Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deputy Alan Brooks Arrested for Domestic Battery


Mount Dora Police officers have arrested an Orange County deputy for domestic battery. Alan Brooks, 24, a two-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff's Office and son-in-law of Sheriff Kevin Beary, was arrested on Saturday morning after a 911 call was placed by Beary's daughter.

Following his arrest, Brooks was transported to the Lake County Jail and placed under a no bond status. Brooks has been relieved of duty and reassigned as a result of his arrest.

"As a father, I am obviously thankful that my daughter and son-in-law are well, and I pray that whatever led up to this incident is something that can be worked out," said Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary.

"Domestic violence and the tremendous impact it has on its victims, families and the loved ones close to those involved has always been a matter of great personal concern to me. When something like this hits so close to home, it takes the life right out of you," Beary added.

The incident leading to his arrest will be reviewed by the Orange County Sheriff's Office Professional Standards Division upon completion of a criminal investigation by the Mount Dora Police.

Getting Away with Murder

A vigil was held Saturday night to remember a man shot by his neighbor and the off-duty SEPTA officer accused of killing him won’t face murder charges.

The victim's family is upset and experts say the decision may have been premature.

The argument between next-door neighbors in a Perkiomen Township community of half-million-dollar homes occurred Wednesday night.

The SEPTA sergeant, a 22-year force veteran, told investigators the other man threatened his life before the shooting at Miller and Ott Roads around 7:30p.m.

“I think he should serve time. I think it should be a first-degree murder rap for him,” said Rev. Lewis Nash, the victim's cousin.

Relatives are fuming over a decision not to charge the man who shot and killed their loved one, 38-year-old Joseph McNair.

“We want some real answers, and we will be up there by the thousands if we don't get them,” said Rev. Nash.

McNair's friends and family came out by the hundreds and held a vigil where they remembered their loss.

It's been three days since McNair got into a heated altercation with his neighbor, Darryl Simmons.

Simmons, an off-duty SEPTA police officer, told authorities he shot McNair in self-defense.

Neighbors came to Simmons' defense saying McNair, an ex-con, was a terror on the neighborhood.

And now, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office made its decision not to charge Simmons with murder, even though autopsy results are still out and State Police are still investigating.

But one legal expert questions whether that decision is premature.

“You would expect that they would have the information in front of you, evaluate it. It seems really impossible to make a really good judgment on whether it's first-degree murder or any other degree or whether it was self-defense without that information,” said Temple University Law Professor David Kirys.

Simmons' lawyer, Charles Mandracchia, told Fox 29 News he's content with the D.A.'s decision, and claims his client is innocent.

But that's not good enough for McNair's family, especially for his five children who say they're now forced to live life without their father.

“I just want justice for the situation. I mean, the guy was wrong for killing my father. We’re not getting justice. They just let him go,” said Diera Regan, the victim's daughter.

The District Attorney's Office can change its decision, because there is still evidence out there that can overturn all of this.

Boston Officers Mad About Marijuana Rally

Marijuana legalization advocates openly smoked pot at the annual Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common yesterday, spurring arrests by Boston police.

“It’s one thing to protest the illegality of marijuana, that itself isn’t illegal,” said James Kenneally, BPD spokesman. “People have the right to free expression, but it’s another thing to smoke marijuana, which is an illegal narcotic, during the protest.”

The annual Boston Freedom Rally - described by organizers as “the largest marijuana reform gathering on the East Coast” - drew hundreds of stoners, activists and vendors to the park. They spent the bright, sunny afternoon touting their support for Question 2, which will appear on the ballot in November and would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana with a fine of no more than $100.

“It’s a thing where we can unite for a cause to legalize weed, man,” said Howlin’ Jack Boone, 27, of Waltham, lead singer of the rally’s headline band, Graveyard BBQ. “This year we’re hoping for decriminalization, next year it’ll be a celebration.”

The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition co-sponsored the event, along with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“We’re close to winning the first major battle with Question 2, and MassCann won’t stop until it’s legal, regulated and taxed,” said Steven Epstein, co-founder of the coalition.

Yesterday’s rally was “a combination of education and activism,” said Allen St. Pierre, NORML executive director.

Or, as guitarist “Brown Bag” Johnson of Graveyard BBQ put it, “We’re fighting against the man, burning the rope and having a good time.”

The arrests ruined the mellow mood for some participants.

“It’s a real fear. When they arrest you, it’s quick and swift,” said pot enthusiast Rachel Elorrisa, 29, of New Hampshire who admitted to “lighting up” before the rally. “Police are out here in street clothes, and when they arrest, you have to sit in that holding area all day.”

Officer Sues After Breaking the Code of Silence

An Oakland police officer is suing the city, alleging that he was wrongfully placed on leave, retaliated against and ostracized for blowing the whistle in a police-brutality case that led to a popular officer being terminated by the department.

Officer Chris Yanke, a 16-year veteran, said in the suit that he broke the police "code of silence" several years ago when he "truthfully reported criminal misconduct and police brutality by a fellow OPD officer who was well-liked, which resulted in that officer's termination." The officer in question was not identified.

