Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Officer Todd Prawdzik Sentenced to Probation for Assaulting Man

A Hyattsville police officer accused of assaulting an unarmed man who had done nothing to provoke the attack has been sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation.

Todd Prawdzik entered an Alford plea in Prince George's County District Court on Monday to a charge of second-degree assault. In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction.

Prawdzik's twin brother, Jeff, a Riverdale Park police officer, is also charged with second-degree assault in the incident. His attorney expects that the state will place the charge on the inactive docket.

Prosecutors say Todd Prawdzik asked Melty Castillo-Hernandez and another man whether they had somewhere to go and hit Castillo-Hernandez on the head with a metal baton when he asked if they were police officers.

Officer Christine Miller Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

A suburban St. Louis police officer has been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter-driving while intoxicated for a March accident that killed four people.

Charges were filed Tuesday against 41-year-old Christine Miller. She also was arrested Tuesday and unavailable for comment. It wasn't clear if she had an attorney.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said bond was set $200,000, but because Miller is still recovering from severe head injuries suffered in the accident his office agreed to home confinement.

The accident on March 21 killed four people from India, three of whom were graduate students at Eastern Illinois Universty in Charleston.

Miller also faces a fifth charge tied to a fifth victim who was badly injured. She was a veteran officer with the Sunset Hills police department.


Officer Geoffrey Presco Arrested for Stealing Cash from Evidence

Yuma police's officer of the year in 2008 has been arrested on suspicion of stealing more than $11,000 in cash from seized evidence to support an addition to prescription drugs.

Officer Geoffrey Michael Presco was arrested at the police station Monday on one count of theft and was placed on paid leave.

The arrest came following an investigation of missing evidence.

Presco was named Yuma's patrol officer of the year in 2008.

He is being held on a $55,000 bond.

Officer Marty Dulworth Arrested for Drunk Driving

An Anderson police officer who was reportedly riding his motorcycle down south Muncie streets at nearly 100 mph was arrested Saturday night for drunken driving.

Marty D. Dulworth, 32, Middletown was stopped near 29th Street and Macedonia Avenue by David Fidler, an Indiana State Police trooper.

Fidler reported smelling the odor of alcohol, and Dulworth admitted he had been drinking, but refused to take a field sobriety test, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Dulworth’s blood-alcohol content was later measured at 0.19 percent. In Indiana, motorists with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher are considered intoxicated.

Dulworth was preliminarily charged with driving while intoxicated, and taken to the Delaware County jail. Jail records indicate he was released just before 9 a.m. Sunday after posting a $2,500 bond.


More Information on Stephanie Lazarus Charged with 1986 Murder

Prosecutors today charged an LAPD detective with premeditated murder in connection with the fatal shooting two decades ago of her ex-boyfriend's wife.

Stephanie Lazarus, 49, could potentially face the death penalty because prosecutors alleged a special circumstance in the case: that she killed Sherri Rae Rasmussen, who was badly beaten and shot multiple times in her Van Nuys condominium on the evening of Feb. 24, 1986, during a burglary.

A decision by prosecutors to seek the death penalty would be made at a later date, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office.

The original homicide detectives assigned to the case did not focus on Lazarus, who was then a patrol officer who had been with the department more than two years. Instead, they pursued the theory that two men who had robbed another woman in the area at gunpoint had killed Rasmussen when she came upon them burglarizing her home, according to news reports from the time.

But detectives revisited the case in February, testing blood or saliva samples from the crime scene thought to have been from the killer. DNA tests showed that the attacker was a woman, disproving the theory that Rasmussen's killer was a man.

In a check of the case file, there was a reference to Lazarus, who had once dated the victim's husband, John Ruetten. Ruetten reportedly broke off the relationship and soon after became involved with Rasmussen, said sources familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Police sources said that Lazarus' DNA was recovered from discarded items by an undercover officer who had surreptitiously trailed her. The DNA in her saliva was compared with the DNA evidence collected from the crime scene. The genetic code in the samples matched conclusively, police said.

Lazarus, who is expected to be arraigned Tuesday, was last assigned to the LAPD's art theft detail.
Previous Post: http://whathappenedtoprotectandserve.blogspot.com/2009/06/detective-stephanie-lazarus-arrested.html

Officer Gary Pignato Found Guilty of Coercing Woman into Having Sex

Jurors came back at 5 p.m. Monday and found suspended Greece Police Officer Gary Pignato guilty of all charges. He was accused of using his police powers to coerce a woman into having sex, and was charged with coercion, accepting a bribe, and official misconduct.

While deliberating, the jury came back twice to have testimony read back. Boiled down, it was a case of who they believed - Officer Gary Pignato or the woman who says he exerted his influence for sex.

The woman testified that she had been drinking that night and agreed to the encounter in an effort to avoid a probation violation which could have sent her to jail. But in his closing arguments Monday morning, Pignato's attorney Scott Green, painted a much different picture of what happened the night of August 24 2008.

He told jurors Officer Pignato didn't know at the time that the woman was even on probation. He then proceeded to try to break down her credibility, portraying her as a woman motivated by greed and said, "she has repeatedly lied, misspoke and shaded the truth."

Green conceded Pignato's decision to have a sexual encounter with her was maybe not smart, but in the end said, "what we have here is a consensual act between two adults."

The DA's office clearly disagreed. William Gargan said, “What occurred between those two adults was not an instance of consenting adults deciding to make a decision to engage in sexual relations later."

In his summation, Gargan called the woman a vulnerable wreck - abusing drugs and alcohol, caring for a sick mother, while being thrown out by her boyfriend and he says Pignato knew it.

Replaying a taped phone conversation between the alleged victim and Pignato, Gargan noted a portion of the conversation where Pignato seemed surprised she even knew his name.

Pignato: (How did you) find out who I was anyways? You never asked me who I was.
Woman: Yes I did. I asked you what your name was.

Gargan continued, “So it gives you a hint of what transpired the night in August. This was an incident of several hours together, but names were not shared, and again, there was one that was sober and a police officer and one that was not."

The jury deliberated for more than four hours, returning twice requesting more information. Once to have some legal definitions read back and the other to have testimony read back.

The judge did warn them not to consider the fact that Pignato did not testify at this trial.

Despite the conviction, Officer Pignato's legal problems are not be behind him. He's charged with similar conduct involving a second woman who claims she was also coerced.

When sentenced, Pignato faces two and a third to seven years in prison.

For more Rochester, N.Y. news go to our website http://www.whec.com/.

Other information: http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--policeofficerconv0609jun09,0,1755889.story