Friday, November 28, 2008

Charges Against Officer William Bergin Stack Up

When former Sandy Police Officer William Bergin, 27, enters court for the first time on Dec. 11, he’ll face serious allegations from the district attorney.

Following an investigation led by the Gresham Police Department, Bergin has been indicted by a Clackamas County grand jury with felony identity theft, first-degree official misconduct and use of an invalid driver’s license, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Greg Horner.

On Dec. 11, Bergin will either plead guilty and face sentencing for a felony charge, or plead not guilty and face the exposure of a trial in open court.

If he chooses a trial, he likely will have to answer questions about what is being described as an inappropriate relationship with two teenage girls.

He is accused of giving one of the girls confiscated driver’s licenses (identity theft) that were used to enter places where alcohol was served.

The accusations are detailed in an affidavit submitted to a Clackamas County judge to request a search warrant for Bergin’s home in Sandy. The affidavit was obtained by the Sandy Post, as authorized by the Oregon open records law.

The girls are not being identified in this news story, even though they are now 18 and 20 years old, because they were teenagers at the time of most of their relationship with Bergin.

As the detectives sort out their suspicions and what they can prove is truthful and what’s not, they are dealing with statements that link Bergin with an alleged pregnancy and subsequent abortion for one of the girls. That allegation was made public first during a separate investigation of former Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Claggett. The same two girls were involved with Claggett, according to sheriff’s detectives, who questioned them and wrote the report that was made available to the Post.

In July, Sandy Police Chief Harold Skelton consulted with City Manager Scott Lazenby and then asked Gresham police to conduct the investigation of Bergin. Skelton said that happened immediately after Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts told him that sheriff’s deputies had heard their witnesses give testimony against Bergin.

“I asked Gresham to help with this investigation,” Skelton said, “because I wanted it to be totally transparent and unbiased.”

During the internal investigation, Gresham Police Officer Donald Gibson was joined by a lieutenant, sergeant and administrative supervisor from the Gresham Police Department as well as a sergeant from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department.

That investigative quintet also relied on information supplied from the internal investigation of Claggett, who resigned after the investigation of his “official misconduct” was nearly complete.

That investigation included interviews with both girls involved in the Bergin case. They also were teen-agers at the time of Claggett’s alleged inappropriate sexual relationship with teen-age girls.

Sorting truth from half-truth became the issue during officer Gibson’s probe into Bergin’s activities.

For example, during the Gresham police investigation, the youngest girl told officer Gibson that she did not have a sexual relationship with Bergin and did not have an abortion. But a Sandy police sergeant told Gibson that it was the older girl who had told Claggett that the younger girl had the pregnancy and abortion.

The girls say Claggett made that statement to the police sergeant because he didn’t like either the girls or Bergin.

In another interview, the oldest girl allegedly told a Gresham investigator that the younger girl had “covered (Bergin’s) ass” while being questioned. She also is reported to have told the older girl to cover for him, if she is questioned.

Adding to the suspicion that something sexual was happening between the girls and the officer are statements from Bergin’s neighbors, who say the girls were frequent guests at Bergin’s home – alone with him when Bergin’s roommate was not at home.

In fact, one of the neighbors told officer Gibson he used to send text messages to Bergin’s roommate telling him whether or not it was OK to come home – depending on whether he thought something inappropriate was occurring at the residence.

In addition, during a Sept. 10 search of Bergin’s home in Sandy, photos were seized that depict the same two girls clad in bikinis sitting astride a motorcycle at night. The series of flash photos show poses in which the girl hugging the other from the back of the seat reaches around and grips the other’s bikini-clad breast, and another photo in which the girl in the front twists around to enable the two to kiss. There was no information in the affidavit that indicated who took the photos.

Skelton says he has to trust his officers to act appropriately, according to their code of ethics. But if someone is accused of something inappropriate or illegal, he says he wants to respond.

“I can’t follow my officers around 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “But if I find out that somebody has done something wrong, then I am going to take action.”

Adding to the case of official misconduct against Bergin, there also is damaging evidence of felony identity theft while assisting an underage person to enter places where alcoholic beverages are sold.

The identity theft charge stems from evidence, and the statements of two witnesses, alleging that Bergin illegally kept possession of suspended driver’s licenses, probably at least two dozen, and gave two licenses to a minor.

The oldest girl, who is still not yet 21, told investigators Bergin had perhaps 25 licenses in one of the drawers in a coffee table in his home. That was confirmed by two of Bergin’s neighbors, who saw the licenses.

The oldest girl’s step-sister, who lives in Bend, told investigators she knew about two licenses that her sister said she had received from Bergin.

One of those IDs, the girl told officer Gibson, was seized by a female bartender at a martini bar in Bend.

