Thursday, April 02, 2009

Judge Manuel Barraza Arrested for Soliciting Bribes & Sexual Favors from Defendants

After being in office for only a few months Manuel J. Barraza, a state district judge in El Paso, TX, has been arrested by the FBI for soliciting cash bribes and sexual favors from criminal defendants, including an undercover agent, in exchange for favorable treatment in his court:

In November 2008, voters elected him as the first judge of Criminal District Court No. 1, created to primarily handle felony drug cases. "I think since I've grown up here, I know the people," Barraza said during an interview before his election. "When someone goes to court, they shouldn't be afraid of the judge. They should feel like they should be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect."

Yesterday's arrest was not the first for Barraza:

Thursday's arrest was not Barraza's first time in handcuffs, or the first time he faced a misconduct charge. He was arrested in 1983 on charges of bribing a deputy probation officer. He allegedly gave the officer $30 to influence a case. That charge against Barraza was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The border town El Paso is just 2 miles from Juarez, Mexico -- ground zero in the cartel drug wars -- and federal agents are all over the place. Local judges assigned to felony drug cases along the border from Texas to California should be on notice that they are being watched, and any corruption better stop.

Barraza's "indictment and arrest are not related to the FBI's larger ongoing public corruption investigation in El Paso" according to an agency spokesperson.


Corporal Rex Jones Charged with Child Abuse

DeSoto Police arrested Dallas Police Sr. Corporal Rex Jones on a charge of child abuse.

DeSoto Police say Rex Nathaniel Jones, 41, beat his 13-year-old son with an extension cord, a belt and his fists.

Jones is a Senior Corporal in the Dallas Police Department. He lives in DeSoto, and police there arrested him this morning.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit for Jones, the incident happened in late February. It says the child was asleep in his bed at about 2:00 a.m. when Jones started hitting him with an extension cord. "The victim advised he was asleep on the couch late at night with the TV on, which angered his father," explained Lieutenant Mike Sullivan with the DeSoto Police Department.

The child told police Jones told him to go to the garage and stand still while Jones hit him across the buttocks with a belt.

The boy said he moved while getting hit. When he did, Jones allegedly grabbed him, pinned him to the floor, and started punching him with his fists. "While being pinned down, listed victim stated that the Defendant hit him about the chest, back, and head with the defendant's knuckles," said Sullivan.

The teenager said he broke free from his father and started to run. When he did, the affidavit says Jones struck his son in the face with the belt.

Jones then told his son that he would receive a beating every day for the rest of the week, according to the affidavit.

It goes on to say that when he got home from school at about 3:00 p.m. that same day, Jones met him in the living room, struck him several times with a belt and sent him to his room.

The boy reported the incident to a school counselor the next day; school officials alerted authorities.

The affidavit indicates that Jones has been called to his son's school several times in the past to deal with disciplinary issues involving the boy, and that Jones beat his son in response to some of those incidents.

The DeSoto Police Officer who wrote the affidavit said he photographed several bruises and marks on the son's body, including some that appear to have been made by a belt or extension cord.

Jones is in the DeSoto jail, charged with injury to a child - a third degree felony. A Dallas Police Department spokesman says Jones is assigned to the department's training academy. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.


Lawsuit Filed Against Officer Richard Fiorito

Chicago, IL

Four federal lawsuits were filed against a Chicago Police officer accused of targeting gay and lesbian drivers by falsifying DUI charges and other traffic violations, using excessive force and engaging in harassment of the arrested victims.

The suits also claim that Chicago police officer Richard Fiorito allegedly contrived the DUI charges against gays and lesbians to profit from overtime pay for court appearances and that other officers in Fiorito's district suspected the validity of the arrests.

Fiorito, 60, who is assigned to the 23rd District Town Hall police station at Addison and Halsted in the heart of "Boystown", was honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for making 313 DUI arrests in 2007 and early 2008.

The suits also claim that other officers in the district accused Fiorito of wanting more overtime, claiming it as the reason for Fiorito's issuance of numerous DUI tickets.

The suits ask for an undetermined amount of damages.

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, told CBS 2 Chicago, "This guy was operating in the heart of the gay entertainment district for years acting on his anti-gay animus and no one in an official [capacity] was calling him out on it."

