Monday, October 27, 2008

Officer Ramon Martinez Pleads Guilty to Selling Illegal Guns


A former South Texas police officer has pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally selling guns that wound up in Mexico.

Ramon Martinez, who at the time was a Palm Valley police officer, would buys guys from dealers and private citizens, often over the Internet, then sell them for a profit.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, guns found in Mexico and traced back to Martinez triggered the investigation.

Martinez, 37, faces five years in prison and as much $250,000 in fines for dealing in firearms without a license. U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle set sentencing for Jan. 28.

Former Deputy Nicholas Gonzales Charged with Child Abuse


A former Newton County Sheriff’s Department deputy has been charged with child abuse.

Nicholas J. Gonzales, 26, of Neosho, was charged Thursday with one count of class C felony child abuse after an investigation by the Neosho Police Department. Gonzales is accused of striking a 22-month-old infant on Oct. 17.

Neosho Police Chief David McCracken said Saturday that the investigation began after officers were called to Freeman Neosho Hospital’s emergency room, where the infant had been initially brought before being transported to St. John’s Regional Health Center in Springfield. Physicians found the infant had sustained injuries that triggered suspicions of abuse.

McCracken said the infant had suffered injuries, although they were not life-threatening. The infant was still in the care of St. John’s on Saturday as far as he knew, he said.

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said Saturday night that Gonzales had been employed by the department for a total of about two years — first as a corrections officer at the jail for one year, then as a deputy for another year. Copeland said Gonzales’ last day was Wednesday. He said he could not disclose the reasons for Gonzales’ departure, citing personnel laws.

Efforts to reach Gonzales for comment Saturday night were unsuccessful.

McCracken said Neosho police forwarded the results of their investigation to the Newton County prosecutor last week. Charges were filed and a warrant issued for Gonzales’ arrest Thursday, according to online court records.

Copeland said that Gonzales turned himself in to county authorities and was arrested. He was free after posting a $10,000 bond.

A hearing date for Gonzales had not yet been set, according to court records. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to seven years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Officer Michael Hennessy Files Lawsuit Against City

A Fort Lauderdale police officer who alleges the department has a quota system rewarding officers for making arrests filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the city late Monday.

Michael Hennessy, 52, is seeking back pay and the reinstatement of benefits he lost as a result of not reaching his ''performance standards,'' including no take-home car, overtime or off-duty details.

The lawsuit filed in Broward Circuit Court claims that two shift captains created a scheme to inflate arrest statistics -- often by arresting the homeless on misdemeanors -- and rewarded high-producing officers with off-the-books, paid days off.

The accusations were reported Monday by The Miami Herald.

William Amlong, an attorney representing Hennessy, said the quota system is dangerous.

''It's really making the community less safe because it is taking police officers away from their jobs on patrol,'' he said. ``This is both invading the rights of the homeless, who should not be victimized, and wasting taxpayer money.''

Fort Lauderdale police launched an investigation in July to look into Hennessy's claims after he filed a complaint to administrators.

The city is conducting a separate investigation.

Neither a department nor city spokesman would comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Hennessy, a patrol officer for nearly 23 years, claims that he was reprimanded in August for failing to meet his quotas -- one ticket per day and one arrest per month. He said a supervisor banned him from taking home his squad car and working overtime and off-duty details -- and threatened to fire him ''for having low statistics,'' the suit said.

Hennessy contends that over the past year, supervisors in the north district -- which includes parts of the beach, businesses along Federal Highway and the executive airport -- have implemented schemes to boost arrest and ticket numbers.

Among them: A ''scavenger hunt'' to see which officer could make the most arrests in and around Holiday Park, an area frequented by the homeless. The winning officer was rewarded with a $50 gift certificate to the movies, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also claims that a point system was created to entice officers to increase productivity.

An officer earned 10 points for an arrest, five for issuing a notice to appear, three for filling out a field interrogation card and one for writing a ticket. Earn 70 points in one week and get a day off, unapproved by the city.

