Tuesday, February 17, 2009

District Attorney's Office Reviewing Cases Filed by Officers

The Dallas County district attorney's office is reviewing dozens of cases filed by six Dallas police officers after the officers assisted in an arrest that put a man behind bars for 10 months on what prosecutors say were false charges.

Documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News show prosecutors concluded that Senior Cpl. David Nevitt lied when he said Thomas Hannon had a gun and drugs in his possession when the six officers participated in Hannon's arrest outside a North Dallas hotel in August 2007. Attorney Phil Burleson said Nevitt denies any wrongdoing in this case, as well as any other cases.

"He did not lie to the district attorney's office," Burleson said. "He has no reason to. He believed at the time [of the Hannon arrest] that it was the correct individual."

Hannon, a convicted felon, was jailed until last March, when prosecutors dropped the charges because Hannon's attorney obtained a videotape that showed another man carrying a bag containing the gun and drugs.

The case calls into question the integrity of a police department still recovering from a 2001 scandal in which dozens of false arrests were made after fake drugs were planted on innocent people by police informants.

"I would hope that everybody has learned the lessons of the fake-drug scandal," said Bill Wirskye, who is representing two clients with cases involving officers who participated in the Hannon arrest. "I have serious concerns about their credibility and the possibility of a pattern of illegal searches."

All six officers involved in Hannon's arrest – Nevitt, Lawrence Coddington, Jerry Dodd, David Durica, Frank Poblenz and Randy Sundquist – were named in a federal lawsuit filed last month alleging a violation of his civil rights.

Durica said he had not been notified of any investigation and denied any wrongdoing. "No one has approached or asked me about anything," he said. The other officers did not return calls seeking comment.

None of the officers has been accused of any criminal misconduct, and a timetable for completion of the district attorney's review was not available.

The prosecutors and the district attorney's office declined to publicly discuss the case.

Two prosecutors say in the documents obtained by The News that Nevitt told them he saw Hannon carrying the bag with his own two eyes, but he later changed his account, telling the prosecutors that he actually saw Hannon carrying the bag only on video surveillance footage.

"This is a case that really makes you question the integrity of all of their arrests in any situation," said Scott Palmer, Hannon's attorney. "The probable cause affidavit is absolutely diametrically opposed to reality. So therefore it must be a lie. It can't be a mistake."

Hannon's criminal history includes a three-year sentence for methamphetamine possession and unlawfully carrying a gun while on probation. He was released from prison on parole in 2005.

He said he first met Nevitt in the summer of 2007 when Nevitt and other officers showed up at his apartment asking to search it. Hannon said he refused, and Nevitt became angry but left. Hannon said he was evicted by apartment managers the same day.

More Information and Police Report: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/yahoolatestnews/stories/021709dnmetdpd.4035ff0.html

Police Brutality Must End

There has never been anything good about the use of excessive force by police officers, and law enforcement officials across the United States are fully aware of the disparaging effects these incidents have in our communities.

So how is it that another incident of alleged police brutality is able to surface in our local news as if this caustic phenomenon is some new and endearing trait of law enforcement?

And to make matters worse, the incident in question occurred back in 2006.

On the front page of the Friday, February the 13th edition of the Los Angeles Times, the headline read, “Inquiry into Hawthorne police beating questioned.”

The incident took place on July 21, 2006 in Hawthorne, CA, another city in our great nation that unfortunately has a wretched history of police misconduct. What is even more appalling about this incident is the fact that when it happened, we (the public) had no knowledge that the incident even occurred.

It gets scary for us as citizens when you couple this information with the fact that incidents of police brutality, as well as other forms of misconduct, occur on a daily basis, and most often times (because we don’t always understand what the police are doing), these incidents occur right under our noses.

This particular incident of police brutality has fortunately become an issue almost three years later because the City of Hawthorne (in late January 2009) had to pay the victim Anthony Goodrow the sum of $1 million dollars to settle his lawsuit against the police department for use of excessive force.

Experts who investigated the case, along with a review of the lawsuit by the Times, revealed that the initial investigator(s) from Internal Affairs not only failed to interview Goodrow, they also failed to interview the officers involved (one of which who was the police chief’s son) as well as a number of witnesses who were able to confirm that Goodrow was kicked in his face so hard during his arrest that his jaw was broken.

The officers involved were cleared of any wrong doing based solely on their written reports.

As far as the incident itself, Goodrow, 26 (race unstated), was attending a party with his girlfriend when the police arrived to investigate a noise complaint. Goodrow’s girlfriend protested that the officers had no right to enter the party, and officers responded by taking her into custody. Goodrow verbally protested his girlfriend’s arrest, and upon taking up a defensive stance, was grabbed by police officers, placed in a choke-hold, beaten, kicked, and placed under arrest for felony resisting.

