Wednesday, January 07, 2009

More Information on Sgt. Faron White Accused of Faking his Abduction


A north Alabama police officer accused of faking his abduction and flying to Las Vegas took about $70,000 from a safe containing confiscated drug money, according to an affidavit.

Authorities initially said Sgt. Faron White, a 20-year veteran of the Decatur Police Department, took about $2,500 from the safe of the narcotics unit he directed, although they said thousands more could be missing.

The affidavit with the new amount was filed Tuesday by Morgan County authorities in support of an arrest warrant for Sarah Richardson who is accused of helping White stage his disappearance.

The sworn statement by Decatur Sgt. Richard Archer said Richardson was aware that White had stolen about $70,000 and on Saturday morning drove him to the airport in Nashville.

Federal marshals arrested the 48-year-old White in a Hampton Inn hotel lobby Monday night in Las Vegas, three days after he was last seen working late in his office in Decatur. He faces an extradition hearing in Las Vegas Thursday. Police say he planned to try to win money to pay off gambling and other debts.

The affidavit says Richardson, a police volunteer, met up with White at the Decatur Police Training Center at about 11:30 p.m. Friday before driving him to Nashville early Saturday morning. Police have said the two were romantically involved.

The affidavit, which does not specifically say where Archer got the information, was first reported by The News Courier in Athens.

Richardson is accused of helping White scatter papers from his desk to make it look like he may have struggled with someone before being abducted.

Officer Gary Utter Accused of Crashing his Patrol Car While Drunk on Duty

A Springettsbury Township police officer accused of crashing his patrol car while drunk on duty was rejected from a probationary program, but his attorney is seeking to have the rejection overturned.

Gary D.S. Utter, a seven-year officer, was denied into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program -- a program for nonviolent, first-time offenders.

York County District Attorney Stan Rebert rejected Utter on Dec. 4 "based on the circumstances of the case," according to court records. Rebert did not elaborate in the court records and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Utter, 37, of Stewartstown, was charged with driving under the influence by state police after crashing a 2005 Crown Victoria into a wall on the morning of Aug. 23 in the 2000 block of Mount Zion Road, less than a mile from the Springettsbury Township Police Station.

Utter's blood-alcohol level was 0.123 percent, according to a test taken at Memorial Hospital. The level at which a driver in Pennsylvania is considered drunk is 0.08 percent.

Utter's attorney, Harry Ness, filed a motion Dec. 30 appealing Rebert's decision to a York County Common Pleas Court judge.

Ness said Tuesday that Rebert's reason was vague, allowing people to "read between the lines" that Utter was denied because he was an on-duty police officer.

Based on the handling of the 1998 case of Robert Gano -- an off-duty state trooper charged with drunken driving -- Rebert knows he cannot treat Utter differently because he is a police officer, Ness said.

Rebert approved Gano for ARD, a decision later rejected by Judge John Chronister and subsequently overturned by the state Superior Court. The appeals court ruled police officers cannot be held to a higher standard.

"You can't treat someone differently because they are a cop. You can't treat one cop better than you treat another cop. Stan has no problem allowing cops into the program," Ness said.

As a first-time, nonviolent offender, Utter qualifies for ARD, Ness said. Utter has been through a 30-day inpatient treatment program -- more than he would get if convicted of DUI or admitted into ARD, he said.

And Utter was not drinking on duty but still had the aftereffects from the night before, he said.

"The program is for people who make a mistake for the first time," he said.

Utter is currently on a paid leave of absence. If convicted of DUI, Utter could lose his ability to serve as a police officer.

Ness said Utter's drinking was triggered by his July 2007 killing of Ronald T. Whitaker Sr., a prisoner in custody. Utter is named in a wrongful death civil suit filed by Whitaker's family, which is pending in federal court.

While being held for robbing a grocery store, Whitaker tried to hang himself with his shoelaces. Utter revived Whitaker, and Whitaker became violent. During the struggle, Whitaker grabbed Utter's nightstick and was going for Utter's gun when Utter shot him.

"That was brought it (the drinking) to a head for him," Ness said.

Rebert ruled the shooting was justified and cleared Utter in October 2007.


In 1998, off-duty state police Trooper Robert Gano was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after crashing his car into several parked cars in Penn Township. He applied for and was approved to ARD by York County District Attorney Stan Rebert.

He was later accepted into ARD along with 43 other people by York County Judge John Chronister. After reading about Gano the next day in the paper, Chronister removed Gano from ARD, saying law-enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen.

