Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Former Officer Travis Rector Found Guilty of Assault

A district court judge found former Hendersonville Police Officer Travis Rector guilty of assault on a female Wednesday stemming from an altercation with his wife, Kelli.

Rector said he will appeal the conviction to Superior Court. Chief Herbert Blake said Rector is no longer a police officer, effective Wednesday.

During testimony, Rector said he had an argument with Kelli because “(I) wasn’t faithful to my wife.” The argument became heated and Rector said he attempted to leave the room.

Kelli threw a snack cake in his face, which made it difficult for him to breathe and caused him pain.

Rector said he pushed Kelli away but never hit her. Kelli stumbled backward and sat down against the wall, where she started to cry, Rector said.

“I told her I didn’t mean for her to get hit like that,” he added.

Rector tried to comfort her, but she told him to leave her alone and went into the bathroom. Kelli eventually left the apartment to go to her brother’s home, and Rector drove to his sister’s house in Transylvania County.

James Patterson, Kelli’s brother, said Kelli pulled into his driveway and got out of the car.

“She walked up, and I could tell she had been crying,” Patterson said.

He noticed that Kelli “had a black eye.” She was shaking and not coherent, he said.

Prosecuting Attorney David Norris showed Patterson a photo of Kelli taken after the incident. He was asked if the photo accurately represented Kelli’s injuries.

“To me, she looked worse than that,” Patterson said.

Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Ridgeway contacted Rector and met him at the apartment later in the evening. Rector jumped out of his truck and spoke with Ridgeway.

“He said ... ‘She came at me first. It was self-defense,’” Ridgeway said.

Rector showed Ridgeway where the confrontation took place. When asked to explain what happened in detail, Ridgeway said Rector stated, “She bruised easily.”

He said he saw no marks or injuries on Rector, but did see slight remnants of the snack cake on his shirt.

Rector was cooperative during the conversation and when he was placed under arrest, Ridgeway said. A magistrate allowed Rector to bond immediately after the arrest, waving the normal 48-hour period because of concerns of Rector’s safety in the jail.

Rector’s attorney, Trey Yelverton, said the prosecution’s witnesses had inconsistencies in their stories. He added that a jury would not convict Rector because his client was clearly acting in self-defense.

Judge Patricia Young sentenced Rector to 12 months supervised probation and ordered him to complete a 26-week domestic violence course. With the appeal, Rector has the right to a jury trial and will not serve Young’s sentence if he gets a new trial.

Rector and Kelli are supposedly back together. A court order had barred him from having contact with Kelli. The order was dropped at her consent.

Resource Officer Jason Casper Accused of Unwanted Sexual Contact


A Janesville teenager has accused Milton Police Department's school resource officer of "unwanted sexual contact," according to a Janesville Police Department incident report.

The report lists Jason W. Casper, 38, Milton, as the suspect. Casper works for Milton police in the Milton School District.

A Milton Police Department news release said Monday that a department employee who worked in the school district had been put on paid administrative leave as part of a criminal investigation. Casper is the department's sole school resource officer, according to the department's Web site.

Milton police, Janesville police, the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and the Rock County Sheriff's Office are investigating the case.

According to the incident report, an 18-year-old woman contacted Janesville police late Saturday night about unwanted sexual contact from Casper. The alleged contact took place between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, when the girl was 17, according to the report.

The alleged incident happened in Milton's jurisdiction, but Milton asked the Janesville Police Department to investigate, said Lt. Tim Hiers with the Janesville Police Department. He referred all questions to the Milton Police Department.

Milton police learned about the allegations Sunday, Chief Jerry Schuetz said.

Schuetz declined to comment on what kind of sexual contact the incident involved or what evidence has been collected. He did not say if there are other potential victims.

He hopes to release more information by the end of the week, he said.

Casper has been the department's school district liaison since about 2000, according to a 2004 Janesville Gazette story.


Detective Daniel Clayton Bell Arrested for Drunk Driving

An off-duty detective was drunk and texting on his cell phone when he crashed into a parked car in Hallam during the early morning hours of May 3, police said.

Daniel Clayton Bell, 35, of the first block of Buttonwood Lane, Hellam Township, was charged Wednesday with driving under the influence-general impairment, driving under the influence-highest rate of alcohol, accidents involving damage to unattended property and careless driving.

Just after 3 a.m., Hellam Township police were called to a crash in the 400 block of East Market Street, Hallam, where they found Bell's silver Jeep Cherokee overturned in the middle of road.

Bell's Jeep hit a parked vehicle so hard that it knocked off a passenger-side rear tire, according to court records.

Bell, a detective with the Columbia Borough Police Department in Lancaster County, left the scene and was found a few blocks away, according to court records. Police found Bell's wallet, identification, driver's license, police badge and .25-caliber handgun inside his wrecked car, court records state.