No departmental action has currently been taken against Fiorito. Officials at the Independent Police Review Authority said complaints are under investigation

Three other people filed lawsuits earlier in February.


UPDATE: Officer Anthony Razo Arrested for Torching his BMW then Filing Insurance Claim

A Los Angeles police officer who said he was shot in an off-duty incident early this year lied to investigators about the attack and, weeks earlier, intentionally set fire to his own luxury sports car in a scheme to collect an insurance payment, according to charges filed by prosecutors late Wednesday.

Anthony Razo, who served 14 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before abruptly resigning Friday, was charged with five felony counts of insurance fraud and arson for allegedly torching his own BMW 745 on Jan. 4 and then filing an insurance claim.

He also faces a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report concerning a gunshot wound he said he suffered outside his City Terrace home Jan. 31. Razo said that two Latinos with shaved heads, whom he did not know, attacked him as he was leaving for an early morning golf game. During a struggle, Razo said, one of the men grabbed his department-issued handgun and shot him once in the shoulder.

Prosecutors and sheriff's officials declined to comment on the details of their investigation, leaving open the possibility that Razo shot himself or that he knows who shot him.

Razo, 49, refused to answer questions when he was reached at his home late last week by The Times. His attorney, Glen Jonas, refused to discuss details of the case, but acknowledged missteps by Razo.

"Mr. Razo is addressing personal problems while cooperating with the investigators to minimize any additional impact recent events will have on the department and the community," Jonas said. "While we understand some in the community may define him by recent events, we hope the numerous citizens, crime victims and fellow officers he helped . . . will remember him differently."

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators had already begun to suspect that Razo had burned his own car before the shooting occurred, law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation said. Those suspicions led homicide investigators to doubt Razo's version of the attack, the sources said.

In the hours immediately after the shooting, however, the Sheriff's Department nonetheless launched a massive manhunt for the alleged attackers. Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Sheriff Lee Baca rallied before a phalanx of TV cameras, vowing that the assailants would be captured. Within days, officers at the Hollenbeck Division station, where Razo was assigned, had raised more than $6,000 to help the wounded officer. Specialized LAPD officers guarded Razo's home around the clock.

Despite an intense investigation, sheriff's investigators found no leads supporting Razo's claims, drawing further suspicion on the officer, who had fallen deeply into debt before the car-burning incident, officials said.

In comments made shortly before the charges were filed, Sheriff's Lt. Duane Harris, who is leading the investigation, indicated that Razo had not confessed, saying he "has not told us anything that contradicts that initial report."

After weeks of rumors and hushed conversations about Razo in police stations, news of the charges brought expressions of anger and disappointment.

Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the department's rank-and-file officers, said the union was "deeply disturbed."

"We are naturally saddened and find it unsettling to learn that the incident . . . may not be the tragedy it was initially portrayed to be," Weber said.

UPDATED Information:
Other Information:

Officer David Yanvary Arrested for Shoplifting


An Edison police detective, a 22-year veteran of the force, has been charged with shoplifting from a township supermarket while working there as a security guard, police said Thursday.

David Yanvary, 54, was arrested Wednesday, about two weeks after ShopRite security officials say he stole $42 worth of items during an evening shift at the Route 1 store.

He was formally charged Wednesday at Edison police headquarters and released on his own recognizance, but has been suspended with pay, police said. Prior to the suspension, he had been assigned to the Edison Police Department Juvenile Unit.

Yanvary, whose yearly salary is $113,000, is accused of taking a candle, a DVD, cooking oil and honey while working at the store on March 17, police Lt. Joseph Shannon said. Shop Rite contacted police about the alleged incident, prompting an investigation by the department's Internal Affairs unit.

"Any allegation of illegal conduct by a police officer is a very serious matter,'' Chief Thomas Bryan said in a statement Thursday. He added that the investigation was continuing.

Yanvary's attorney, Timothy Smith, said his client was "overtly falsely accused'' by a "vindictive manager'' at ShopRite. He also said Yanvary has an "impeccable record'' during more than two decades as an officer and eight years as a township employee before that.

