Saturday, September 19, 2009

Judge David Abruzzo Arrested for Drunk Driving

Judge David Abruzzo, of the Preble County Common Pleas Court, was arrested late Friday night, Sept. 18, on charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol and failure to yield to a public safety vehicle, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

The judge was given a citation directing him to answer to the charges in Eaton Municipal Court at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 21, the patrol said.

Abruzzo, 61, of Eaton, refused to take a breath test after he was stopped at 11:41 p.m. Friday along U.S. 127 just north of the Eaton city limits, the patrol said. He was alone in a 2007 GMC station wagon when he was stopped, the patrol said.

No other details were available on Saturday, patrol dispatcher Lisa Roberts said.

Michael Alexander Arrested for Grand Larceny

It's a case involving more than $4,000 missing from the Leflore County Sheriff's Department's evidence room that led to the arrest of office manager Michael Alexander.

LeFlore County Sheriff Bruce Curnutt said Alexander has worked under three previous sheriff's and has no previous disciplinary write-ups.

According to an arrest, affidavit the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation said Curnutt contacted their agency Tuesday to assist with the investigation.

In the affidavit, LeFlore County's Undersheriff Donnie Edwards reported going into the evidence room to obtain a gun in early September. He said during that visit he noticed a piece of paper lying on the floor that should have been in a safe.

When Edwards opened the safe, he told investigators that he noticed that a large manila envelope containing over $4,000 was missing.

Edwards said he and Alexander went into the evidence room and opened the safe in late July and that he had planned to do an inventory at a later date.

In the affidavit, Edwards said he "... believed that he was the only one with access to the evidence room."

According to the affidavit, on Sept. 15 a district attorney investigator and Edwards reviewed surveillance video that showed Alexander entering the evidence room on Aug. 24.

Investigators said when they questioned Alexander, he admitted to stealing the money-filled envelope.

In the affidavit, investigators said Alexander told them he "...was facing some hard financial times and was declaring bankruptcy." Alexander reported that he had a gambling issue and that he used the money to pay some bills and buy groceries.

Alexander was fired from his job and is currently sitting in the Sequoyah County Detention Center to avoid a conflict of interest.

Trial Set for Officer Michael Wooton Accused of Shooting Neighbor's Dog

A judge has ordered the case of an Essex police officer suspected of fatally shooting his neighbor's dog to go to trial.

Michael Wootton, 35, of Waterville allegedly shot Hooch, an 80-pound mixed-breed, after it attacked his dog, Yoda, a 20-pound pug, April 30, on Phyllis Lane in Waterville, according to court papers.

Wootton pleaded not guilty in May to committing cruelty to animals and two months later asked to have the charge dismissed. Judge Christina Reiss denied Wootton's motion to dismiss Sept. 3 in Vermont District Court in Hyde Park. Jury draw for his trial is scheduled for Nov. 2.

The Essex Police Department placed Wootton, a full-time officer, on administrative duties after the shooting.

Yoda allegedly ran on to Wootton's neighbors' property and got into a fight with their dog Hooch. Wootton said he feared Hooch would kill Yoda, and after failing with two other people to keep the dogs apart, went back to his house to get his handgun, according to court papers.

Hooch's owners, Ritchie and Rosemary Rogers, arrived home after their dog had been killed.

Although Hooch died on Wootton's lawn, Vermont State Police Cpl. Mark Lucas, who investigated the case, said he found the bullet, which apparently passed through the dog, on the Rogers' driveway, according to court papers.

One Vermont law prohibits the intentional killing of someone's pet without the owner's consent, while another law permits the killing of a pet if the animal attacks, and poses a reasonable threat of injuring, another pet.

The maximum penalty for committing cruelty to animals is a fine of $2,000, up to one year in prison or both.

Deputy Brandon Ward Accused of Police Brutality

A Maury County woman says she wants a sheriff’s deputy held accountable for an alleged case of police brutality against her son caught on another lawman’s camera.

“I want justice done for my son,” said Donna Rowland, mother of Andrew Johnson, 21, who lives in Hampshire.

Rowland said she received a voice message from her son who was arrested Sunday on a felony theft charge. According to the message, Johnson said he was punched in the face by a law enforcement officer after being taken into custody. According to sheriff’s department records, Deputy Brandon Ward was the arresting officer.

Spring Hill Police Chief John Smith said an officer in his department, Marcus Albright, was getting ready to go to work when Johnson, who appeared to be intoxicated, pulled up in his driveway. Smith said Albright detained Johnson and Ward was called out to the scene.

As Ward transferred Johnson into his squad car, Albright’s car camera taped an incident between Ward and Johnson, Smith said. Albright discovered it after reviewing the footage, which was then turned over to the sheriff’s department, Smith said.

Sheriff Enoch George confirmed Ward’s resignation this week. The officer had been on the force for about a year. George declined further comment on the case saying it had been turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The Daily Herald requested to interview Johnson, who remained in Maury County Jail Thursday in lieu of $10,000 bond on two counts each of aggravated burglary and theft of more than $1,000.

Initially, George approved an interview, then later said all interviews would have to be granted by District Attorney General Mike Bottoms.

When asked for permission to talk to the 21-year-old suspect, Bottoms denied the request saying it would be detrimental to the investigation.

“I can’t conduct an investigation on the front page of the newspaper,” Bottoms said.