There is not one person alive who would disagree with the fact that brutality and misconduct by police officers has to come to an end. Our government needs to be more aggressive in its approach to insure that law enforcement agencies have the necessary checks and balances in place to prevent injury and/or death from befalling any citizen as a result of police misconduct. Investigations into incidents of police brutality must be thorough, and stiffer penalties need to be put in place to punish those officers who are found in violation of departmental policies and/or laws as they pertain to police misconduct.

Most importantly, recruitment and training standards need to be structured so that prospective employees can gain a true sense of the actual sacrifice that has to be made when they choose to pursue a career in law enforcement.

For example, most recruitment ads for police officer tend to highlight the salary and other benefits of the position such as medical, retirement, etc. – and strategically placed in the background is a shiny, brand new police vehicle with flashing lights, flanked by two or more smiling, neatly dressed, uniformed police officers. This is usually followed by a job description that lists the qualifications, abilities, and working conditions for the position. Very little emphasis, if any, is placed on the fact that when a recruit becomes a police officer, he or she becomes a representative of the government – not of themselves. The laws they enforce are the laws of the government – not their laws.

Incidents of police brutality and misconduct usually occur when police officers take and make their job personal. It is the number one mistake that police officers make, and most people know that when someone takes a situation personal, the outcome is rarely favorable.

Police officers need to understand that when someone breaks the law, and later resist arrest through fighting or running from the scene, the person is not fighting or running away from you – the person is fighting and/or running away from what you represent - the law. With that being said – how can a police officer justify taking an incident personally and using excessive force to subdue a suspect, when the suspect most likely knows nothing personal about the officer, and is incapable of formulating anything against the officer on a personal level?

Answer – there is no justification.

If police departments spent more time during the introduction phase of recruitment for potential candidates highlighting this one crucial aspect of law enforcement, incidents of misconduct and brutality could be significantly reduced, and recruits could make better choices when it comes to deciding whether or not policing is the right profession for them.

Not to mention the amount of money that cities could retain for more viable community-based projects instead of paying out millions of dollars in lawsuits

Sgt Arthur Barksdale Charged with Harassment

Syracuse, NY

A sergeant with the Onondaga County Sheriff's custody division was arrested over the weekend after an incident at Carousel Center, his boss, Chief Richard Carbery said.

Arthur Barksdale, 48, of 321 Barrington Road, Syracuse, allegedly scuffled with city police officers at the mall in an incident that happened shortly before 10 p.m. Friday night, Carbery said.

Barksdale is now on administrative leave and has been charged with harassment, resisting arrest and obstruction of government administration, Carbery said.

Barksdale, who has been with the Sheriff's office for 22 years, would not comment on the charges, saying he wants to consult with his lawyer first. He is scheduled to meet with his attorney this morning .

Syracuse police Sgt. Tom Connellan said police were at the mall, trying to break up fights at the bottom of the escalator near the food court. Detective Anthony Colavita was trying to get to the bottom to help quell the fray. Barksdale, also going down, had his hands on the rails,
blocking the passage of Colavita, who was in uniform, Connellan said.

According to police reports, Colavita tapped Barksdale on the shoulder and tried to get through. Barksdale allegedly swore and shoved Colavita back, Connellan said.

The two then scuffled, wrestling on the tracks of the escalator, said Connellan.

When they reached the bottom, another officer pulled Barksdale away from the crowds and officers tried to handcuff him, but Barksdale struggled and shouted that he was a cop, Connellan read from reports.

After he was in custody, he was taken downtown to be booked and made bail that night, Connellan said.

Barksdale was among African-American deputies who filed racial harassment and discrimination claims in 2000 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to news archives.

Former Officer Charles Staso Arrested for for Child Porn

A former police officer has been charged in a case involving child pornography. Charles Staso was arrested today on three counts of sexual abuse of children. Until his resignation yesterday, Staso had served as a sergeant for the Colebrookdale Township Police Department near Boyertown. State Police say they found pornographic video and pictures on Staso's home computer. He's now free on $50,000 bail. "I first learned of the investigation by PA State Police on January 16, 2009," said Chief Christopher Schott, in a written statement.

"Police officers are and have to be held to a higher standard in conducting their everyday affairs. They cannot be doing drugs, stealing or committing other crimes that we investigate and prosecute people for."

"This sort of thing puts a black mark on law enforcement, particularly Colebrookdale Township. The public should be able to trust its police officers and law enforcement personnel. As in other professions, there are a small percentage of police officers that participate in criminal activity. I ask that not all police officers be judged by the actions of a few.

