Monday, March 16, 2009

Detective Michael Cordova Charged with Assault Appears in Court


A Denver police officer who was videotaped hitting, kicking and slamming a man's head into the ground during an arrest last April says he's not guilty of assault.

Detective Michael Cordova appeared in court Tuesday to fight two counts of second-degree assault from the arrest on April 4th last year.

The district court judge postponed the disposition and motions hearing in the case one month because Cordova's attorney Marc Colin wants to have an expert analyze the videotape.

The tape was shot by a local sports TV crew on the home opening day of the Colorado Rockies last year outside of Coors Field. It shows the arrest of John Heaney riding his bike past Coors Field and getting into an altercation with Cordova and other officers who were working undercover in a scalping sting.

Before the videotape surfaced, Cordova testified in a court case under oath that Heaney swung and punched at him several times, forcing Cordova to punch back.

Cordova said Heaney "continued to throw wild punches at me, hitting me in the chest area several times forcing me to punch him in the face several times," according to court records and a Denver Police statement.

When he was asked how Heaney's two front teeth were broken, Cordova responded, "I have not a clue."

Heaney was charged with assault in the arrest and was facing prison time when the tape surfaced and was given to 9NEWS.

The tape shows two officers, including Cordova, hitting, kicking and using elbow strikes against Heaney, who does not appear to be resisting. Once on the ground, the videotape shows Cordova grabbing Heaney's ponytail, lifting up his head and slamming it into the ground, breaking his teeth. The sound of the breaking teeth can be heard on the videotape.

Once prosecutors and police were shown the tape, charges were dropped against Heaney and Cordova was charged with assault.

Cordova is out of jail on bond and has been suspended from the police department without pay during his court case.

The case has been continued until April 21st.


Guthrie Woman Files Lawsuit Claiming she was Wrongfully Arrested


A Guthrie woman claims she was wrongfully arrested on a traffic stop and taken to the Logan County jail where she was subjected to an improper strip search, court papers show.

Anna Lynn Self, of Guthrie, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that names the Logan County sheriff and the City of Guthrie as defendants. The suit was filed in January.

On March 23, 2008, Guthrie Police Officer Wes Henry was patrolling when he noticed a green 1999 four-door hardtop Volkswagen with the rear driver’s side brake light out, according to a Guthrie Police Department report.

Henry stopped the car at Noble and Seventh Street. Police ran a warrant check, which showed that Self was wanted on a Logan County warrant.

At about 11:47 p.m., Henry arrested Self for the outstanding warrant and a sergeant transported Self to the jail, where she was booked.

That was the end of the police report narrative.


Self claims she was forced to remove all of her clothing and expose her private parts for viewing by “agents” of Logan County, a practice and procedure she states was utilized by the county jail, according to court papers.

The sheriff had authority as the final decision-maker for the jail to institute and condone such practices, that have occurred in a “systematic pattern,” making him liable, the lawsuit states.

Furthermore, the sheriff failed to adequately train, supervise and discipline including those who “acting under color of law and based upon past policy and custom, deprived Plaintiff of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, inflicting severe mental and physical anguish, humiliation and degradation, all to her detriment,” the lawsuit claims.

The conduct of personnel involved in the plaintiff’s detention and strip search was “intentional, malicious, willful, wanton and in reckless disregard of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and grossly negligent, in that this conduct shocks the conscience and is fundamentally offensive to a civilized society,” the lawsuit states.

Self seeks $250,000 for past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, past and future loss of enjoyment of life, and past and future loss of earnings, according to court papers. She also seeks compensation for costs, interest and attorney’s fees, and such other relief as deemed proper.

David Kirk, Guthrie’s attorney in the lawsuit, said he cannot comment on specifics because the case involves pending litigation. Kirk said he has represented the city in several similar cases in the past and the city usually wins. He said he expects Guthrie to prevail in this matter.

Chris Collins, an attorney for former Logan County Sheriff Randy Richardson, listed as a defendant in the original complaint, declined comment because the case involves pending litigation.

In February, an uncontested motion to substitute party was filed on behalf of Richardson, who left office before the lawsuit was filed.

Court Responses

In court proceedings, Guthrie admits the plaintiff was arrested on a traffic complaint and taken to the county jail, but stated that it lacks sufficient information to either admit or deny any allegation regarding what happened to the plaintiff after she was taken to the jail.