The district attorney general also declined to discuss any other aspects of the case.

TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm confirmed an investigation had been launched Thursday, though she could not provide any details.

Rowland said she hasn’t been allowed to talk to her son since the alleged incident.

Before the incident, Rowland said Ward had stopped at her house the previous night to search for stolen property and was very disrespectful to her. She called the deputy “rude,” “hateful” and “way out-of-line.”

Rowland said she was told her son was not resisting Ward when he was allegedly punched in the face, though she said he was cussing at the officer.

“I can understand if he was fighting with him,” she said. “But this is ridiculous, and it’s illegal.”

The mother said she wants her son moved from Maury County Jail.

“He should be given protection. If one’s going to do it,” she said, referring to the alleged assault by the officer, “who’s to say another won’t?”

George said he has no plans to transfer Johnson from the jail.

Maury County Sheriff’s Detective Terry Dial said Johnson is believed to have stolen several firearms from two Maury County homes.

According to sheriff’s department records, Johnson is scheduled to appear 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in General Sessions Court.

Cpl David Nevitt Suspended for Lying

An assistant chief handed down a 15-day day suspension on Thursday to a Dallas police officer who wrongly said a man was carrying a bag containing drugs and guns. That man spent 10 months behind bars until a videotape later showed that he was not carrying the bag as the officer alleged.

At issue in the case was whether Senior Cpl. David Nevitt lied or was mistaken. Police investigators ultimately concluded that they could not prove that Nevitt had lied to make the August 2007 arrest of Thomas Hannon outside a north Dallas hotel. Instead, they found that he had failed to fully investigate the incident to the best of his ability.

"The way they went about this arrest was sloppy, and as the allegations alludes to it was not fully investigated," said Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson, who oversees the city's seven patrol stations. "Today, I held officer Nevitt accountable for his actions. His fifteen days will begin immediately."

Nevitt, who has denied any wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment. He can appeal the suspension.

"It's just unfair and certainly wasn't warranted," said Phil Burleson, an attorney representing Nevitt. "He in good faith attempted to make arrests based upon the information he had at the time."

At the time of Hannon's arrest, Nevitt was a member of a specialized unit whose cases continue to be the subject of an ongoing review by prosecutors. Hannon's arrest sparked the review after prosecutors concluded that he had been arrested on false charges. Felony charges involving arrests made by the unit have since been thrown out against two different men after two witnesses passed polygraph exams requested by prosecutors.

The official police report written by Senior Cpl. Jerry Dodd, now in the vice unit, gives the following account: Nevitt saw Hannon leave the hotel carrying a black leather bag. The officers said Hannon spotted them, dropped the bag and tried to evade them. Police found a loaded .357 Colt revolver and 2.6 grams of methamphetamine in the bag.

Hannon, who was wanted for failing to report to his parole officer, was caught and charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Dodd's report does not mention the existence of video footage, nor the arrest of other people, including the man who turned out to have been carrying the bag.

In March 2008, as the case neared trial, prosecutors say Nevitt told them that he had been sitting in an undercover vehicle when he saw Hannon leave the hotel holding the bag. They said he told them that he then went inside and watched surveillance video, but that the hotel lacked the technology to make a copy of it.

A defense attorney subsequently obtained a copy. It showed that another man had the bag. Prosecutors then dismissed the charges.

Nevitt told internal investigators that he never told prosecutors that he had actually seen Hannon with the bag. He also described the video footage that he reviewed as being small and of "poor quality," which apparently led to the misidentification. He said the maintenance worker told him that another employee could make a copy later.

That hotel employee, Jaime Maltos, told internal investigators that he showed the video footage to Nevitt and another heavy-set Dallas police officer. "I brought them back to the engineering office to go thru the videos, one by one I enlarged them so they could see it better," Maltos said.

He said he also said he gave Nevitt two copies a couple of days later. However, in a statement in Hannon's civil lawsuit, he said he was less sure, saying he couldn't recall whether it was Nevitt or another officer who retrieved the copies.

None of the officers who participated in Hannon's arrest have admitted picking up the video, internal records show.

The squad, which once numbered about seven officers, is now largely dismantled. The unit's supervisor, Sgt. Randy Sundquist was moved off the streets this spring after the DA's office released a letter stating that he shouldn't be trusted to testify in court. Two other officers, one of whom has since retired, also were involuntarily transferred out of the unit.

Scott Palmer, an attorney representing Hannon, called the Police Department's decision disappointing.

"How much false prosecution and perjury will it take before DPD fires an officer?" Palmer said. "But for the hotel engineer saving this video, this officer and all of the officers were prepared to testify falsely about the events, and Mr. Hannon would likely have ended up in prison for a long time."

Tribal Officer Anthony Hernandez Charged with Assault

A Yakama Tribal Police officer has been charged with assault after a domestic violence victim reported a robbery.

Toppenish police said the officer was arrested Friday after police investigated a complaint by a domestic violence victim being treated for a cut to the face at Toppenish Community Hospital.

The victim claimed the tribal officer forced his way into a home, struck the victim in the face and threatened to kill another person who was at the house before taking an undisclosed amount of money.

Anthony Jesse Hernandez Jr. was being held at the Yakima County Jail on charges of harassment, assault, kidnapping and robbery, deputies said.

Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Ralph Sampson Jr. told the Yakima Herald-Republic he was not aware of the incident but was making calls to find out more.


Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic,