Thursday, May 14, 2009

Defense Begins for Officers Accused of Causing the Death of Shawn Pirolozzi


Lawyers for the city of Canton began Thursday building a defense for the four police officers accused of beating Shawn Pirolozzi and causing his death.

Lawyers representing Pirolozzi’s estate in a trial in U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin’s court rested their case Thursday morning.

After grilling two of the police officers accused of beating Pirolozzi during an arrest on June 13, 2005, lawyer Geoffrey N. Fieger closed his case by calling Pirolozzi’s 9-year-old daughter, Shawntaa Pugh. Fieger had two questions.

“Who’s your father?”

“Shawn,” the little girl answered.

“Do you miss your daddy?” Fieger asked.

“Yes,” Shawntaa said.

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Officer Ronald Robert Sweeten Jr. Charged with Obtaining Merchandise by False Pretense

A Bartlesville police officer currently on administrative leave was arraigned Wednesday on charges of obtaining merchandise by false pretense.

Ronald Robert Sweeten Jr. was arraigned in Nowata County on charges stemming from an incident alleged to have occurred in 2007.

According to District Attorney Rick Esser, the state asked for a $5,000 bond but Special Judge Carl Gibson released Sweeten on his own recognizance.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed by the Okahoma State Bureau of Investigation, authorities contend that Sweeten used his position at the Bartlesville Police Department to transfer a valuable Colt M-16 rifle owned by the BPD to himself for $500 by going through a Nowata gun dealer.

Authorities say the real value of the weapon has been estimated at between $8,000 and $14,000. They contend that Sweeten did this by undervaluing the cost of other weapons sold in the deal.

According to the report, Sweeten had been in contact with Nowata Firearms, a Class lll firearms dealer. The classification allows the dealer to buy and sell fully automatic weapons.

Officer Tom Webster Placed on Administrative Leave

A second member of Gaylord’s Police Department has been placed on paid administrative leave.

On the recommendation of the City Attorney, council members Wednesday voted unanimously to place officer Tom Webster on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave. That action came a week after Gaylord’s City Council approved placing Gaylord Police Chief Dale Roiger on paid administrative leave.

Two weeks ago, criminal charges were filed against Roiger for allegedly planting a “bug” in the Chamber of Commerce office nearly two years ago. According to the criminal complaint, officer Webster initially denied any involvement with the planting of the digital recording device. He later said Roiger told him to plant the device in the chamber office, according to the complaint.

There have been no charges filed against Webster. Council members were initially going to consider probation terms for the officer last week. But, City Attorney Donald Lannoye recommended that before the City makes a decision, an internal investigation should be conducted.

It is Lannoye’s belief that the City does not have all the information in this case. He believes the most responsible way to handle the situation is to get all the information possible, then determine an appropriate solution.

Lannoye also recommended that Webster be placed on leave during the internal investigation. Because the allegations question Webster’s honesty, the officer could be a liability to the City at this time, Lannoye explained.

It is expected to take 2-4 weeks to complete an investigation. Because of a conflict of interest, the investigation will not be conducted by Sibley County officials. There will be no cost to the City for the investigation, Lannoye explained.

Charges against Chief Roiger in this case include illegal interception of communications and misconduct of a public officer or employee. Roiger made his first court appearance last month. A probable cause hearing has been set for Monday, June 8th.

Officer Michael Roberts Pleads Guilty to Giving Gang Members Information

A surprise guilty plea came Thursday late in the corruption trial of a Minneapolis police officer accused of giving a gang member information about a rival in exchange for cash.

Michael D. Roberts, 59, stifled sobs as he admitted in federal court to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer and three counts of filing false tax returns as part of a plea agreement.

According to the agreement, Roberts met with a gang member on two occasions in August 2007 and gave him information about a member of a rival gang in exchange for $200. In one instance, Roberts used a police computer to get the information.

The gang member, Taylor Trump, was also an FBI informant and was secretly videotaping the meetings. Trump, who had been caught dealing drugs, told the FBI five officers were taking cash for information, but Roberts was the only officer indicted.