The same girl also told investigators in the Claggett case she had received two licenses from Bergin last spring, without asking for them, when she wanted to go to a concert in Portland that was restricted to people 21 and older.

“He’s like, well I have some IDs …,” she told the sheriff’s detective. “In his drawer in the coffee table, like I said, there’s stacks of IDs. And he’s like, well let’s match one to you … And he was like – OK. And he gave me two IDs. And he’s like, either one will work.”

The same girl also is alleged to have contacted one of the people whose license had been confiscated and told her that Bergin has a thing for young girls.

When officer Gibson questioned the woman whose license had been seized, she told him the officer took the license and told her that there would be no citation for driving while suspended and there would be no towing of her car for not having liability insurance. She said she was told that the officer would be driving away in one direction and she should drive away in the other direction.

That “thing for young girls” was confirmed in allegations from Bergin’s former roommates and neighbors, who told Gresham investigators they saw Bergin with the girls numerous times, including times when Bergin and the youngest girl would go to his room together and one time when Bergin was seen sitting on a couch next to one of the girls when both were covered by the same blanket.

But that witness also said he didn’t think there was anything intimate going on between the two.

In fact, Bergin told one of his former roommates that he has known the girls since they were children, and would never be sexually involved with them.

Bergin also may have to answer to allegations that he took the girls on ride-a-longs several times a week, which is against the department’s policy.

On Dec. 11, Judge Steven L. Mauer will hear Bergin’s plea inside a Clackamas County Circuit Court.

Sheriff Ricky Headly Pleads Guilty to 4 Counts of Possession

The one hundred and sixty thousand residents of Williamson County breathed a giant sigh of relief on September 1 of this year when Jeff Long was sworn in as the new Sheriff of Williamson County. Long's assumption of the office ended a two year long odyssey of scandal, disgrace, and tragedy that can only be described as a Shakespearean Film Noir set to Country Music.

In January of 2007,then Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley, the self proclaimed "Singing Sheriff", was arrested by the Nashville police on a series of prescription drug felony charges. Turns out the good sheriff, when not arresting criminals in Williamson County, was allegedly committing a few crimes of his own. The most that can be said of Headley is that he had at least enough sense to commit these crimes in adjacent Davidson County.

Regrettably, Headley did not have enough common sense, shame, or grace to resign his office immediately. Instead, he abused his position of authority for over a year, in hopes of escaping the kind of justice that average citizens receive when they commit such crimes.

With felony charges hanging over his head, Sheriff Headley continued to run the Sheriff's office in Williamson County, making most residents of Williamson County squirm every time they saw a Sheriff's car go by. "What kind of place is this," we wondered, "if an alleged felony crook is directing the activities of law enforcement officers who have the authority to arrest law abiding citizens?"

On October 12, 2007, Sheriff Headley was indicted on numerous felony counts by a Davidson County grand jury. According to a press release issued by the Metropolitan Davidson County Police Department on that day, Headley was indicted on

"17 counts of Unlawful Distribution of a Controlled Substance, Class D felonies, 12 counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance, Class A misdemeanors, 3 counts of Unlawful Distribution of Legend Drugs, Class C misdemeanors, and 1 count of Possession of a Legend Drug without a Prescription, a Class C misdemeanor. The charges stem from a two-year investigation into Brooks Pharmacy, 4701 Trousdale Drive, which resulted in Headley being arrested for illegally obtaining nearly 2,000 doses of the prescription drugs Hydrocodone, Soma, and Cataflam between October 2006 and January of 2007. Headley was arrested January 31, 2007. The matter was sent for grand jury consideration after a preliminary hearing in April. Headley's $7,000 bond is unchanged from his January arrest. It is expected that Criminal Court Judge Steve Dozier will arraign Headley in the coming weeks on the Davidson County indictment. A Williamson County grand jury indicted Headley earlier this week on four counts of Official Misconduct."

Angling for special treatment, Headley stubbornly held onto his job as Sheriff, causing further embarassment to the residents of the county.

It wasn't until February 14, 2008 that Headley resigned, having cut a sweet plea deal that let him off the hook, serving no jail time in return for his decision to resign.

As the Nashville City Paper described the resignation the next day :

" Embattled Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley resigned his post yesterday after he accepted a plea deal that will keep him out of jail on drug charges.The Williamson County District Attorney's office, in conjunction with Davidson County's DA, agreed to offer the sheriff a suspended five-year sentence -- three years supervised probation, two years unsupervised -- with the agreement that he would enter a drug and alcohol treatment program and not run for any public office.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Metro Police arrested Headley over a year ago following a two-year drug sting operation. He was faced with felony charges of prescription drug fraud, which were dropped by the Davidson County DA's office as part of yesterday's plea deal.Headley, 44, would not comment following the hearing in a Williamson County Court, rather he referred questions to his attorney David Raybin.

