Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Officer Jose Gomez Given Reprimand for Making Racial Comment

A Fort Myers police officer was given a verbal reprimand and a requirement to attend additional training after an internal review determined he was “rude” and made a racially-charged comment during a traffic stop.

Patrol officer Jose Gomez was found not to have complied with the department’s general rules of conduct during a Dec. 25 traffic stop.

According to the report, prepared by Sgt. Willie James Tellis, Gomez conducted a traffic stop on driver Latonya Leaphart and her passenger, Gerah Leaphart, at the intersection of Eastland and French Streets. Gomez said he stopped the vehicle for loud music.

While accounts differ, Gomez said Latonya Leaphart was swore at him and argued with him throughout the stop. She was upset because Gomez reportedly did not reveal the reason for the stop, though Gomez said that was because she continued to interrupt him.

At this time, another officer responded and was within earshot when Gerah Leaphart reportedly asked Gomez if he was black. Gomez then reportedly responded with the answer, “I’m not black, thank God, I would never wish to be black.”

Ross couldn’t be sure if those were the exact words, but believed they were something along those lines.

Latonya Leaphart later filed a complaint with the police department, which sparked the internal investigation.

Officer Kurtiss Kessler Resigns after Domestic Violence Charge

Minutes after criminal charges were filed Tuesday against a Kenosha police officer accused of domestic violence, he resigned from the police department.

Kurtiss J. Kessler, 35, of Kenosha, was charged with misdemeanors for alleged disorderly conduct and battery, both related to domestic abuse. If convicted, he faces one year in jail. The conviction would be Kessler’s second for a domestic-related incident.

In a sign that he may not challenge the charges, Kessler’s lawyer asked for a plea hearing. Typically, several other hearings are held before a defendant enters pleas.

Kessler is set to enter pleas March 17 before Kenosha County Circuit Judge Wilbur W. Warren III. Sentencing could happen that same day, since no pre-sentence investigation reported is required for misdemeanor cases.

Shortly after his court hearing Tuesday afternoon, Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey said Kessler turned in his resignation, effective immediately.

“It’s just a simple one-line resignation: that he resigned from the police department, effective (Tuesday), and he is leaving for personal reasons,” Morrissey said.

Kessler, a Kenosha police officer for more than 11 years, was suspended without pay from the police department after he was arrested Feb. 9 for allegedly pushing his girlfriend, pulling her hair and hitting her with a shoe.

Morrissey said Kessler’s resignation was not part of any deal worked out with the city. No internal investigation had been done, and none will be now that Kessler is no longer a city employee, he said. The chief declined to predict whether Kessler and the department might have parted ways.

Kessler is not eligible for any compensation under his resignation; he did not have any accrued vacation, holiday or compensatory time, and officers do not have sick time, Morrissey said.

The criminal complaint filed Tuesday alleges that an argument between Kessler and his girlfriend, the mother of his nearly 2-year-old son, turned violent. Kessler allegedly grabbed her hair and later, the woman told police, threw a shoe at her. Police said there were no visible injuries.

Kessler is out of jail on bond.

Kessler reportedly said he did not want her to leave, but the woman went to the door. Kessler allegedly grabbed the woman by the hair from behind and pulled her to the floor. When she got up and continued toward the door, the woman said Kessler threw a shoe at her.

There were no visible injuries.

The woman told sheriff’s deputies that she wanted to report the incident, but she did not want Kessler to lose his job. Prosecutors said she has considered recanting her statement.

Kessler has a previous conviction for a 2003 domestic-related incident. He was accused of pointing a gun at his then-girlfriend’s head. Kessler pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors. He served three days in jail, paid a fine and had two years probation. He also was suspended from the police department for 55 days without pay, but allowed to return to work.

Officer Shayne Poole Arrested for DUI


Cle Elum/Roslyn/South Cle Elum police officer Shayne Poole was arrested Saturday on charges of driving under the influence.

Poole was hired as a Cle Elum police officer in January after resigning from the Kittitas Police Department, where he worked since June 2008. Poole had also worked for the Ellensburg Police Department from June 1999 to November 2005.

Cle Elum Police Chief Scott Ferguson said that Poole is no longer employed with CEPD.

According to Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers, Poole was driving southbound on Clemens Road when he went off the road and into a ditch on Thrall Road between 2:30 and 3 a.m. Saturday.

Poole, who was alone in the vehicle, was not injured in the collision.

“There was alcohol involved and it is still under investigation,” Myers said.

Poole was booked in Kittitas County Jail around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, and later released on personal recognizance an hour later.

Poole’s court date is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 24 in Kittitas County Lower District Court.

Former Officer Nick Joseph Accused of Hit & Run Back in Court

The case against a suspended Greece Police Officer accused in a hit and run crash is expected to continue in court today. Nick Joseph is accused of the hit and run crash on Route 390 in June that injured a pregnant woman forcing her to deliver her baby girl 15 weeks pre-maturely.

Nick Joseph denies that drugs or alcohol played a role in what happened, but prosecutors say it's one of the factors in the case against him. Sources told News10NBC, cocaine was found in Joseph’s blood that night.

Joseph is scheduled to appear before Judge Affronti in what's called a Frye hearing, which will determine whether DNA evidence can be used at trial.

According to Joseph's deposition, he called Greece Police Sergeant Andrew Elmore about 10 hours after the crash to ask how the woman in the accident was.

"It hurts law enforcement all around to have one of our own on trial, it's very hard, but he's got his day in court,” Retired Greece Police Sergeant Andrew Elmore said.

News 10NBC will be at the Hall of Justice for this hearing and will bring you the latest information as it becomes available.