Attorneys for Roberts, a 27-year veteran of the department, argued that Trump and his handlers entrapped Roberts into the wrongdoing.

The defense called several witnesses, and the case had been expected to go to the jury Thursday until the judge met with attorneys behind closed doors.

Defense attorney F. Clayton Tyler said Roberts decided to plead guilty to avoid putting his family through any additional stress

The plea agreement says Roberts can't appeal his sentence if he receives 16 months in prison or less. Tyler said he hopes Judge Richard Kyle will be lenient. A sentencing date has not been set.

The filing false tax returns counts are for Roberts' admitting to working off-duty security jobs and not paying taxes for income he received.

California Officer Investigated after Kicking Suspect on Video

A high-speed police chase through suburban Los Angeles County on Wednesday ended with a foot pursuit and a police officer kicking a suspect in the head after he gave up and lay face down on the ground.

A KNBC-TV helicopter showed the driver speeding the wrong way down a street in an eastern area of the county. He then crashed into an oncoming vehicle, got out of the car and ran into a residential backyard.

Surrounded by high garden walls and apparently realizing he had nowhere to go, the suspect got face down on the grass with his arms outstretched.

Moments later, an officer from the El Monte Police Department ran up to the suspect and delivered what appeared to be one sharp kick to the head or neck.

The officer was soon joined by three colleagues and a police dog and could be seen giving a high-five to one officer and slapping another on the back. It was not clear whether those officers had seen the kick.

El Monte police Chief Tom Armstrong said he had not yet seen the video and could not comment.

"Before coming to any conclusion, I want to look at all the facts," Armstrong said. "I don't know what was in the mind of the officer."

The foot pursuit followed a high-speed car chase that lasted more than 30 minutes and saw the suspect lead a chaotic drive through El Monte, Whittier and other parts of eastern Los Angeles County.

The car sped through several intersections without stopping and at one point drove along a short stretch of sidewalk when it was hemmed in at a junction.

The chase started in El Monte around 1:30 p.m. after the driver failed to stop for an officer, police Lt. Chuck Carlson said. The sedan drove away at speeds of up to 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The car had two passengers, Carlson said. One was detained after leaping out when the car stopped in traffic, and the other was arrested after the crash, he said.

No one was seriously injured, Carlson said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, had not seen the video and did not know if her office would conduct an independent review.

Animal Control Officr Roy Hamilton Charged with Animal Cruelty

Forrest City’s chief animal control officer has been charged with animal cruelty, but it’s hard to find someone who wants to talk about it on the record.

One exception is the mayor, who said the subject may be brought up at Tuesday’s city council meeting, and that “appropriate action” will be taken.

According to a report from the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department, Roy Hamilton, 24, of 121 Early Cove, was arrested at 8:20 a.m., Wednesday and charged, according to the report, with cruelty to animals and impounding animals.

The alleged offense occurred April 4. However, there are several affidavits which allege that Hancock was not properly caring for dogs in the city’s humane shelter, dating back to Jan. 12.

The accusations are that Hamilton was not providing food or water for extended lengths of time to animals at the shelter.

The charges were brought by members of the Forrest City Area Humane Society.

One member whose name appears in the accusations, Gayden Schwartz, said she felt that she should not comment on the charges. Attempts to contact Kim Hudspeth, also with the FCAHS, were unsuccessful.

Contacted this morning, Hamilton said he had no comment on the charges.

Also contacted this morning, Mayor Gordon McCoy seemed angered by the charges.

“It’s crazy, man,” he said. “It has gone too far, that’s all I can say. I’m fixing to take appropriate action and do what I need to do. That is the bottom line.”

He declined to say what he meant by appropriate action.

“I won’t say right now,” said McCoy. “I’d rather not comment on that. I have to wait until I finish meeting with legal counsel. But I want everyone to know that we are firmly supporting Mr. Hamilton, with any means we possess. He is a city employee and he represents us.”