Guthrie denies there was a “false arrest, and that the plaintiff was “subjected to a strip search.” The city denies the allegations stemming from the alleged strip search, and denies that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief she is seeking.

Also in court proceedings, the sheriff denies the allegations listed in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff failed to state a claim against the sheriff in his official capacity for any applicable constitutional violation or remedies, and failed to state a claim under the Fourth, Fifth or 14th amendments, the sheriff’s response states.

The sheriff denied allegations of a “pattern of persistent practices known to and approved by the sheriff, in his official capacity, that would be unconstitutional,” according to court papers.

The sheriff “cannot be held liable for any constitutional violations resulting from the acts of its agents, servants or employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.”

The sheriff also states there was probable cause for the plaintiff’s arrest, and that any search was based on a legitimate penal and/or safety and security purpose. Furthermore, the sheriff is exempt from liability under state tort claims law, the sheriff states.

Officer John Newman Charged with Indecent Exposure

A Vanderbilt University police officer has been charged with indecent exposure.

A grand jury in Williamson County indicted John B. Newman, 38, last week.

Newman, who lives on Cavalry Drive in Franklin, is accused of exposing himself to a female while driving on Interstate 65 in Brentwood.

Court records state Newman exposed his genitals to Kacie F. Dunavan on Dec. 17. Dunavan took note of the license plate number on Newman’s vehicle and filed a report with the Brentwood Police Department, according to Capt. Jeff Hughes.

Newman, who holds the rank of commander, was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 15, according to a Vanderbilt University spokeswoman.

“That’s when we were informed about him being under investigation,” said Elizabeth Latt, spokeswoman for the university.

Newman was booked into the Williamson County jail on Friday and released 45 minutes later after posting a $1,000 bond. He is set to appear before a judge for arraignment on March 30.

Newman has been a Vanderbilt police officer since June 24, 2002, according to Latt. He is considered a senior officer. Newman was once reprimanded for getting into a verbal altercation with another officer.

Officer Thomas Crawford Arrested for Drunk Driving


A Steubenville police officer was arrested on a drunken driving charge this weekend, police said.

According to police reports, Officer Thomas Crawford was off-duty when he ran a red light and crashed into another car at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Estelle Avenue.

Police Chief Bill McCafferty said the city placed Crawford on administrative suspension without pay pending the outcome of the judicial case.

Former Officer Hughes Facing Incest & Child Porn Charges

A former Elko police captain facing incest and child pornography charges has been released from jail after a judge reduced his bail.

Court records show Elko District Judge Andrew Puccinelli last week lowered bail for Aaron Hughes from $500,000 to $200,000.

The Elko Daily Free Press reports Hughes posted bail on Friday and was released from a Lander County jail where he was being held.

Under the judge's order, he cannot contact any witnesses in the case or leave Elko County and must live with family.

Hughes was charged in December after police searched his home while investigating unrelated grand larceny charges and seized a computer allegedly containing videos of him engaging in sex with an underage, blood relative.


Information from: Elko Daily Free Press,

Deputy Alberta Gilbert Accused of Trying to Intimidate Victim


Orange County Deputy Alberta Gilbert is the subject of an Internal Investigation. She is accused of trying to intimidate a victim in a case against her ex-husband.

Deputy Gilbert’s still lives with her ex-husband, James Gilbert. He is a former State Trooper who was fired last year, after Eyewitness News first exposed the serious allegations against him.

James Gilbert is accused of sending more than 600 text messages to a high school student. Many of them were sexually explicit. He was eventually arrested for soliciting a minor.

Now a month before James Gilbert’s trial, an internal investigation is underway at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, involving Deputy Alberta Gilbert.

The mother of the girl who received all of those inappropriate text messages claimed Deputy Gilbert walked into the Turkey Lake Service Plaza, where the woman works, and tried to intimidate her.

The mother said Deputy Gilbert, while in uniform, called her names and hovered over her while rubbing her sheriff’s office handgun.

We tried to get Gilbert’s side of the story, but no one answered at her house. Now, the Sheriff’s Office is trying to determine if she violated policy.

Gilbert is a DUI and motorcycle Deputy. She’s been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1993. She is still on the job, while the Sheriff’s Office completes its investigation.

Her ex-husband’s trial is scheduled to begin on April 27th.