Bell was treated for cuts to his left arm and face and taken back to the crash scene.

He was arrested for drunken driving after police smelled alcohol on him and noted Bell's eyes were glassy and bloodshot, according to court records. Police also noted Bell had slurred speech.

Bell was taken to Memorial Hospital for a blood test, which determined Bell had a 0.184 percent blood-alcohol content - more than twice the limit at which a driver is considered drunk in Pennsylvania.

Bell told police he started drinking about 5 p.m. May 2 and drank with several friends in Lancaster, court records said.

During a ride back home to Hellam Township, Bell apologized several times and said his career as a police officer was over, according to police. Bell told police he hoped he could be a learning experience for younger police officers.

Bell admitted he was texting a message on his Blackberry when he struck the parked car, according to court records.

Bell is suspended with pay pending the outcome of the charges, according to a Columbia department spokesperson.

Bell could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Former Trooper Jonathan Williams Arrested for Indecent Behavior with Teen

A former state trooper arrested in April in Monroe on two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile has been booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on similar counts.

The 29 year-old Jonathan Dennis Williams, of West Monroe, was booked Monday on one count each of indecent behavior with a juvenile and pornography involving a juvenile.

An affidavit of probable cause says Williams received a lewd photo from a 16-year-old boy on Jan. 6 while attending the State Police academy in Baton Rouge. The affidavit said Williams sent a lewd photo to the juvenile two days later.

Williams was fired in April from his position as a probationary officer assigned to Troop F in Monroe.


Former Deputy Terrence Greenwald Charged with Sexual Crimes Against Children

A preliminary hearing will be held July 1 for the former Waukesha County sheriff's deputy charged with sexual crimes involving two children.

Terrence L. Greenwald, 55, of Summit made his initial appearance Wednesday in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

He was charged last month with seven counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of second-degree sexual assault, eight counts of child enticement and one count of causing a child ages 13 to 18 to view sexual activity. All the charges are felonies.

The alleged incidents occurred between July 1, 1997, and Sept. 1, 2008, according to court records.

Greenwald, who was a court bailiff, retired from the Sheriff's Department on Dec. 7, 2007.

Bail was set at $100,000 last month for Greenwald, who posted the cash last month.

His attorney, Jennifer Dorow, asked Commissioner Martin Binn on Wednesday to reduce bail to $50,000. Binn declined.

"The allegations are numerous. He is facing hundreds of years' imprisonment if convicted of all of these offenses. This court does not believe that the $100,000 cash bail previously set is unreasonable under the circumstances," Binn said.

Future court proceedings will be handled by Jefferson County Circuit Judge William F. Hue. He has been appointed to handle the case because Greenwald is a former Waukesha County deputy.

A special prosecutor, Robert Repischak, an assistant district attorney from Racine County, also has been appointed.

Former Officer Jamie Buford Receives 6-Year Sentence

A former South Bend Police officer will spend six years behind bars for selling stolen guns and drugs.

Back in February, former St. Joseph County Officers Andrew Taghon and Ryan Huston and former South Bend Officer Jamie Buford all pleaded guilty to wire fraud, drug, and weapons charges.

They took drugs, guns, and electronics from two trailers and sold them with the help of a convicted felon.

On Thursday, Buford was sentenced to six years behind bars.

Taghon was sentenced on Wednesday and will spend six and a half years behind bars.

Huston will learn his punishment for the crime in July.

Former Officer Daniel Griffin Arrested for Impersonating Officer

A former Kingston police officer fired in 2007 still acts like he’s a cop at times and his antics got him arrested for impersonating a police officer in Berks County, according to charges filed Wednesday.

Daniel Griffin, 45, was captured in downtown Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday morning on an arrest warrant from Fleetwood Borough police. The warrant claims he pulled a badge and identified himself as a cop when police pulled him over in a personal vehicle customized to look like an unmarked police car.

Kingston officials fired Griffin in 2007. He was later convicted for altering documents and forging a signature of his police chief to obtain a tactical shotgun manufactured only for police departments.

“If you remember, we arrested him. Nothing surprises me,” said Kingston police Chief Keith Keiper. “He kept saying he was a police officer after he was arrested.”

Griffin, of Swoyersville, is charged with impersonating a police officer and providing false information to law enforcement. Magisterial District Judge Michael Dotzel of Wilkes-Barre Township released Griffin on unsecured bail. Dotzel ordered Griffin to answer to the charges in Berks County within 10 days.

After his arraignment, Griffin spoke to reporters and called his arrest a “political issue” and retaliation by Kingston officials for filing a federal lawsuit against them after his arrest. He insisted he was never fired, but retired because of a disability. Griffin claims the charges in Berks County are “false” and said he “took no official action whatsoever.”