After Yanke came forward with the allegations, he was removed from the department's technology unit and placed on unpaid leave in 2006 on the grounds of insubordination, said the civil rights suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The city had rejected a claim previously filed by Yanke but has not responded to the suit in court. Attorneys representing the city did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Yanke was briefly stripped of his badge and gun, the suit said. Although he currently retains his status as a peace officer, Yanke was placed on unpaid leave last year without due process, the suit said. The city "completely cut off his vested and protected property interest in his salary and benefits," the suit said.

The suit names as defendants the city, Police Chief Wayne Tucker, Lt. Ken Parris, formerly of the personnel division, and Debra Taylor Johnson, director of administration for the Oakland police.

Also named is Dr. Stephen Raffle of Kentfield, whom Yanke accuses of wrongfully deeming him unfit for duty. The city-hired Raffle performed a psychiatric evaluation of the officer but said Yanke failed to cooperate when he didn't complete a 600-question true/false test, the suit said.

Yanke said that his failure to complete the test was inadvertent and that his repeated offers to finish it went ignored. Raffle did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Yanke, the son of a retired Oakland police officer, is a licensed pilot who has previously patrolled the skies of Oakland in the police helicopter, called Argus.

He has been the subject of scrutiny before.

In 1996, a California Highway Patrol officer accused Yanke and another officer of wrongfully arresting him during a car stop. A federal judge cleared Yanke of any wrongdoing, saying the CHP officer had been intoxicated.

Yanke's suit comes as Oakland city and police officials plan to appear Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who is overseeing department reforms in the wake of the Riders scandal. That scandal involved a group of officers that was accused of planting evidence and beating suspects in West Oakland.

Two criminal trials of three former officers ended in mistrials. The case led to a $10.5 million civil settlement with citizens who said they were abused by the Riders, and a court order mandating the reforms Henderson is now overseeing.

In a court filing last week, plaintiffs' attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin said the department's internal affairs division is failing to complete investigations under the reform effort in a timely manner. The attorneys also voiced concern with a "significant number" of training officers who had been sued for civil-rights violations.

Gregory Fox, a San Francisco attorney representing the city, wrote in court papers that the department "continues to make significant progress" under the terms of the Riders settlement.


Yeah, good job...get rid of the officer that's doing the right thing. I hope this officer sues the shit out of them and wins every fucking dime he can get. Kudos to you Officer Chris Yanke

Playing Favorites

Sgt. Will Manion and officer Patrick D'Arrigo are veteran but very different San Jose cops: Manion, a former homicide investigator, was once a rising star, an easy shot to be captain. D'Arrigo is a cop's cop, content to stay an officer but no one's fool.

Today they're joined in an unusual purgatory: They're both on administrative leave as District Attorney Dolores Carr reviews whether they should be charged with trying to cover up the drunken driving of an ex-cop last March.

You can understand why the DA might want to look at the case: The errant former cop, Sandra Woodall, had crashed into two cars. She had sworn at officers. And a paramedic and an EMT said she reeked of alcohol. Despite all that, she was not asked to take a Breathalyzer or blood test. She wasn't asked whether she had been drinking.

Manion and D'Arrigo, who were among four officers at the scene, did not handle the affair well. They should face an administrative penalty, probably a suspension, if for no other reason than the episode has brought shame on the department. But they're guilty of no crime. This should be easy for the DA: Let the criminal case drop and turn the matter back to Police Chief Rob Davis.

I say that for two reasons. The first is practical. The DA has no chance of getting a conviction on this case. The second reason is one of equity. A criminal charge would simply be overkill in the Department of Second Guessing.

Since this story broke, I've made fun of the "egg roll'' theory of the accident, a police version that suggested that the crash was caused because Woodall was distracted by dipping her Jack-in-the-Box egg rolls into ranch dressing as she barreled along in her Cadillac Escalade.

It's one thing, however, to question how the cops handled an accident that involved one of their own. It's another entirely to say they're guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of obstructing justice.

"With lavish doses of hindsight, would everyone have covered themselves better if they had said, 'We better get a tech out here and put a needle in her arm when the opportunity allows?'"‰'' asked Craig Brown, the two cops' attorney. "Yes, sure. But evil and sinister motives? Trying to obstruct justice? I don't think so.''

During the past three years, I've covered two big cases in which cops were accused of misconduct. One involved two Palo Alto cops charged with roughing up a black man; the second involved a state drug officer who fatally shot a fleeing man in the back. The first ended with an infraction, the second with an acquittal.

It's no accident that both those cases were defended by Brown, who knows his turf well. Juries find it hard to convict cops, even when the evidence is against them.

In this case, the evidence is mixed. Brown says the other officers at the scene have told investigators that they saw no evidence of alcohol. The paramedic and EMT disagree. Now you can conclude that this is simply a case of officers closing ranks for one another. But there's another reason why this shouldn't be criminal. It's too unfair a penalty.

Every cop makes dozens of decisions during the day — to arrest this person, to let another go. The prospect of rewarding bad judgment with a jail term would make the job almost impossible.

Yes, Manion and D'Arrigo made mistakes at the scene. And maybe they gave subtle preference to one of their own (Woodall is now an investigator with the DA's office).

But the two cops, and particularly Manion, have paid a price for those mistakes in their careers. The path to captain looks pretty distant now.

Both still have much to offer the city. Call off the dogs, give them a suspension, and get them back to work