"Everybody agreed that this was the thing to do and it also seemed reasonable to bring closure to this terrible personal tragedy for this man and his family," Raybin said. Raybin painted the sheriff as a man afflicted with addiction to painkillers following a back injury that led to his subsequent arrest Jan. 31, 2007, on charges he bought the drugs without a prescription in Nashville.

"The medication was originally prescribed by physicians," Raybin said. "He became addicted to the pain medication like many other people do in our state."

Attorneys in Davidson and Williamson counties said getting Headley out of office was their top priority in contemplating this plea deal. "The objective of [the DA] was to see to it that this runaway train comes to a screeching halt," said Derek Smith, Williamson County Deputy District Attorney. "We had to remove the sheriff from office. People in the county, I think, are embarrassed by the situation, and we had to respond to that."

Attorneys confirmed that Headley was not, in fact, selling the medication he had obtained from the pharmacy. Subsequently, the sheriff pleaded guilty yesterday to four counts of simple possession in Davidson County and one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct in Williamson County."

By law and tradition, local county races in Tennessee are "non-partisan", but it took the concerted efforts of the local Republican Party and local Republican leaders to find and back a qualified candidate to replace the disgraced incumbent.

That candidate was Jeff Long, an attorney and former agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A special election was set for August of 2008, and half a dozen other candidates jumped in.

Towards the end of the campaign, disgraced Sheriff Headley, who apparently doesn't have enough sense to realize he's worn out his welcome in Middle Tennessee, released a Gospel album, which he claimed was designed to help others who found themselves addicted to painkillers. Surprisingly, sales of the album were flat.

Jeff Long won the August 2008 election with about 60% of the vote, a veritable landslide given the number of other candidates, and he was sworn in as sheriff on September 1, 2008.

The Shakespearean element of the story continued, however. Although Long has done an excellent job righting the Williamson County Sheriff's offices since then, the same cannot be said for former Sheriff Headley. In September of this year, Headley's son, an employee of the Sheriff's Department assigned as a resource officer at a local middle school, committed suicide, apparently a consequence of a domestic dispute with his girlfriend.

There's a country song to be written about this tragic tale of woe. I don't really know if anyone would be interested in hearing it, though. Some things are best left forgotten, memories to be buried deep in one's soul.

Deputy Who Killed Man is Now Accused of DUI

A Twin Cities Sheriff's deputy who killed a man with his squad car is accused of breaking the law again.

On Aug. 30, 2007, Dakota County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Williams pulled his squad out in front of motorcyclist Bill Wallace, hitting and killing him on Highway 3 in Empire Township.

On Saturday, he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and having an open bottle of beer in his car .

A fellow deputy clocked him doing 68 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone shortly before 2 a.m. on County Road 46 in Empire Township, just minutes away from where he hit Wallace's motorcycle 15 months earlier. Authorities said Williams failed both a field sobriety and breath test, was arrested at the scene, and his car was impounded.

Williams was booked in the Dakota County Jail and placed in general population until his release several hours later. Williams has worked for Dakota county since Aug. 2000. After his careless driving conviction May 13, 2008, he was prohibited from driving county vehicles and re-assigned to court security as a bailiff.

Wallace's family wants to know why he was allowed to drive at all.

"He could have taken another life," step-brother Joe Geror said.

Williams was suppose to have his license suspended for one year, but state records show it was reinstated Oct. 7, 2008--five months after his conviction.

The Wallace family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dakota County. The attorney for Williams declined to comment, since no charges have been filed.

Dakota County Chief Deputy Dave Bellows said Williams is on paid leave and told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the incident "makes us angry."

If convicted, this would be William's second DWI in under 10 years. He already has a DWI conviction in North Carolina from December 1998.

Former Officer Bridges McRae Pleads Not Guilty

A former Memphis police officer pleaded not guilty Nov. 19 to civil rights charges in the jailhouse beating of a transgender prostitution suspect that was captured on video.

An indictment unsealed Nov. 19 accuses Bridges McRae, 28, of using unreasonable force by repeatedly striking Duanna Johnson with his fist and handcuffs in the intake area of the Shelby County Jail in February. Johnson, a biological male who lived as a woman, was being booked on a prostitution charge when the incident happened. A video of the beating was broadcast on Memphis television stations, leading to McRae’s firing.

McRae pleaded not guilty at a brief hearing on Wednesday before a federal magistrate and was released without bond. No trial date was set. He is charged with violating Johnson’s civil rights while in a position of authority, an offense that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Johnson was found murdered earlier this month.