Gano appealed. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that Chronister was wrong and that police officers cannot be held to a higher standard.

Rebert has previously said that the Gano case is the legal standard.

"That's pretty much the ruling case. The Supreme Court said cops could be denied ARD if you are convicted of an infamous crime. But they cannot be held to a higher standard," he has said.

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Former Officer Calvin Hullett Pleads Guilty to Break-in


A former Nashville police officer who also was a Teamsters organizer has pleaded guilty to charges he broke into a children's camp to set up cameras to discredit members of a rival union.

Calvin Hullett, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday during his trial as part of a plea agreement. It was reported that he faces between 10 and 16 months in federal prison.

Hullett was arrested in 2007 after authorities learned that he had installed cameras at the camp for disadvantaged children operated by the Fraternal Order of Police. At the time, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Hullett's employer, and the FOP were competing to represent Nashville police officers at the bargaining table.

The Teamsters took over representation of the police in 2005 but were decertified in 2007 after a petition drive by the FOP.

Investigators have alleged the hidden cameras were placed at the camp to try to discredit the FOP by catching officers engaged in some type of misconduct.

Earlier, former Shelby County deputy Joe Everson pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in connection with the incident.

Oscar Grant's Shot in Back by Police, Sue for 25 Million

Relatives of a man who claim he was shot in the back and killed by a policeman while lying unarmed on the ground are suing the officer's employers for $25m.

The shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, early on New Year's Day at a busy train station in Oakland, California, sparked widespread outrage. The incident was caught on video by at least three witnesses.

Footage shows Bay Area Rapid Transit police officers responding to a call about two groups of men fighting on a train around 2am on January 1. The officers put several of the young men on the ground against a wall on the station platform.

Mr Grant, who was travelling home after celebrating New Year's Eve in San Francisco, can be seen rising to his knees before being pushed back down by police. According to local television news reports, at least one of the home videos shows an officer putting his knee on Mr Grant before a colleague draws his gun and fires. Mr Grant, a butcher at an Oakland supermarket, died later that morning.

John Burris, a lawyer for the man's family, said Mr Grant, the father of a four-year-old girl, was lying on his stomach and posed no threat when he was shot. He said he would ask prosecutors to press criminal charges against the officer, who is on administrative leave.

"The officer leaned (in), was straddling over him and pointed his gun directly into the backside and shot (Grant)," said Mr Burris, one of Rodney King's lawyers in his 1994 civil suit against the Los Angeles Police Department. "This was not a deadly force situation."

In the claim, the officer who carried out the shooting is accused of having "mercilessly fired his weapon, mortally wounding Mr. Grant with a single gunshot wound to the back."

The document also states that Mr Grant "made a valiant effort to de-escalate the situation by appealing to the officer's sense of humanity by telling the officer that he had a four-year-old daughter" and asking the officer not to use a Taser gun on him.

The claim, the precursor to a wrongful death lawsuit, was sent to BART officials on Tuesday and alleges officers illegally detained Mr Grant, used excessive force and violated his civil rights. The authority has 45 days to respond. A spokesman said officials were reviewing the claim.

BART is meanwhile conducting its own investigation and has urged patience while the inquiry is carried out.

Linton Johnson, a BART spokesman, told local station KTVU-TV that authorities were trying to determine whether the officer who shot Mr Grant was actually reaching for his Taser gun and pulled out his handgun by accident.

News of the claim came as California?s attorney general, Jerry Brown, called for a "searching inquiry and investigation" into the shooting.

Interviewed by local television news station ABC7, he described amateur videos of the incident as "disturbing" and said there should not be "any kind of delay or shilly-shallying around" in dealing with the case.

Mr Grant's funeral was due to take place on Wednesday.

Officer Johannes Mehserle Quits Job & Skips Interview


The BART police officer under investigation for the fatal New Year's Day shooting of an unarmed man quit his job Wednesday rather than speak with investigators, an official said.

Former officer Johannes Mehserle, 27, has given no comment to BART investigators since the incident in which cell phone videos appeared to capture Mehserle shooting Oscar Grant III as Grant lay facedown on the ground at the Fruitvale station, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Wednesday.

"We had a meeting scheduled for him to talk, and his attorney and a union rep came in his place and dropped off a letter of resignation instead," Johnson said. "It's interesting, because he was supposed to be talking for the administrative part of our investigation, which is privileged information and couldn't have been used in any criminal investigation anyway."

