Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sgt. David J Muehl Accused of Drunk Driving

An off-duty Milwaukee police supervisor had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the level that's evidence of intoxication when he was arrested over the weekend at Mitchell International Airport, according to information released by the Milwaukee County sheriff's office.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Brooks confirmed Tuesday that David J. Muehl, 42, a sergeant with 15 years of service, registered 0.37 on a breath test before he was taken to a hospital for a blood test to support a ticket issued by a deputy early Saturday accusing him of first offense operating while intoxicated.

A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 is considered legal evidence of intoxication.

Muehl has been placed on administrative duty pending an internal investigation, according to Milwaukee Police Department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz. He is assigned to the department's Neighborhood Task Force. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

According to the sheriff's office:

Another driver called 911 when a Honda CRV nearly struck another car while eastbound on W. Layton Ave. near S. 6th St. The caller said the Honda had made abrupt moves and was swerving from lane to lane.

The caller followed the vehicle to the airport and alerted a deputy to his suspicion of drunken driving.

At 6:12 a.m., the deputy found Muehl in the Honda parked along a departing flights lane at the airport. Brooks said the engine was still running.

Muehl rolled down his window and "displayed signs of intoxication - slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol, and he appeared to be confused," Brooks said.

The deputy had Muehl exit the vehicle, and he was unable to stand without assistance, according to Brooks, quoting a department report. Muehl told the deputy he was on his way to catch a flight.

After being taken to the hospital, Muehl was taken back to the sheriff's substation at the airport for booking and then released to a responsible party at 9:25 a.m.

A court hearing on the ticket is scheduled for April 29. If convicted, Muehl could pay a forfeiture of $796.50. Brooks said he was also issued a second ticket for having a prohibited alcohol content.

Officer Chris Bake Fired for Attacking Mentally Challenged Man

The chief of the Freeport Police Department says he fired the officer for attacking a mentally challenged man and pepper-spraying him.

The confrontation happened on March 9 at the intersection of Avenue I and Skinner. Somehow, Officer Chris Bake mistook a vehicle the mentally challenged man was riding in for a stolen one. In an effort to stop it, Bake rear-ended the SUV.

All four people inside were pulled out and told to sit on the curb. When mentally-challenged 65-year-old Albert Mendoza, who owns the vehicle, became frustrated and stood up, Officer Bake pepper-sprayed him and then gave him a knee to the face.

Most of the incident was captured on video from the police cruiser and it was enough to spark an investigation for excessive use of force.

"Once we did our administrative review of our use of force, we initiated the investigation," said Chief Jeff Pynes with the Freeport Police Department. "I contacted the caretaker of the victim and asked them to come in because I was concerned about what I saw and that time, I immediately removed him from the streets."

Bake's badge and weapon were confiscated last Friday. The case has now been referred to the Brazoria County district attorney's office for review.

As for Mendoza, he suffered a bruise to the eye and cuts to the back of the head. He and his family also relocated to nearby Clute.


Officer Billy Hurst Accused of Watching Porn While on Duty


A Clinton police officer accused of watching more than 23 hours of pornography while on duty has asked that disciplinary hearings be closed to keep confidential his allegations that others in the department also may have behaved inappropriately. Read full complaint (PDF) Read defense's motion (PDF)

Patrolman Billy Hurst faces a May 21 hearing before the Clinton Police and Fire Commission on charges that he violated department policy by using city-owned computers to watch adult pornography in his squad car.

According to documents obtained by The Pantagraph under a Freedom of Information Act request, Hurst allegedly viewed a total of 23 hours and 22 minutes of pornography during portions of 15 working days between Nov. 13 and Jan. 24.

The 15-year veteran of the Clinton department does not face criminal charges. He is paid $22.06 per hour for an annual salary of $45,892 and remains on duty pending the outcome of the police board hearings. He has declined to comment on the charges.

Shane Voyles, labor attorney with the Policemen’s Benevolent in Springfield, said Hurst will disprove the suggestion that Hurst’s conduct “is unusual or singular at the Clinton Police Department.”

When contacted by The Pantagraph Tuesday, Voyles declined to provide specifics about the statements contained in his motion.

City Police Commissioner Jerry Milton said he is not aware of any accusations involving other officers. “I’ve not heard any of that,” said Milton.

Two hearings have been closed to the media and public. Voyles suggested hearings remain closed “with all due haste, out of abundance of caution (if for no other reason.)”

