Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lt Joseph Buzdziol Arrested for Possession & Drunk Driving

The head of a drug unit for the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office faces charges of marijuana possession, drunken driving and resisting and obstructing police after state troopers pulled him over in Bay County, according to Bay County Prosecutor Kurt Asbury.

Lt. Joseph Guzdziol faces up to two years in prison after state police stopped his car in Monitor Township at 11 p.m. Friday.

Police said Guzdziol was driving drunk with a minor in the car when troopers stopped him. Police said Guzdziol was unruly and resisted arrest.

“This is an unfortunate situation because it involves an officer,” Asbury said.

Guzdziol, who worked as an undercover drug officer before taking the helm at the sheriff’s drug unit, was placed on leave without pay.

Troopers tracked down Guzdziol’s car after 911 callers reported an erratic driver.

Guzdziol was released from the Bay County Jail on Saturday after posting a $10,000 bond. He is to be arraigned on March 6 at 74th District Court in Bay City.

Guzdziol has been with the sheriff’s department for 22 years.

Assistant Chief Andre Rogers Arrested for Trying to Strangle his Wife


An Ark-La-Tex officer is locked-up tonight accused of trying to strangle his wife.

The Bienville Parish Sheriff's Office arrested Assistant Police Chief of Arcadia Andre Rogers.

This is the second time in four months that he's been arrested on domestic violence charges.

He is being held in the Bienville Parish Jail on charges of domestic violence.



Three Former Atlanta Officers Senteced to Prison for Fatal Shooting of Woman

Three former Atlanta Police Department (APD) officers were sentenced to prison today by Chief U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes on a charge of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death, arising from the fatal police shooting of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year old Atlanta woman. Johnston was fatally shot at her home during the execution of a search warrant obtained by the defendants based upon false information on Nov. 21, 2006. The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias for the Northern District of Georgia; and Gregory Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Atlanta office.

Jason R. Smith, 36, of Oxford, Ga., was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison; Gregg Junnier, 42, of Woodstock, Ga., was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison; and Arthur Tesler, 42, of Acworth, Ga., was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system. Each defendant was also sentenced to serve 3 years of supervised release following his prison term, and collectively to pay $8,180 in restitution for the costs of Johnston's funeral and burying.

"The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting law enforcement officers who willfully disregard the Constitution and abuse their authority to violate the rights of others," said Acting Assistance Attorney General Loretta King. "This sort of unlawful behavior, resulting in Ms. Johnston's tragic death, undermines the efforts of law enforcement officers who honorably perform their duties."

In a news conference after the sentencing hearings, U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said in part, "As Atlanta police narcotics officers, these three defendants repeatedly failed to follow proper procedures and then lied under oath to obtain search warrants. Their routine violations of the Fourth Amendment led to the death of an innocent citizen. The death of Kathryn Johnson in a police shooting was a terrible tragedy for a law-abiding elderly woman, her family, and our entire community. But as her family and others hoped, from this tragedy have come two positive results. First, it has led the Atlanta Police Department to implement useful reforms in training and supervision and to entirely revamp its Narcotics Unit, reducing the possibility of a similar tragedy in the future. Second, the significant prison sentences imposed by the Court today should send a strong message to other law enforcement officers who may be tempted to lie under oath or otherwise violate the law. Officers who think, as these defendants once did, that the ends justify the means or that 'taking shortcuts' and telling lies will not be discovered and punished should realize that they are risking their careers and their liberty. And officers who try to obstruct justice when their misconduct faces exposure, rather than cooperating in the investigation, should realize that they will be face even more severe punishment."

Gregory Jones, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, said, "This is a sad day in the law enforcement community. Few crimes are as reprehensible as those committed by police officers who violate the very laws they have sworn to uphold. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Johnston family, and we hope today's sentencing helps bring closure to this tragedy. Further, we want the public to know the FBI will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who violate their oaths of office and the civil rights of others."

Junnier and Smith pleaded guilty to the federal charge, as well as to voluntary manslaughter and related state charges in Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court, on April 26, 2007. According to their plea agreements, they will be sentenced in state court on March 5, 2009, to the same sentence imposed in federal court, with the sentences to be served concurrently. Tesler initially declined to plead guilty and was indicted in state court on charges of violation of oath of office by a public officer, false imprisonment and false statements. In 2008, Tesler was convicted at trial in state court on the false statement charges, but that conviction was reversed on appeal. Following the state trial, federal authorities re-evaluated Tesler's case, conducted further investigation, and determined that federal prosecution of Tesler was appropriate. Tesler pleaded guilty to the federal charge on Oct. 30, 2008.

Junnier began cooperating truthfully with federal authorities shortly after the incident and provided valuable assistance in the investigation and prosecution of Smith and Tesler. Additionally, Junnier's cooperation led to guilty pleas by two additional APD officers to federal charges, including the sergeant who commanded the narcotics team involved in the shooting. Smith cooperated to a more limited extent. Both former officers provided information relevant to a broader FBI investigation of misconduct by APD narcotics and other officers, which culminated in a report provided by the FBI to APD Chief Richard Pennington in October 2008 for consideration of potential administrative discipline against other APD officers. As a result of their cooperation, the court reduced Junnier's sentence by 40 percent and Smith's sentence by 20 percent. Tesler did not provide substantial assistance in the investigation and received no sentence reduction on that ground, although his sentence was reduced based on his lesser role in the conspiracy.