While BART officials said they've been trying to get Mehserle to talk ever since the shooting, Mehserle's attorney said he hadn't received any requests for an interview from Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff's office as of Wednesday night.

"In general, a prosecutor would contact the attorney of anyone under investigation for a crime," said Christopher Miller, Mehserle's Sacramento-based union attorney. "So that would have come to me."

Orloff declined Wednesday to discuss any details of his office's investigation with the media, citing a standing policy his office has to allow police departments to act as the main public face of any officer-involved shooting investigation.

"We've confirmed the investigation, and that's about as much as we'll say," Orloff said. "The normal thing in a situation like this is to interview anyone who can shed light on it."

Mehserle's resignation takes away BART's ability to leverage a statement out of him, since he can no longer be fired for remaining silent, Orloff said. Orloff met with a group of about 50 clergy and community members in his office, after they held a rally outside the Oakland courthouse and packed the lobby outside his office with wall-to-wall demonstrators demanding he meet with them.

Among the demonstrators was Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary), who called the shooting an "execution" and demanded an explanation of the behavior of the other officers present during the shooting.

Brooks and the clergy spoke with a crowd of about 100 people outside the courthouse just after 9 a.m. and said they'd been denied a meeting with Orloff and demanded swift justice for Grant's killing.

"What shall we tell our sons?" said the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of Alan Temple Baptist Church. "Shall we tell them to fear the law? Is the law their enemy? If Oscar Grant is not safe, then I am not safe."

Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam said Mehserle should be arrested immediately.

"What is left to investigate? The whole world has seen this," Muhammad said, referring to widespread Internet videos taken from witnesses' cell phones. "We can discuss his mindset later. But right now he should be detained and held on criminal charges."

At a demonstration in protest of the shooting Wednesday afternoon at the Fruitvale station, Grant's younger sister, Audrena Gilbert, said Mehserle has not talked to the bereaved family.

"I want him to start. I want him to apologize for what he did," said Gilbert, 19, of Oakland. "I want him to tell the truth, why he shot him, what he shot him for. That's all I want."

The afternoon protest, which had a microphone open for anyone to speak but was led by speakers for the Coalition Against Police Executions, drew a crowd of 500 people, police estimated. The station was temporarily shut down, and trains let passengers off at stations on either side of the stop.

"It's not enough the officer resigned today," said Sean Dugar, president of the California National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth and College Division. "We demand he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. "... We shut down one BART station this afternoon. Let's do another one next week."

Speakers at both the morning and afternoon protests led the crowd in a call-and-return chant, shouting, "I am Oscar Grant."

Several clergymen at the morning protest, speakers at the Fruitvale station protest and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums all expressed an understanding for the community's anger but urged demonstrators to refrain from violence.

"As we handle ourselves in this moment, so shall our children," Dellums said. "I think that in a community that's trying to get its hands around violence, that it's important for us to maintain the integrity of a peaceful community going forward, even in this moment of great anger, great loss and great tragedy."

Despite this appeal, protesters shouted angrily at a representative from Dellums' office sent to the Fruitvale station, and when the crowd later moved toward Lake Merritt, it prompted the police shutdown of the BART station there Members of the crowd lit a Dumpster's contents on fire and rammed the container into a police car. Dellums said the city of Oakland and its Police Department should not become involved in the shooting investigation at this point.

"You deal with the appropriate agencies on the ground, and I think right now that's Bay Area Rapid Transit and that's the district attorney's office," he said. "At this point, I view my role as simply trying to articulate the pain and the sorrow and even the anger that people feel at the loss of human life."

Dave Rose, a retired Placer County sheriff's lieutenant who's now an expert witness on police use of force and the co-author of "Police Use-of-Force Case Law," said every bit of Mehserle's training and all circumstances of the situation on the BART platform that night must be taken into account. All the videos should be professionally enhanced and then reviewed frame by frame for every detail, every twitch, he said.

Based on Mehserle's experience and how officers react physiologically in high-stress situations, Rose said, it could well have been nothing more than a tragic, noncriminal accident.

But UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School professor Franklin Zimring, a criminal justice expert, said "absolutely conclusive" videos of the shooting have convinced him there's no possible justification for Mehserle's actions.

"Normally, what you get in a police deadly force interaction is a 'he said, she said' in which there's at least an accusation like, 'There was a flash of metal as he reached toward his pocket,'"‰" Zimring said. "But this guy was already down on the ground. "... He's not in a position to be threatening anybody."