According to arrest papers:

Police on May 7 spotted a 2003 gray Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor that “appeared to be an unmarked police vehicle.” The car had a black front license plate that says “POLICE” and red “K-9” decals on the trunk. After clocking the vehicle traveling 60 mph in a 35 mph zone, police stopped the car.

Griffin immediately hopped out of the vehicle, waving a police badge. He ignore commands to return to his vehicle, approached the officers, identified himself as a Kingston cop, and flashed a gold Kingston police badge. He then handed over an expired state-issued police identification card.

Griffin said the car he was driving is his personal vehicle, but he uses it for police work. He said he’s retired, but still works as a K-9 officer and undercover detective.

Griffin was issued a warning for speeding. Police later contacted Keiper, who advised Griffin was terminated and was told not to associate himself with the department.

Police in Fleetwood did not say whether the badge Griffin flashed was authentic. Keiper on Wednesday said Griffin had relinquished his department-issued badge at the time he was fired.

In December 2008, Griffin filed a federal lawsuit against Kingston, its administrator, police chief and civil service commission, alleging the charges stemming from the gun purchase were “planned, conceived and plotted” with the intent of “ruining his reputation.” Police said Griffin bought the gun in 2003, but they weren’t tipped off to the purchase until May 2007 when Griffin submitted a reimbursement form to the municipality under the auspice of his uniform allowance.

Griffin, the department’s firearms instructor, claimed he purchased the gun for the department’s use. He has appealed his conviction and says his sentence of probation has been “stayed,” pending the appeal.
Other Information:

Encounter with 2 King County Deputies Leaves Man in Coma


Conflicting reports are emerging about when two King County Sheriff’s deputies identified themselves to a man who ran from them Sunday morning in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.

Christopher Harris, 29, is now on life support in a coma with severe head injuries after hitting his head on a wall as he was being arrested.

According to the Seattle Times, an attorney for Harris’ family says deputies Matthew Paul and Joseph Eshom both wore black uniforms and yelled at Harris from a half-block away in a darkened alley. Attorney Sim Osborn says one witness reported the deputies did not identify themselves as officers until Harris began running down the alley. Osborn said Harris eventually stopped running after realizing who was chasing him.

But other witnesses say they thought Paul and Eshom yelled “police” right away.

A King County sheriff’s spokesman, Sgt. John Urquhart, would not comment to the Times because the investigation is still ongoing.

The arrest happened outside the Cinerama Theater and there is surveillance video that reportedly gives a clear view of the arrest. Urquhart said the sheriff’s office plans to release the video after the initial investigation is completed.

Osborn said he hasn’t seen the video, but he says a witness told investigators that Harris held his hands up and then was blindsided.

"From what I understand, the video is fairly sickening,” Osborn told the Times.

Paul, 26, is the one who made the arrest. Urquhart says he is being placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard in cases like these. Eshom, 28, will be back on the job tonight. Both are assigned to the graveyard shift for Metro Transit police, which patrols bus routes and shelters.

On Sunday morning at about 1 a.m., the pair was on foot patrol when they responded to a stabbing at a convenience store. The sheriff’s office said someone identified Harris as a suspect, leading to the chase and arrest. Surveillance video from the convenience store shows Harris was not involved in the stabbing, but the deputies did not know that at the time.

It’s still not clear why Harris ran in the first place. Doctors can’t yet say if Harris will recover.

After the sheriff’s office investigation, Seattle police will conduct a review to confirm the findings. Harris’ family wants an independent investigation by the Washington State Patrol.

Even if they are cleared of criminal wrongdoing, Paul and Eshom could face disciplinary action by the department.

Officer Dina Hoffman Investigated for Perjury

A Montgomery County Police officer who is being investigated for criminal perjury remains on duty with no restrictions, police officials said Tuesday.

"We do treat these allegations seriously. We have to let this process take place," Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman, said.

Officer II Dina Hoffman testified in April that she arrested a Rockville man for driving under the influence behind the wheel of a parked car. A recording from a security camera showed the man was lying down in the back seat, with his feet out the open passenger side door, when she approached him.

The Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office referred the case to the Howard County State's Attorney's Office because county prosecutors might be questioned, said Seth Zucker, a spokesman for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

Howard County's State's Attorney's Office has been notified and is waiting to receive the case against Hoffman, its spokesman, Wayne Kirwan, said Tuesday.

Starks acknowledged that the department is concerned that Hoffman's testimony in other cases might be impugned as she continues on duty.

"In situations like that, there is always that concern," Starks said.

George Zaliev, 56, of Rockville, was arrested about 7:30 p.m. May 3, 2008, for DUI at the parking lot of Sarkissian Interiors at 8537 Atlas Drive in Gaithersburg. Police said a preliminary breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit.