"The department has been shocked by these happenings. One never knows what goes on in the privacy of another person's home. There is a good group of people working in this department that are doing their jobs in a professional manner. Colebrookdale Township Police Department will continue to serve and protect the citizens of Colebrookdale Township and the Borough of Bechtelsville."

Trial Date set for Former Officer Brian Lawlor Accused of Using Excessive Force


A judge has set a date of March 18 to begin proceedings in the trial of a former city officer accused of using excessive force during a September 2005 arrest.

Executive Assistant State's Attorney Michael A. Gailor and attorney Norman A. Pattis for former police officer Brian Lawlor met with a judge for a status conference Tuesday at Middletown Superior Court. Gailor said after discussing the case, a judge set a final date of March 18 for the trial to begin.

"The trial will begin on that day and we expect to move forward in presenting evidence," said Gailor, who could not comment further on the pending case.

Messages left for Pattis were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Lawlor, 34, of Meriden, faces charges of second-degree assault with a weapon and tampering with evidence during a 2005 arrest of a Meriden man accused of using excessive force in subduing a suspect who had led police on a chase.

Court records show that Lawlor has appeared on the docket 19 times including having been scheduled to start trial during his last three appearances in January and February. In all three scheduled appearances, a judge had continued the case.

Lawlor was arrested in July 2006 after a nine month investigation into complaints that he had used excessive force against Meriden resident Alexis Hernandez. Police records said Lawlor was fired by the police department in December 2005 after an internal investigation that included a police cruiser video allegedly showing Lawlor using a pistol to strike Hernandez repeatedly.

The Freedom of Information Commission denied a request by the Record-Journal in 2006 to acquire the tapes, saying release of the video could compromise the investigation.

Officer Andrew Barone Arrested for Sex Crimes


Information from the state's Superior Court revealed hundreds of naked pictures on the Internet were posted illegally from an IP address belonging to the home and registered e-mail of a Wilton police officer.

The officer, Andrew Barone, 23, of Trumbull, was arrested on Friday by the Connecticut Central State University (CCSU) Police on one count of sexual assault in the second degree, three felony counts of computer crime in the third degree, one count of larceny in the sixth degree and eight breach of peace counts in the second degree.

Barone's girlfriend was notified by a school official on Dec. 3, 2008, there were nude photographs of her online. She said some of them were taken the night before by Barone, and the following morning, she and her roommate were at class, and Barone was alone in their dorm room.

Barone said he left his camera with the photos in the room and does not know how they got online.

A few days later, Barone's ex-girlfriend was notified by the police naked photos of her were also online.

She said in the affidavit she didn't know there were nude pictures of her on the Internet, but she was "100 percent sure" Barone posted them because she had never let anyone else take pictures of her nude.

During more than a month-long investigation, the owner of the Web site, girlfriendshowoff.com, confirmed the photos found on Dec. 3 were posted from an IP address registered to Barone's girlfriend and posted from her computer that morning.

He also confirmed others were posted from a computer with an IP address registered to Barone's Trumbull address.

According to the affidavit, the owner of the Web site said whoever owns the e-mail accounts registered to the IP addresses was "seriously obsessed," and was the fifth most frequent user out of 7,000 accounts.

One IP address was connected to the e-mail address abarone@ccsu.edu, but Barone said in the affidavit he has not used that e-mail address since his freshman year. He also denied posting any pictures of his current girlfriend or ex-girlfriend and said his computer was hacked into in the spring of 2008.

Naked pictures of five girls in connection with this case were found online.

Barone's ex-girlfriend said she never gave Barone permission to post the photos online, and, according to the affidavit, he did "worse things than just post pictures, and one of the two incidents happened at CCSU," but no further information is available.

Mark McLaughlin, associate vice president of marketing and communications at CCSU, said Barone was a student at the university at the time of the sexual assault, which allegedly occurred on April 22, 2006.

McLaughlin also said the girl involved in the alleged sexual assault was not a student. No more information on that charge was available at press time.

Barone was held on $75,000 bond and given a court date of March 13.

Captain Michael Lombardo of the Wilton Police Department said Barone went through the same screening process as all officers, including a psychological screening and an extensive background check by Wilton detectives.

The department is conducting an internal investigation, and Barone is on administrative leave with no power of arrest.

"We've initiated an internal affairs investigation," said Lombardo. "Pending that disposition, we will determine his status. . . As anyone who's accused of any crime, he's entitled to his due process."


Other Information: http://wiltonvillager.com/story/465162