Use of deadly force is considered "in terms of a threat to the physical safety of the officer or somebody else, and there's none there in this case," he added. "So it's accident versus intention, but justification is off the table."

Whether Mehserle meant to draw his Taser but accidentally drew his firearm, or whether he meant to draw his sidearm but didn't mean to fire it, it looks like involuntary manslaughter, Zimring said.

"My money is on that second horse: I think it was an accident, but I don't think the drawing of the gun was an accident," he said, noting it probably wouldn't have been appropriate to draw the Taser but "under no circumstance I could imagine" should Mehserle have drawn his firearm given what's seen on the videos.

Zimring said accidental shootings by officers are rarely charged.

"They don't even have to meet criminal juries most of the time, but most of the time there's a plausible officer vulnerability," he said. "That's what juries can identify with, and that's what's missing in action here. If I were a U.S. or prosecuting attorney, I would not be afraid of taking a criminal case here, certainly for involuntary manslaughter, before an Alameda County jury."

In the absence of a statement from Mehserle, the proper thing to do is to charge the case based on the evidence at hand and then hear his side of the story later, Zimring said: "Not giving a statement in this context may be motivated by an unwillingness to incriminate oneself, but it also deprives the officer of an opportunity to allege that the conduct was unintended.

"If there isn't a criminal investigation in this case, I think it will be an enduring scandal," he said, "and therefore I think that you're going to see an investigation, and you're going to see it in a matter of a very few days."

Officer Glenn Mearls & Officer Josh Calder Both Charged with DWI


The off-duty Farmington police officer accused of crashing his truck into city vehicles while intoxicated on prescription medication was fired in December following an internal investigation of the crash, city officials said Tuesday.

Glenn Mearls, a 14-year veteran of the department who worked with the bomb squad, crashed his personal truck Nov. 12 into two city vehicles parked outside the Farmington Police Station. Mearls was not scheduled to begin a shift at the time.

The 43-year-old officer was charged with DWI following the accident, which caused significant damage to one of the city's vehicles. Police who investigated the incident reported Mearls likely was under the influence of a sleep aid at the time of the crash.

The criminal charge is pending in magistrate court.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said he fired Mearls on Dec. 19 after consulting with police administrators, who recommended termination after conducting an independent investigation of the crash.

"All of our officers deserve our support and have a right to due process under both the law and administratively under city of Farmington personnel rules. However, when serious lines are crossed, as with any of our city employees, we have no choice but to take serious action," Mayes said in a prepared statement.

Mearls has formally appealed his termination, Mayes said.

"I don't think he should have been charged at all. ... He had taken a prescription medication. He hadn't violated any laws," said attorney Steve Murphy, representing Mearls. "Officer Mearls was a very fine officer and the city acted in haste. We look forward to the appeal in district court of his termination."
Contact information for the former officer is not publicly listed.

DWI charges also are pending against a second Farmington police officer, Josh Calder, who is accused of drunken driving after crashing a motorcycle on San Juan Boulevard in August.

A termination decision in that case is dependent on the magistrate court's findings of guilt of the DWI charge, the city manager said.

Mearls, however, was fired from the department before being convicted of a DWI.

"Every situation involving city employees is unique and must be looked at under its own merit. We thoroughly investigate the issue at hand and make the appropriate decision," Mayes said.

The city manager declined to comment on what factors differentiated the two officers' DWI circumstances.

Mearls' attorney claimed city officials

treated the former officer differently than other officers in a similar situation.

"It's a double standard the city is using," Murphy said.

Police officers recognize they are held to a higher standard, Deputy Chief Kyle Westall said, and serious consequences are appropriate when officers make bad decisions.

"We all know when we decide to be police officers that with more responsibility comes more accountability," Westall said. "At the same time, you have to remember that police officers are people just like anybody else and they're susceptible to the mistakes that everyone else makes."

Sheriff Robert Chavez May Retire After DWI Arrest

Guadalupe County's embattled Sheriff Robert Chavez may quit his job following his DWI arrest.

State police pulled Chavez over on December 19 in Santa Rosa after receiving reports that the sheriff was driving recklessly.

Chavez refused to take a breathalyzer or give a blood test.

The sheriff sent a letter to Guadalupe County commissioners saying that he plans to retire before completing his term, which runs until the end of 2010.

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Officer Adam Northcutt Being Investigated for Sexual Assault


A police officer is on administrative leave after allegations of sexual assault at a local bar.