As far as any other comments, McCoy said, “I’m just going to wait. I certainly intend to discuss it Tuesday night.”

The charges against Hamilton make up the latest chapter in the on-going dispute between the city and the Humane Society.

Last October, Brook Goodbar resigned as animal control director, and there was some concern that animals at the shelter might be euthanized. In November, McCoy announced that Hamilton had been hired to head up animal control.

In January of this year, following a dispute at the humane shelter over the care of animals, McCoy recommended that the city and the Humane Society make a complete break.

“Sometimes you’ve got to realize when some things are working or not working,” McCoy said at the time. “Recently we’ve had a lot of discussion between Forrest City Animal Control and the Humane Society…This is part of my job, but not all of it. I owe Forrest City more than that. I wasn’t elected to spend all this time with animal control,” he said.

No council action has been taken on the matter.

Former Sheriff Buck Causey Arrested for Domestic Battery


A former Barton County sheriff turned himself in to authorities last week in Rogers, Ark., where he was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery and violating an order of protection.

Buck Causey, 61, was arrested last Thursday at the Rogers, Ark., Police Department on the charges and was booked in to the Benton County Jail in Arkansas. He did not have to pay a fine for his release, a jail officer said.

The Rogers Police Department had issued two warrants for Causey's arrest; the battery reportedly occurred April 4, while the violation of the protection order occurred April 20, Rogers Police Corp. Angel Murphy-Pearce confirmed.

Murphy-Pearce said Causey faces a "level three" battery charge, or a charge of the least severity signifying no serious bodily injury was involved. She could not reveal who filed the order of protection, or a protection-from-abuse order, against Causey.

Causey reported both a Rogers, Ark., address and a Great Bend address, according to the arrest report, Murphy-Pearce said. No place of employment was listed.

He is scheduled to make a court appearance June 2 in Rogers, Ark., District Court for arraignment.

This is not the first time domestic violence allegations have surfaced against Causey.

Barton County sheriff's deputies responding to a 911 call in June 2008 were dispatched to Causey's Great Bend home, after family members of Causey's wife, Linda Causey, called to report concern for her welfare after an alleged domestic violence incident. No arrest was made, however, and no charges were filed.

Although Buck Causey had filed a divorce petition in Reno County against his wife last June, he told The News in July 2008 the petition was "on hold." His attorney, Dan Forker of Hutchinson, had indicated the couple was trying to work things out.

Last month, Causey filed another divorce petition - this time in Barton County - requesting a divorce from his wife of nearly 35 years, citing incompatibility, according to the Great Bend Tribune.

Linda Causey filed a response last week, agreeing to the divorce, the Tribune reported.

Attempts by The News to reach both Buck and Linda Causey were unsuccessful.

Buck Causey previously indicated to The News last summer that he filed the first divorce petition in Reno County to avoid publicity.

Last November, Causey was defeated by Independent candidate Greg Armstrong in a hotly contested race for the sheriff's position. While Causey was initially unopposed in the race, Armstrong decided to run after the official filing deadline after reports had surfaced of alleged domestic violence in the Causey home.

Armstrong mounted a successful petition drive, garnering 650 signatures for a spot on the ballot, and then defeated Causey in the election 5,793 to 4,857 votes, or by 936 votes.

Cops High-Five Each Other After Kicking Man

NBC Chicago highlights a nasty piece of police brutality that was caught on tape in El Monte, California. After leading police on a high-speed chase, a suspect flees on foot but quickly realizes he can't escape and lies on the ground with his hands and legs spread awaiting arrest. A cop runs over and promptly, and viciously, kicks him in the face. As NBC Chicago notes, the police added insult to injury by high-fiving each other after the incident. More details can be found here.
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Officer Robert Cirello Accused of Throwing Tobacco Juice At Two Motorists

The Baltimore police officer who was arrested in connection with a traffic altercation in Bel Air last week is accused of throwing a cup of tobacco juice at two motorists and flashing his Glock handgun at them, according to arrest documents on file with the Harford County District Court.