City officials monitored computers starting in November after viruses were detected on city computers.

The time Hurst spent on alleged inappropriate activity ranged from three minutes on Nov. 13 to 217 minutes on Jan. 22, according to the complaint filed by the city.

Hurst violated nine departmental rules, including acting in a manner disrespectful of the law, violation of public trust and conduct unbecoming an officer, said the police documents.

The initial complaint, filed Jan. 30 by Chief Michael Reidy, recommended that Hurst be suspended for 30 days without pay. In an amended complaint filed Feb. 19, Reidy changed his recommendation to ask that Hurst be terminated if found guilty by the commission.

Potential witnesses against Hurst include DeWitt County State’s Attorney Richard Koritz, according to commission records. Koritz told city officials in February that he is concerned that Hurst’s alleged behavior may make him unsuitable as a witness in criminal cases.

The disciplinary action follows a 2003 action against Hurst for exposing himself at a local bar. He was given 15 days suspension without pay and reduced in rank from sergeant to patrolman.



Federal Judge Rules on Strip Search Case

Prisons cannot routinely strip search drunk drivers and other non-drug, non-violent arrestees without reason to think they are hiding contraband, a federal judge ruled in a potential class-action suit.

The ruling in Pennsylvania follows those in nine other federal circuits, although the 11th U.S. Circuit recently disagreed in a case involving a prison in Fulton County, Ga.

Senior U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois, though, rejected that court's reasoning and said in a 49-page opinion that plaintiffs strip searched at the Delaware County Prison can proceed with their suit against the Geo Group.

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, which operates dozens of prisons around the country, ran the nearly 1,900-bed Delaware County Prison until ending the contract last year.

Courts have typically noted the humiliation inherent in visual or bodily searches and rely on a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court case to balance the Fourth Amendment protection from search and seizure against a prison's need to maintain order.

Lead plaintiff Penny Allison was searched on each of 15 weekends she spent at the prison for a second drunken-driving offense, according to the suit, while plaintiff Zoran Hocevar was arrested and searched for missing a court date in a domestic dispute.

"Conducting strip searches on persons who are not arrested for offenses associated with contraband, have never been arrested on any such charges, and who are not carrying any contraband at the time of the arrest bears 'no ... discernible relationship to security needs,'" DuBois wrote, citing an earlier federal case.

More than a decade ago, a group of women protesting a pigeon shoot were arrested and strip-searched in the Schuylkill County jail. The led U.S. District Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen to write in 1993: "The feelings of humiliation and degradation associated with being forced to expose one's nude body to strangers for visual inspection is beyond dispute."

Civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky, who represents the plaintiffs, and lawyer Carolyn Short, representing the Geo Group, did not immediately return messages Tuesday.

In the 1979 "Bell" case, the Supreme Court upheld blanket strip searches following contact visits but said that inmates nonetheless maintain some Fourth Amendment rights.

Numerous class-action suits have followed, including a case in Camden, N.J., that was settled in 2007 for $7.5 million.

The Geo Group, previously known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., relied in part on the Fulton County ruling in asking DuBois to dismiss the case. The judge issued his ruling March 25.



Sgt. Jeffrey Garcia Arrested for Child Rape

An Alexander police officer has been arrested on rape charges.

Sergeant Jeffrey Garcia was taken into custody on Monday by the Benton Police Department.

His arrest followed an investigation in which three children claimed to have been sexually assaulted by him while in the city of Benton.

Saline County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Bush made the decision to have Garcia arrrested.

The Benton Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division is continuing the investigation and is not releasing any further information.

As a sergeant for the Alexander police department, people who live there say Jeffrey Garcia is someone they've counted on.

"Garcia's always the one you know, you call up if you need help, Garcia always the one showing up," Maria Beard of Alexander said.

Maria Beard is one of many in the small town of Alexander, shocked to learned garcia is now charged with rape.

"I never suspected anything. I always thought he was a nice guy,” Beard said.

"It was a shock, I never thought he would do something like that, he was a good guy. I don't know what happened, but it's wrong. If he did it, he's wrong for doing it," James Freeman of Alexander said.

The investigation started in Benton Monday morning, when three children claimed Garcia sexually assaulted them.

The Benton police department arrested him the same day.

"He was arrested and charged with rape. He was transported to the Saline County Jail and booked into jail," Lt. Mike Treasitti with the Benton Police Department said.

Benton police are not releasing the ages of the children accusing Garcia, but they do say they're both boys and girls.