At his Montgomery County District Court trial, Hoffman testified 11 times that she found Zaliev in the front driver's seat. She said she shook him awake and he was not cooperative in doing field sobriety tests.

Zaliev's attorney, Paul E. Mack of Columbia, used a laptop computer to show a video from a security camera at Sarkissian that recorded the arrest.

The footage shows Hoffman arrived and immediately walked up to Zaliev as he was lying in the back seat.

Hoffman, a three-year veteran, has not returned messages or requests for interviews.

After Judge Dennis A. McHugh viewed the tape, he ruled the arrest lacked probable cause. The judge found Zaliev not guilty.

"I've done enough of these that I know, without the video, it would have been my client's word against the officer's and I probably wouldn't have won," Mack said in an interview.

Mack contacted reporters after receiving a transcript of the trial.

By lying in the back seat of the car, Zaliev did nothing illegal and should not have been arrested, Mack said.

Zaliev, an upholsterer, was waiting in his friend's car for his friend to get off work and drive him home, Mack said.

In her testimony at the April 2 trial, Hoffman claimed she approached Zaliev on the left side of the car where he sat behind the wheel asleep. She described shaking his shoulder to wake him.

"He was just sitting in the front seat, kind of sitting there sleeping," Hoffman testified.

After the recording was played in the courtroom, Hoffman was asked whether she was wrong about Zaliev's position in the car.

"Yeah, I must have been," Hoffman testified. "My apologies. It's been over a year. I deal with a lot of these cases every day so my apologies."

But Hoffman then said Zaliev "must've admitted to me that he was driving the vehicle at some point."

If Zaliev had been convicted, he would have faced a maximum sentence of $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

"If it was determined there's perjury in this case, this is the kind of case that would undermine the authority of police and the perception of good officers out there doing their job," said Christopher Heffernan, chairman of the Maryland State Bar Association's litigation committee. "This would damage the police officers who are doing a good job out there to protect us. This is disturbing to everyone who looks up to the police and relies on them to protect us from the bad guys."

Emily White of the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office said the office did not know how many cases might have to be dropped or delayed because prosecution depends on Hoffman's testimony.

Hoffman has eight traffic cases pending and no criminal cases, Starks said. But Hoffman could be called as a witness in cases where she responded to a call from another officer.

Although allegations of perjury are not uncommon, it is very rare that such cases are ever brought to trial, and Heffernan said he could not remember any that involved police officers.

Asked whether Montgomery County Police had faced perjury allegations against an officer recently, Starks said he asked internal affairs to check through 2005 and found no cases.

Former Officer Jerry Bowens Declared Unfit to Stand Trial


A judge has declared a former New York City police officer accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend unfit to stand trial.

The lawyer for Jerry Bowens says state Supreme Court Judge Matthew D'Emic ruled last week that his client was unfit to stand trial in the March killing of Bowens' girlfriend Catherine D'Onofrio and wounding D'Onofrio's best friend, Melissa Simmons.

Defense attorney Wayne Bodden says the 43-year-old will enter a psychiatric facility.

Bowens has said in a statement that he was trying to kill himself when he accidentally shot his girlfriend in the head. Simmons suffered graze wounds.

Bowens will be treated and re-examined from time to time. It's possible he eventually will be declared fit to face the charges.

D'Onofrio's mother, Jane, expressed disappointment in the ruling.


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Officer Shawn Jenkins Faces Federal Robbery Charges

A veteran New York City police officer has been arrested on charges that he plotted to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars believed to be hidden in an apartment where a drug dealer once lived.

The officer, Shawn Jenkins, faces federal robbery charges.

Prosecutors said that Officer Jenkins was recorded by an informant talking about a scheme to subdue the current tenant of an Upper Manhattan apartment and retrieve $900,000 that was rumored to have been hidden under the floor.

Police officers and federal agents were waiting to arrest the officer on Tuesday night when, they said, he arrived there.

The tenant told the authorities that burglars have repeatedly been attracted to the home since a cocaine dealer who previously lived there was arrested.

Last year, someone ripped up the floorboards while the tenant was on vacation.

Jury Selection Begins for Officer Michael Recio

Jury selection begins Monday in the case of a Jackson police officer who was accused of civil rights violations along with late Mayor Frank Melton.

Michael Recio, the mayor's former bodyguard, and Melton were accused in the 2006 sledgehammer attack on a duplex Melton considered a crack house.

Melton died May 7, just days before the trial was to begin.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan said during a hearing Thursday that he needed to know if the case against Recio wouldn't go forward because 700 potential jurors have been contacted.

Prosecutor Mark Blumberg said plea negotiations came to a "grinding halt" and the government plans to move forward.

Prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges against Melton on Wednesday.