropriate comments or used profanity. He also was suspended for leaving his district and a filing a false report.

York told the board that "Scatena's sustained allegations show a disregard for rules and a pattern of rudeness and confrontation," according to the written findings.

York told the board that a Class A misdemeanor conviction under the department's rules and regulations is cause for dismissal or a suspension to be determined by the board. He also said that Scatena's credibility was "impaired," the findings said.

York said after the meeting that he was concerned that by pleading guilty to disregarding a judge's order, that would hamper Scatena's ability to work with the prosecutor's office and even other divisions within the police department. For example, victims' assistance was involved in Scatena's case, York said.

The board last voted to terminate a city employee in 2002, when it fired firefighter Kenneth Burson. His dismissal was later overturned in court, and he resigned from the department. The board also fired police officers Nathan Alexander in 1999 and James Chin in 2001 - both resulted in lawsuits.

Former deputy accused of forcing child to perform sex acts at gunpoint


A former Lee County sheriff's deputy who police say forced a 9-year-old child to perform sex acts on him at gunpoint has been arrested.

Fifty-six-year-old Wayne Atkinson of Mayesville was being held Wednesday at a Sumter County detention center.

He is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

It's not clear if Atkinson had an attorney.

A number for Atkinson was not published and a woman at the jail said she didn't know if he had a lawyer.

Also, 51-year-old Shirley Jackson is charged with unlawful
conduct toward a child.

Investigators think the child was Jackson's foster child.

Officer Garry Ferguson Pleads No Contest

A Maricopa Police officer accused of having sex with minors entered a plea of no contest in court Monday afternoon.

Last week, 30-year-old Garry Ferguson rejected a plea deal, that would have put him behind bars for nine years.

Monday the prosecutor said she will ask for only eight years.

Ferguson is accused of sexually abusing three teenagers in Kings County. He is also being investigated in Kern County for sexual misconduct with a minor.

Officer Slawomir Plewa Arrested for Trying to Frame Woman


A Chicago police officer and another man have been charged with taking part in a scheme to arrest the man's estranged wife after planting drugs and a gun in her car.

Slawomir Plewa, 30, faces charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, official misconduct, unlawful restraint and other charges. He was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail by Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. during a hearing Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Bogdan Mazur, 48, of Crystal Lake was arrested on false reporting, obstruction of justice as well as drug and gun conspiracy charges. He was also ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail Tuesday.

Mazur was angry with his estranged wife over money and "some of her parenting decisions" and hatched a plan with Plewa, whom he met through a mutual friend, to frame her, according to court documents filed by the Cook County state's attorney's office.

The documents say Mazur admitted to taking part in the scheme with Plewa and an uncharged coconspirator and that he and the uncharged coconspirator agreed to split a corporation owned by Mazur and his wife "after the victim was arrested and presumably convicted and sent to jail."
On April 1 of last year Mazur was with the couple's two young children in a Chicago garage when he called his wife, told her his vehicle wouldn't start, and asked her to pick up their children, officials said. Mazur and the coconspirator had already placed drugs and the gun into the spare tire compartment of the woman's car.

When she arrived at the garage, Plewa and other officers were waiting.

"Plewa provided false information indicating that an anonymous individual walked into the police station and provided information that led to the stop and arrest of the victim," according to prosecutors in the document, a motion to set bail.

When the woman arrived, Plewa asked if he could search the vehicle — a search that revealed the hidden items, prosecutors alleged.

The woman was arrested on drugs and weapons charges. She was acquitted of the charges during a trial in which Plewa allegedly provided false testimony, prosecutors said.

Plewa's attorney, Dan Herbert, said after Tuesday's hearing that his client was innocent and followed standard police procedure.

"He gathered information and made an arrest based on that information," Herbert said.

"His relationship with Mazur was a typical relationship between a police officer and if, in fact, there was a set up, Officer Plewa had no way of knowing of this," he said.

The case marks the latest embarrassment for Chicago's police department, which has tried to restore public confidence after a string of allegations of police brutality and misconduct.,0,5995079.story

Officer John Lee May Arrested for Stealing Puppy

A Putnam County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer and school resource officer who was fired from his job last week was arrested Monday after an 11-year-old boy reportedly saw him steal a dog from a pet shop.

John Lee May, 39, of San Mateo was arrested on a charge of grand theft in connection with the theft of a tea-cup Chihuahua.

According to Sheriff’s Maj. Keith Riddick, May went into the Acme Pet shop on U.S. 17 in San Mateo on Saturday wearing a heavy jacket. The pet shop owner later told deputies that a customer noticed a man acting suspiciously and the customer’s 11-year-old son saw the man put the tiny dog into a jacket pocket.

May was arrested on a warrant Monday and shortly afterward posted the $1,004 bond in the case, Riddick said.

May had worked for the Sheriff’s Office three times over the past eight years and the dog theft case was apparently unrelated to his release from the agency, Riddick said.

The agency terminated May a week ago after completing what Riddick said was “an internal investigation into a complaint of possible domestic violence involving his ex-girlfriend.”

May had been a K-9 officer in the School Resource Unit and was working as a middle school resource deputy when he was let go.