"We're relishing the opportunity to have the case adjudicated in court and have him fully vindicated,'' said the South Orange-based attorney, adding that he was "confident that he had all of the receipts'' for the merchandise.

Smith also said his client had filed for retirement before the charges came to light, and said he didn't believe there was a connection.

Township records show that Yanvary filed for a retirement that would be effective April 1.

Brian Collier, a former Drug Enforcement Agency special agent, was appointed police director a year ago after a series of embarrassing episodes involving several Edison police officers. The civilian post was proposed by first-term Mayor Jun Choi, who called for greater accountability in the force.

"Whenever a police officer is accused of a crime, it is a sad day for law enforcement and the community,'' Collier said in a statement to the Home News Tribune. "However, let me very clear, this will not stop our progress in bringing professionalism and accountability to this department."

Former Officer Collin Jacobson Charged with Stalking

A former Wisconsin Dells police officer who was sued in November for allegedly forcing two National Guardsmen to lick urine from the ground was charged Thursday with stalking his former girlfriend.

Collin H. Jacobson, 21, of Lake Delton, is free on a signature bond after appearing in Dane County Circuit Court on Thursday, where he was charged with stalking, false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery.

Jacobson was arrested on March 25 after going to the woman’s home in Sun Prairie a day earlier, purportedly to exchange belongings, but refused to leave and punched her in the arm, according to a criminal complaint.

Jacobson and another former officer, Wayne W. Thomas, 19, allegedly forced the guardsmen in June to lick what was assumed to be urine from the ground after accusing them of urinating in public. Thomas was fired immediately and Jacobson was suspended. A lawsuit against the officers and the city of Wisconsin Dells is pending in federal court.

According to the complaint:

Jacobson and the woman broke up in November, and he took a job with the Albuquerque, N.M., Police Department. He soon quit and returned to Wisconsin, then began contacting the woman’s family, her friends and her current boyfriend, she told police.

Jacobson would see her at parties and threaten to report her for underage drinking if she didn’t do what he wanted, she told police. He also appeared to be watching and following her, she said. When she threatened to call police, she said, he told her to go ahead, because he could talk them out of doing anything. In January police warned him to stop his stalking behavior.

On March 24, he called her at home and asked to exchange belongings, and she reluctantly let him in, she told police. But he refused to leave, and when she tried leave he blocked the door and held her against the wall by her throat. She tried to run for the door again later but he grabbed her from behind and held her to the floor, she told police.

Deputy Cody Fling-Davis Arrested for Misconduct


A Nassau County Sheriff's Office employee was arrested Friday after an investigation of official misconduct, according to Sheriff Tommy Seagraves.

In March 2009, personnel from the Nassau County Detention Facility told the sheriff's office narcotics unit that a confidential informant had provided information about contraband being smuggled into the detention facility.

According to the sheriff's office, the informant said during the introduction of illegal narcotics into the detention facility, Deputy Cody Wayne Fling-Davis was present and did not act appropriately. The informant also stated that Flint-Davis also personally distributed illicit photographs to the inmates.

Video surveillance revealed that Flint-Davis was in view of inmates as they placed a bag in a mop bucket so that contraband could be brought into the detention facility. The video also showed Flint-Davis watching inmates making hand-to-hand transactions and making no attempt to take enforcement actions.

A release from the sheriff's office states, "prior to a planned mock fire drill that Flint-Davis was aware of, Flint-Davis could be seen huddled up with an inmate having a private conversation as the pod was being evacuated as if he was warning the inmate of an impending 'shake down.'"

The sheriff stated that after an interview, Flint-Davis confessed to informing the inmates of the mock fire drill and that he distributed illicit photographs to the inmates.

Flint-Davis resigned from the sheriff's office during his interview with internal affairs.

He was arrested and booked into Nassau County Detention Facility on charges of official misconduct, disclose or use of confidential criminal justice information, failure to perform duty required by an officer and failure of person to discharge his or her duty.

Baltimore Officers Beat Teen then try to Cover it Up


Two Baltimore police officers beat a teenager with a baton and a pool stick while he was handcuffed and shackled, then tried to cover up the attack with their sergeant's help, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Officers Gregory Mussmacher and Guy Gerstel and Sgt. Wayne Thompson face charges of civil rights violations in a six-count indictment.