Robert G. Cirello, a decorated seven-year veteran of the force and a member of its SWAT team, was off duty when he turned right into a northbound lane of Emmorton Road about 12:30 p.m. May 8. The driver of second car, who felt he cut them off, honked at Cirello, according to police documents.

Cirello, 30, of Abingdon, then stopped his sport utility vehicle, and as the second car slowed down and attempted to pass, Cirello tossed a cup of tobacco juice through its open windows, striking the driver and another occupant, they told police. The men allege that Cirello pointed a black handgun at them before driving away, court documents said.

When state police later stopped Cirello's vehicle near Routes 24 and 1, they noticed a black .40-caliber Glock pistol protruding from his waistband and arrested him without incident. Cirello, who is licensed to carry a weapon, admitted throwing the tobacco juice but denied pointing the handgun, documents say.

City officer accused of road rage Cirello, a New Jersey native and former paramedic who responded to the scene of the collapsed Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, won a departmental commendation and was invited to the Maryland governor's mansion after being shot in the line of duty in Patterson Park in September 2006. He served in the Southeast District of the Baltimore force for five years.

Cirello, who did not respond to messages seeking comment, was charged with two counts each of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. He was released on $20,000 bond. A court date is scheduled for June 4. Cirello is suspended from the police force until the criminal and departmental investigations are complete.

"The commissioner takes these kinds of matters extremely seriously," said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Police. "The department is committed to seeing how the legal process plays itself out, of course, but behavior of the kind alleged will not be tolerated."

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Former Deputy Aaron Hundersmarck Accused of Sexually Molesting Teen

A former Canyon County Sheriff's deputy is accused of sexually abusing a teen girl.

John Bujak, Canyon County prosecutor, says Aaron Hundersmarck of Nampa sexually molested a 16-year-old. He's charged with two counts of sexual battery with a 16 or 17-year-old.

According to court documents, the alleged abuse occurred in April when Hundersmarck went to the teen girl's house and expressed an interest in the girl. The mother of the teen apparently saw her daughter's hand on Hundersmarck's genitalia.

Documents later allege that Hundersmarck continued to touch the teen. He also is alleged to ask the teen's mother to have sexual relations with her daughter.

Prosecutors say Hundersmarck was a deputy with the Canyon County Jail from 2001 to 2003.

Former Officer Carl Beckman Receives 3-Year Sentence

He went from putting people behind bars to being behind bars himself.

Former Sylvania officer Carl Beckman received a 3-year sentence Thursday.

Beckman was one of the oldest officers in the Sylvania Police Department. The detective assigned to the case knew him for years, and was stunned. Why?

Because Beckman was the one who trained him.

"It's probably been one of my worst cases I've had to investigate when you have to investigate your own fellow officers," said Mike Yunker of the Sylvania Police Department.

Beckman worked court security at Sylvania Municipal Court by himself. For the last 13 years he embezzled money from the property room.

"In the past, he may have taken money out of the newer cases to pay for some of the older cases," said Yunker.

No one noticed that he stole the money seized in drug cases over time. The tally was nearly $30,000.

"We understand he is behind on some payments with some things. But he didn't live a lavish lifestyle," Yunker said. "Those in public trust have to uphold the law and do what they're sworn to do by their oath."

Now Beckman is left explaining himself to the judge after pleading guilty to theft in office.

"I want to apologize to the court and the citizens of Sylvania, the city I served for 36 years."

Beckman's attorney asked for probation, saying police officers in prison are a target to other inmates.

But the judge issued a three year sentence, showing that no one is above the law.

Officer Sarah Messier Placed on Administrative Leave

Richmond Police Officer Sarah Messier has been placed on administrative leave. No reason was given.

Messier thinks it may have to do with a call she placed to Chief William Miller. She claims she called Miller after hours to discuss a rumor she heard about her future with the department.

Messier filed a complaint with the town last year claiming she was passed up for a promotion given to someone who was less qualified for the job.