Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Probation Officer Joseph Nicholas Gama Charged with Child Molestation

That's what Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman told jurors Tuesday before attorneys launched into their opening statements in the trial of a federal probation officer accused of molesting three children.

Joseph Nicholas Gama, 46, of Redding is charged with five counts of felony child molestation and three enhancements.

Deputy District Attorney Ben Hanna said that Gama is accused of molesting three young girls in two separate instances in the late 1990s or early 2000s and a third in the mid-2000s.

But, Hanna told jurors, they were not Gama's only victims. A fourth alleged victim was identified, but charges were not filed in that late 1980s case because the statute of limitations had expired. Hanna said that girl was about 13 when Gama befriended her, only to betray that trust.

"His crimes happened in secret, but now they are in the open," Hanna said after he described the alleged molestations in detail.

But Gama's defense attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, said his client is being unfairly railroaded, pure and simple.

One of the girls, he told jurors, said that she does not remember having been molested by Gama. The claims of a second girl were investigated in 2006 and dropped because of insufficient evidence, and the third girl suffers from a mental health condition that prevents her from giving or receiving affection, Berg said.

The fourth girl's story also is highly questionable because she has a history of making sexual molestation accusations, Berg said.

Berg said his client is above reproach, has long been a respected community member and was president of a youth soccer league. Gama is free in lieu of $350,000 bail.

Officer Jeffrey Robinson Admitts to Slashing Homeless Man's Bike Tires

A police officer for Tarpon Springs has resigned after admitting to slashing a homeless man's bicycle tires.

The police officer said today it was retaliation.

Surveillance video from back in February shows officer Jeffrey Robinson taking the bike out of a storage unit.

His superiors said today that he took a knife, cut the tires on the bicycle, and put it back into storage.

The bike belonged to a homeless man named John Bilawsky, who Robinson arrested eight days earlier.

"According to officer Robinson, while he was transporting Mr. Bilawsky, Mr Bilawsky made several racial slurs against the officer and the officer stated he was damaging the bicycle in retaliation for those racial slurs," said Lt. Barb Templeton, with the Tarpon Springs Police Department.

The Tarpon Springs police say they were investigating Robinson, but he resigned before the investigation was complete.

This was the first time the officer ever faced disciplinary action.

Officer Craig Swistowicz Charged with Violating Civil Rights

A Chicago police officer has been indicted for allegedly using "unreasonable force" on a suspect, causing him injury, court documents said.

Officer Craig Swistowicz, 38, was charged with "depriving another individual of his civil rights in violation" of federal law. The indictment said the officer struck the alleged victim.

A statement from the Milwaukee U.S. attorney's office -- the Chicago office withdrew from the case to avoid a conflict of interest -- gave few details of the case. However, Swistowicz, a 12-year veteran, was a member of the federal-local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force.

The alleged victim was identified in the indictment only as "J.P." and was said to have suffered an unspecified injury. Court documents did not identify the race of either the officer or the alleged victim.

The federal statement said since the arrested man allegedly suffered an injury from a blow by Swistowicz, if convicted the officer faces a fine of not more than $250,000, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.

Former Sheriff Richard McElhaney Arrested for DUI

Former Grainger County Sheriff Richard McElhaney was arrested on a DUI charge Monday by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

McElhaney, 55, is also charged with violating the implied consent law.

He was pulled over at 4:00 p.m. for weaving on Highway 11W west of Rutledge in the Joppa community as he drove a 1993 Chevrolet pick-up truck.

The Highway Patrol says McElhaney refused a breathalyzer test.

He was released from the Grainger County Jail on bond.