Hennessy said officers who took the time off were marked on schedules as being on-duty, but unavailable for service. Other officers were called in to replace them, potentially costing the city more than $460 in overtime pay per person, the lawsuit states.

Hennessy hopes the legal action brings about change.

''It's fraud. It's theft,'' Hennessy said. ``It needs to stop.''

NYPD Officers Sodomize Detainee with a Walkie-Talkie


Prosecutors in New York on Monday ordered a grand jury investigation into allegations that police sodomized a detainee with a walkie-talkie.

District Attorney Charles Hynes announced that "on the basis of preliminary conclusions of the early stages of my investigation ... I have ordered a special investigative grand jury to be empaneled."

Although police deny the claim, the allegation has whipped up controversy, with comparisons being drawn to a particularly brutal police rape incident 11 years ago.

The alleged victim, a body piercing salon employee named Michael Mineo, says he was held down in a city subway station and sodomized with an object he believes was a radio antenna, or possibly a truncheon.

Lawyers for Mineo, 24, say the incident took place October 15.

Mineo spent four days in hospital afterwards and last week returned to seek more treatment, the Daily News reported. However, his medical records have not been published.

Grand juries are used to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to indictment of a suspect. In many cases, prosecutors only go to a grand jury when they are reasonably sure of being able to proceed to a trial.

Police deny Mineo's accusations and say he was arrested in full view of the public after being caught smoking marijuana.

Investigators have seized the equipment of one officer for tests, but none of the officers allegedly involved has been suspended.

Despite those denials and the fact that there is no published physical evidence to support Mineo's claims, the issue is already explosive.

Activists against police brutality say the alleged incident recalls an officer's sodomizing of a 30-year-old Haitian immigrant with a broom handle in 1997.

The victim, Abner Louima, on Monday told the Daily News that "it does surprise me that this is happening 11 years after. We knew this was not something that's going to go away in one day."

Veteran black community leader Reverend Al Sharpton visited Mineo in hospital over the weekend and was quoted afterwards as saying that he found the story "compelling."

However, The New York Times reported important differences between the 1997 case and the recent incident.

Louima's rape took place in a police station, in contrast to the far more public setting of a subway station. Also, the earlier case had strong racial overtones, since the officers were white and the victim black.

In this incident, the officers under suspicion were of various races and Louima is white.

The prosecutor's decision to convene a grand jury also follows a bloody weekend on New York's streets.

Undercover police on Sunday shot dead two brothers following a shooting outside a nightlcub in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a New York mother reportedly confessed Sunday to beating to death her 11-year-old daughter, the New York Post reported.

Officer C12 Accused of Grossly Exaggerating

A police marksman was accused of "grossly exaggerating" his evidence to justify his decision to shoot dead Jean Charles de Menezes.

The highly-trained firearms officer insisted he shouted "armed police" before opening fire on the Brazilian in a London Underground train.

But other police officers and all the public in the carriage made no reference in their statements to him saying this prior to the shooting, the inquest into Mr de Menezes's death heard.

The 27-year-old was shot seven times in the head at point-blank range inside Stockwell Tube station on July 22 2005 after being mistaken for one of the men who attacked London a day earlier.

The police marksman, identified by the code name C12, has told the inquest he killed Mr de Menezes fearing he was a suicide bomber about to detonate his device.

Michael Mansfield QC, for the Menezes family, alleged C12 "embellished" his account to explain why he was so certain the innocent Brazilian posed a deadly threat.

The barrister put it to C12: "I am going to make it plain that what you did when it came to making a statement the following day was to grossly exaggerate what you saw in order to, as it were, convince people that he had been a terrorist about to explode a bomb, in your mind. Is there any possibility you did that?"

The officer replied: "Absolutely none whatsoever."

C12 said he only fired on Mr de Menezes after raising his gun and calling out "armed police". But Mr Mansfield alleged the other witnesses' statements proved the officer did not give the Brazilian any verbal warning before shooting him.

C12, a member of Scotland Yard's elite CO19 specialist firearms unit, earlier admitted that a series of misunderstandings and mistakes led to Mr de Menezes's death.

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