Adam Northcutt, a patrol officer with the Mishawaka police department, is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the St. Joseph County Family Violence and Special Victims Unit, a division of the county prosecutor’s office.

According to Mishawaka Asst. Chief Mike Samp, a woman reported to police that she was “groped” and harassed by the off-duty officer at Bleacher’s Bar, 4609 Grape Road, on Dec. 13.

Northcutt has not been arrested or charged with any crime.

Samp said Mishawaka police contacted the county’s special victims unit to investigate, both because of the nature of the allegations and because a Mishawaka officer was involved.

Catherine Wilson, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said the case is still under investigation and has not been presented to the prosecutor for possible charges.

Although police released few details about the allegation, the woman involved told The Tribune that Northcutt was intoxicated and wouldn’t leave her alone that night.

The 21-year-old woman, who is not being identified because of the nature of the crime, said Northcutt followed her around the bar, touching her inappropriately.

At one point, she said, Northcutt attempted to push her into the bar’s bathroom. “He kept saying, ‘I’m a Mishawaka police officer, I’ve done two tours in Iraq,’ and he just wouldn’t leave me alone.”

The woman also said Northcutt wasn’t alone at the bar, but was with two other off-duty police officers who are regulars at the bar.

The woman said she told one of the other officers that he needed to persuade Northcutt to leave the bar, but she also said they probably weren’t aware that Northcutt was harassing her.

“I don’t think they were paying that close of attention to him,” the woman said.

Samp said Wednesday that he could not comment on the allegations that other officers were present, but he said no other Mishawaka officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Despite Northcutt’s alleged advances, the woman said she was reluctant to report the incident to police until patrons and employees at the bar urged her to do so.

“It was just shocking and upsetting,” the woman said. “The whole thing was just weird.”

Samp said the decision to place Northcutt on administrative leave was made internally at the police station and not by the Mishawaka Board of Public Works and Safety. He said it is likely Northcutt will remain on administrative leave until a decision has been reached by the prosecutor’s office.

According to minutes of the Mishawaka Board of Public Works and Safety, Northcutt was made a probationary patrol officer in October 2007 and was promoted to full patrol officer in October 2008.

Trooper Michael Ford Robbed while Playing Illegal Poker Game

The Maryland State Police say a trooper who was robbed while allegedly playing in an illegal poker game in Hagerstown has retired.

But an attorney for 34-year-old Michael Ford says Ford retired for medical reasons unrelated to the poker game.

State police spokeswoman Elena Russo Ford's retirement was effective Jan. 1. She says Ford had served 10 years, 11 months with the state police.

Prosecutors say Ford was among 18 people robbed at gunpoint of about $4,000 by two masked men May 30 during a Texas Hold 'Em game inside an office building.

Prosecutors dropped charges last month against the only suspect arrested for the robbery, citing a lack of strong evidence.

The man who rented the office for gambling was fined $1,000.

Officer Kimberly Torres Arrested for Unauthorized Access to Police Computer

A Polk County sheriff's deputy was arrested today, accused of using her agency-issued computer to access law enforcement databases and giving out information to a person not authorized to have it.

Kimberly Torres, 23, of Lakeland was charged with two felony counts of unlawful use of a computer, the sheriff's office said.

Torres has been suspended without pay pending her termination from the sheriff's office, spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer said in a statement.

Torres' computer was seized Friday after detectives received a tip that she had accessed a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database for a matter not related to her duties as a deputy, Eleazer said.

Torres became a deputy in 2006 after working for two years in the Polk County Animal Control Department, Eleazer said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Officer Duane Lattimore Arrested for Domestic Violence

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested one of their own today after a domestic violence investigation.

Duane Lattimore, an veteran officer who'd worked for the department for seven years, was charged with two counts of communicating threats and one count of assault on a female -- all misdemeanors. He was assigned to the Independence Division.

The charges stem from several complaints filed by Lattimore's wife that occurred at their Mecklenburg home. The investigation and arrest were made by detectives from CMPD's Domestic Violence Unit.

"It is unfortunate that a member of the CMPD was arrested for domestic violence. All officers of the CMPD are expected to uphold and enforce the law, but more importantly obey the law," Chief Rodney Monroe said today.

Lattimore was placed on administrative leave without pay, pending an internal investigation to determine whether departmental rules of conduct were violated. That is routine anytime a CMPD employee is charged with a crime.

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