Gerstel and Thompson have retired. Mussmacher, 34, has been suspended with pay since the April 2004 incident, even though he was convicted in February 2005 of second-degree criminal assault, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Mussmacher remained under suspension because city police were cooperating with the FBI, which was investigating the beating, Guglielmi said. But Guglielmi could not explain why Mussmacher was not kicked off the force immediately after his conviction. Mussmacher received a suspended sentence and probation.

The alleged beating victim, Benjamin R. Rowland, filed a federal lawsuit against Mussmacher and Gerstel in 2007, seeking $6 million in damages. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Rowland is identified only as "B.R." in the indictment.

According to the indictment, Mussmacher hit Rowland in the face with a baton and Gerstel struck him in the back with a pool stick after he was arrested on April 27, 2004. Rowland was 17 years old at the time.

The indictment says Gerstel obstructed justice by lying under oath in a state proceeding about the presence of two other officers when Rowland was arrested. Gerstel is also accused of making false statements to the FBI about his role in the beating.

Thompson and Mussmacher submitted false police reports about Rowland's arrest and how he was injured, according to the indictment.

Before beating Rowland, Mussmacher removed the teen's handcuffs, set aside his badge and gun and offered to fight Rowland, the indictment says. The teen was never charged with a crime as a result of his arrest.

Gerstel faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all three charges against him; Mussmacher faces 15 years, and Thompson faces five years.

No attorneys had entered appearances on the officers' behalf Wednesday, and their initial court appearances had not yet been scheduled, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore.

Joseph E. Spicer, who represented Mussmacher in the lawsuit, declined to comment. Rowland's attorney in the lawsuit, Robert L. Smith Jr., did not immediately return a message.

Officer Michael Knutson Awarded $100,000


An arbitrator has ordered that a Sapulpa police officer fired for his contact with a 16-year-old girl be awarded $100,000 and be reinstated to the force.

Police Officer Michael Knutson's employment was terminated in 2006 and he was later charged with three felony counts of sexual battery on his teenage co-worker at a local pizza restaurant.

All three counts were dismissed in April 2008, due to "lack of prosecutable evidence."

According to documents, arbitrator Ed Bankston determined the police department gave the girl wire listening equipment and a cell phone, and told her to use the phone to contact Knutson.

Bankston said the city had no cause for disciplinary action, much less criminal charges, and engaged in a raw abuse of power.

A telephone message left for Sapulpa Police Chief Jim Wall was not immediately returned.

Knutson told the Sapulpa Daily Herald he couldn't comment because of the ongoing litigation.

No Bail for Officer Alhinde Weems Arrested for Selling Drugs

Some startling information has surfaced in a bail hearing for a Philadelphia police officer accused of selling drugs and planning violent robberies.

Officer Alhinde Weems, arrested last week, has been ordered held without bail until his trial, based on some stunning allegations revealed during Thursday's hearing.

Federal prosecutors say Weems is a drug-dealing robber armed with a gun, a police badge, and a uniform, and willing to use all of them to carry out his crimes.

According to authorities, Weems was caught on audio tape and videotape making illegal transactions and planning to force his way into the home of a drug distributor, and confessed when he was arrested.

FBI agent John Dolan testified that Weems sold cocaine to a cooperating informant, transported what he thought was a kilogram of cocaine from one undercover agent to another, and plotted with an undercover agent the armed home-invasion robbery of another supposed supplier.

And Dolan recounted some of the specifics caught on tape:

"He provided possible plans as to how to commit the act, including possibly 'badging' his way into the home. He said he would wear his body armor. He also would provide guns with silencers."

Many of Weems' family members were in the courtroom for his bail hearing to support him. But the judge found probable cause and ruled that Weems is a potential danger to the community, so he will be held without bail pending his trial.

Weems' defense attorneys have suggested that their client was coaxed into some of the illegal activities, and attorney Charles Peruto Jr. says Weems will fight the charges against him in court.

Judge Manuel Barraza Arrested for Asking for Sex from Defendants

EL PASO, Texas

A state judge accused of taking money and asking for sex from defendants in exchange for help on felony cases in his El Paso court made his first federal court appearance Thursday.