According to information presented in court, on Nov. 21, 2006, APD officers Junnier, Smith and Tesler participated along with other narcotics team officers in the execution of a search warrant at 933 Neal Street in Atlanta. During the execution of the warrant, the 92-year old owner of the home, Johnston, who apparently believed her home was being invaded by criminals, fired her revolver once at those entering her home as the front door was being breached. Her shot did not hit anyone. Six officers, including Junnier and Smith returned fire. Johnston was hit by five or six shots, one of which was fatal.

According to the information presented in court, while working as APD narcotics officers, Junnier, Smith and Tesler routinely made false statements in sworn affidavits to state magistrate judges in order to procure search warrants for residences and other locations where the officers believed illegal drugs would be found. These false statements included representations that confidential reliable informants (CRIs) had made drug purchases that never actually took place; that information was provided to officers by CRIs when the information was actually provided by unreliable informants; that the officers had personally observed a purchase by a CRI when they had not in fact observed the events described in the affidavit; that CRIs were searched before and after drug purchases when the CRIs were not searched; and that the occupants of the residence to be searched had surveillance cameras, were armed with firearms, or were dangerous in other ways in order to obtain "no-knock" warrants.

Junnier, Smith, Tesler and other officers would execute the search warrants, according to court documents, and if contraband were found, the occupants would be arrested and charged. If asked about the search executed under fraudulently procured warrants, Junnier, Smith and Tesler would make statements consistent with the false statements made to procure the warrant. Junnier, Smith and Tesler falsified affidavits for search warrants to be considered productive officers and to meet APD's performance targets. They believed that these ends justified their falsifying search warrant affidavits.

On the afternoon of Nov. 21, 2006, Smith, Junnier and Tessler arrested an individual for drug possession. That individual told the officers that he had purchased crack cocaine from a man named "Sam" at a house that he later identified as 933 Neal Street and claimed that he had seen a kilogram of cocaine in that house earlier that day. Junnier contacted a CRI to have the CRI attempt to make a purchase from 933 Neal Street, but the CRI did not have transportation. The officers did nothing else to corroborate or verify the information the person they had arrested provided.

Smith, Junnier and Tessler then obtained a search warrant for 933 Neal Street after Smith submitted a sworn affidavit to a magistrate judge falsely stating that Smith and Tessler had directed a CRI to make a purchase of cocaine from 933 Neal Street; that the CRI was searched before the purchase; that the CRI purchased $50 of crack from a man named "Sam"; and that a no-knock warrant should be issued because the CRI stated that "Sam" had electronic surveillance equipment in the house, which "Sam" carefully monitored.

At about 6:40 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006, Junnier, Smith, Tessler and other narcotics officers attempted to execute the search warrant. Tessler was assigned to guard the back door. As officers rammed open the front door of 933 Neal Street, Kathryn Johnson, an elderly woman who was the owner and only resident of the house, fired a single shot from a .38 caliber revolver through the door, which hit no one. Junnier, Smith, and four other officers returned fire, hitting Ms. Johnston with five or six shots, one of which was fatal. Ballistics and other forensic analysis are unable to establish which of the officers fired the fatal shot or the other shots. Three officers, including Junnier, were injured by shots fired by other officers, or resulting shrapnel or debris, but all were released from the hospital by the following morning.

According to court documents, no other occupants or drugs were found at 933 Neal Street. After the shooting, Smith planted three bag of marijuana, which the officers had seized somewhere else earlier that day, in the basement of the house. Tesler filed a false APD incident report stating that a purchase of crack had been made at 933 Neal Street earlier that day, and Smith submitted two bags containing crack that falsely indicated the drugs were bought by an informant at 933 Neal Street. On Nov. 22, 2006, Smith and another officer disposed of the remainder of the marijuana from which Smith had taken the planted marijuana, by throwing it down a sewer drain. Smith, Junnier and Tessler also met to fabricate a story that would explain the events leading to the shooting of Kathryn Johnston. Smith, Junnier and Tessler then recounted the fabricated story to APD homicide investigators.

After Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington turned the investigation of the Kathryn Johnston case over to the FBI to lead, Junnier was interviewed by FBI agents and admitted the facts about the conspiracy rather than giving the false cover story. Smith continued to cover up the conspiracy in his first interview with federal agents, but subsequently admitted to the conspiracy.

This case was investigated by the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon-Peter Kelly, U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias and Special Litigation Counsel Paige M. Fitzgerald of the Civil Rights Division.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Officer Vincent DiBernardino Charged with Domestic Violence

A Danbury police officer who has been on disability leave for more than three years was charged Saturday night with two counts of battery in Florida, according to an arrest report from the Hendry County Sheriff's Office.

The battery charges -- both misdemeanors -- were filed against 42-year-old Vincent J. DiBernardino, the report said.

DiBernardino has been out of work on disability leave from the Danbury Police Department since January 2006, according to Danbury Capt. Thomas Wendel. He has asked to go before the pension board.

Wendel said an internal affairs officer from the Danbury department has the arrest report from Florida and is conducting an investigation. Any disciplinary action will depend on the outcome of that investigation.

In the report, the Hendry County Sheriff's Office said officers went to a disturbance at a home in LaBelle and were told the cause of the disturbance, DiBernardino, had left the house. He was later found by police.

The report says two women -- one DiBernardino's sister and another apparently not related -- alleged DiBernardino attacked them. The non-relative, according to the report, said DiBernardino "knocked her and the child she was holding to the ground."

According to the report, the child was the 11-month-old daughter of DiBernardino and his wife.

The charge against DiBernardino for the alleged attack of his sister was for battery/domestic violence and the other charge was for battery.

Both women, according to the report, also said DiBernardino attacked his wife and mother. But the report says the mother and wife said DiBernardino did not attack anyone.

DiBernardino could not be reached for comment.