Related Stories: I-Team 10 updated: Greece cop appears in court
-I-Team 10 follow-up: Video places Greece cop at bar minutes before 390 crash

Arrested Judge Margaret Huddleston Back in Court Judge Others

Family Court Judge Margaret Huddleston was back on the bench Monday, two days after her arrest on charges of careless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.

What happens next - for her or any other judge who falls foul of the law - is unclear.

Officer Barry Pruitt, spokesman for the Bowling Green Police Department, said Huddleston’s citation has been turned over to Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken’s office for prosecution.

It’s unlikely to stay there, however: Should the case be judged to present a conflict of interest for local authorities, it might be turned over to the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, according to Shelley Catharine Johnson, deputy communications director for Attorney General Jack Conway.

Since Milliken and other lawyers from her office are before Huddleston in family court every day, Milliken said such a conflict certainly exists, and she’s already taking steps to send the case to an impartial figure outside Warren County.

“Yesterday I wrote the Office of the Attorney General a letter requesting that a special prosecutor be appointed,” she said.

Beyond possible prosecution, Kentucky does have a mechanism for dealing with judges’ ethical conflicts.

When judges are charged with crimes, the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission monitors those cases until they’re concluded, said Jim Lawson, the commission’s executive secretary. If a conviction results, the commission then begins considering what action to take, he said.

“In a first offense DUI case, I think it’s generally a public reprimand,” Lawson said.

The commission is the only entity authorized under the state constitution to take disciplinary action against a sitting judge, according to the commission’s Web site.

Possible sanctions range from confidential reprimands - for minor technical violations - to removal for serious misconduct.

“Criminal conduct” is on the list of items that may lead to disciplinary actions.

Huddleston has been a family court judge in Warren County since the court was created in 1998, dealing with divorce, custody and parental rights, domestic violence, neglect and juvenile offenses.

She was arrested outside her house shortly after midnight Saturday. A Bowling Green police officer saw Huddleston driving too slowly, hesitating at stop signs and crossing the center line, according to a city police report. She did not stop when the officer turned on his emergency lights, so the officer followed her to her driveway, the report said.

A breath test registered more than twice the legal limit for blood alcohol content, and Huddleston was lodged in Warren County Regional Jail. She was later released on an unsecured bond, and hasn’t returned several calls seeking comment.

$350,000 Lawsuit to be Paid to Physician who was Tasered and Beaten by Police


San Francisco officials are poised to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit with a Harvard University resident physician who claims he was shocked more than 10 times with a stun gun and beaten by police, including by an officer with a history of brutality complaints.

The proposed settlement would cover Mehrdad Alemozaffar’s legal fees, said Police Commission President Theresa Sparks. The settlement has been approved by the commission, but must be authorized by the Board of Supervisors, whose Rules Committee is slated to cast an initial vote Thursday.

Alemozaffar’s attorney, Jeremy Cloyd, said he has not seen the offer and could not comment on whether his client would accept it.

The 2007 lawsuit stems from a Dec. 17, 2006, incident in North Beach. Alemozaffar, then a UCLA student, claimed officers pinned him against the street and smashed his head multiple times against the asphalt. Officers then tied his hands behind his back in nylon restraints before jolting him with a Taser more than 10 times, the lawsuit claimed.

The lawsuit named The City, the police and sheriff’s departments, and Officers Jesse Serna, Gary Moriyama and James McGrath. Sheriff’s deputies Jurnation Reymundo and George Coviello were also named.

Alemozaffar claimed the trouble began at 2 a.m. after police told weekend revelers to clear the area. Alemozaffar told Serna he was waiting for a friend, and Serna told him to “stop acting like a girl,” according to the complaint. The alleged attack by officers began after Alemozaffar asked for Serna’s badge number.

The lawsuit accused Reymundo of shocking Alemozaffar on his legs, back, side and wrist, leaving burns. Alemozaffar’s shoulder, on which he had recent surgery, was also damaged, the lawsuit said.

Serna, who the lawsuit said has a history of brutality complaints, was sued in 2007 by former mayor’s secretary Esther Hwang, who worked for Willie Brown. Hwang claimed Serna violently pulled her by the hair to the pavement and arrested her on false charges after she joked about jaywalking in North Beach. That case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

By extending the settlement offer to Alemozaffar, The City is not admitting wrongdoing, Sparks said.

Deputy Jonathan Este Charged with Rape of Minor


Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand admits that this is a "sad day" for the JPSO as he announced the arrest of 25-year old Jonathan Este'.

Until his firing Monday night, Este' was a deputy assigned to the department's Third District Patrol Division.

He's now charged with forcible rape and three counts of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

"The alleged incidents happened when Este' was 22 years of age and the victim was 13," Normand said.

The incidents happened before Este' joined the JPSO in January 2008.

According to investigators, the relationship between Este' and the young girl lasted from July 2005 through February 2006.

Details came to light Saturday, when deputies investigated a "family disturbance" at the victim's home.

"She described meeting Este' via a chart room and the relationship lasted approximately eight months," said Normand. "She described the first incident of sex with Este' as being a forcible rape and the remaining three incidents as consensual."

The department immediately launched a criminal investigation after hearing the victim's story.

The sheriff says Este' was arrested at the JPSO Detectives Bureau last night after he admitted to having sex with the girl four times.

"The problem is the credibly of the officer is impaired and that may have an effect on other cases," said Normand. "That's why we go after it with much fervor."

Normand says this case is a cautionary tale for parents and teenagers who visit chat rooms online.

"It's a very dangerous tool, the internet," said Normand. "You have to be very wary because it has become the prime medium for individuals that are predators."

Este' faces up to 70-years in prison. He remains in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. Bond is set at $82,500.