Manuel J. Barraza, 53, did not enter a plea during the brief afternoon hearing. He is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

Outside the federal courthouse, he told reporters that he had faith in the justice system.

He was released after posting $10,000 bail.

The FBI arrested Barraza, who was elected in November and took the bench in January, at his house Thursday morning. He was indicted on four counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to a federal agent.

The 10-page indictment alleges Barraza took cash bribes and asked for sex from defendants, including an undercover FBI agent, in exchange for his help in felony cases.


John J Meier Jr Dies After Being Tasered by Broward Deputies

A Parkland man who was Tasered on Tuesday during a scuffle with Broward sheriff's deputies in front of the Sawgrass Infiniti car dealership in Tamarac has died in the hospital, according to authorities.

The man, identified as John J. Meier Jr., 48, had been running in and out of traffic on West Commercial Boulevard while wearing only a pair of shorts. He was violently resisting arrest when he was Tasered, according to BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal.

Meier, who authorities suspected was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, died in the hospital about five or six hours later, Leljedal said.

Deputies first encountered Meier about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday after he began undressing and running through traffic in the 10500 block of West Commercial Boulevard.

The first deputy to arrive tried to lead Meier away from the road, but he began fighting the deputy and continued to struggle when two backup deputies arrived, Leljedal said.

During the struggle, one of the deputies drew a Taser and pressed it directly to Meier's body, taking him to the ground, where he was handcuffed.

Leljedal could not say how many times Meier was Tasered or how long he was hit with the stun gun.

Paramedics took him to University Hospital, where he was treated for several hours before being pronounced dead at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Meier's vehicle, a 2007 Dodge pickup truck, was found at a Shell gas station at Hiatus Road and Commercial Boulevard, not far from the site where deputies subdued him.

Leljedal said the deputy was justified in using the Taser, given Meier's extreme behavior.

''One deputy tried to get him out of traffic and off the road, but he fought him,'' Leljedal said. ``At that point, he had to find some sort of tool to manage him, and the most appropriate tool was the Taser.''

The stun gun -- commonly referred to as a Taser -- has been controversial since law enforcement began heavily using the device as a less-lethal weapon several years ago.

Police say there is no better weapon for quashing a tense situation without causing serious harm. Critics, such as Amnesty International, say it is too commonly used and has not been subjected to enough research.

An Amnesty International report released last December listed Broward County as one of the counties in the country where the most Taser-related deaths had occurred between 2001 and 2008.

Tuesday's incident, the third death of a Taser victim in BSO custody since the agency instituted the weapon, may have been fueled by drugs, Leljedal said.

An investigator with the Broward Medical Examiner's Office declined to discuss an autopsy performed Wednesday.

Leljedal said the autopsy showed no trauma or injuries other than minor scratches and Taser marks on Meier's right side.

His death appears to have been caused by cocaine toxicity or excited delirium, though a toxicology test has not been finalized, Leljedal said.

The death is under investigation by BSO homicide, crime scene and internal affairs detectives -- a standard policy, according to Leljedal. The deputy who Tasered Meier remains on active duty.

More information:

Deputy Charles Grady Resigns After Being Charged with Battery

A Broward sheriff's deputy has resigned after being charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery, and prosecutors said they are reviewing hundreds of cases in which he was involved.

The charges were filed on Monday against Deputy Charles E. Grady, 39, who has been with BSO for nearly 12 years. Arraignment is scheduled for May 13.

On Wednesday, Grady resigned, according to a statement from the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Court documents say that Grady touched or struck two different women on two different occasions, on Sept. 19 and Dec. 19.

Both incidents are alleged to have happened as part of traffic stops, according to BSO.

Ron Ishoy, spokesman for the state attorney's office, said a preliminary count showed Grady was involved in more than 200 cases. The office estimates that dozens of cases in which Grady was involved have already been changed or dropped.

"Since we were first notified of his suspension and then the criminal investigation against him, we have been reviewing each of those cases to determine their strengths and weaknesses with or without his testimony,'' Ishoy said in a statement.

The Broward Sheriff's Office also is conducting an internal affairs investigation.