Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Officer Jennifer Penney Arrested for Drunk Driving

The city's police chief said he is "shocked and saddened" by news that an Alton officer is facing a driving under the influence charge after her arrest last week in Foster Township.

"I've confined her to desk duty until she has her first court appearance," Chief David Hayes of the Alton Police Department said about Officer Jennifer Penney, 36, of Alton. "She is accountable for the choices she has made, and I don't expect treatment any different" from any other person.

"Otherwise, she is a good police officer who has a spotless service record," Hayes said.

Hayes also noted that Penney is "presumed innocent until proven guilty. She will be afforded all of the rights and privileges under a court of law."

Madison County Circuit Court records show Penney's court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Hayes said he ordered the detective division to conduct an independent, internal affairs investigation of the case.

Capt. Brad Wells of the Madison County Sheriff's Department said someone called authorities at 8:30 a.m. Friday to report a "suspicious vehicle occupied by a woman who appeared to be unconscious" in the 1200 block of West Woodfield Drive in the Woodfield subdivision.

The area is just west of Seminary Road and south of Seiler Road.

Wells said a dispatcher sent paramedics from the Fosterburg Fire Protection District to the location, where they found Penney inside a parked, 2005 Chevrolet pickup truck.

"When they arrived, it did not appear to be a medical problem," he said. "She appeared to be under the influence, and the police investigation started. Witnesses who had contact with her said the parked vehicle was running prior to us arriving. It was not running when we arrived."

Wells said the deputy "established enough probable cause" to charge Penney with driving under the influence. He declined to elaborate or say whether the deputy conducted field sobriety tests or whether Penney underwent a test to determine her blood-alcohol content.

The truck Penney was occupying is not owned by the city of Alton, Hayes said.

Penney worked as a jailer for the Police Department from January 2002 until the Alton Civil Service Commission hired her Nov. 18, 2006, as a probationary police officer.

Penney and her then-husband, David, were only the second married couple to both work as police officers at the Alton department. They since have divorced.

Jennifer Penney previously served in the U.S. Army Reserves' 318th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Jefferson Barracks in South St. Louis County, Mo.

Officer Edwing Morales Charged with Firearms Trafficking

A Metro police officer and four others have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of international firearms trafficking.

Federal investigators said Metro Officer Edwing Ronal Morales and the others were charged in a conspiracy to purchase guns to send to two separate drug cartels in Guatemala.

The indictment charges that Julio Cesar Rojas-Lopez recruited Donald Efren Franco, Denis Franco, Luis Armando Monterroso Pineda and Morales to purchase guns from gun dealers in Davidson County.

The men allegedly falsified documents claiming they were purchasing the guns for themselves when the guns were in fact being delivered to the cartels in Guatemala.

Investigators said the defendants purchased 23 firearms and attempted to purchase five more guns, ammunition and falsely stated who the purchasers and recipients would be.

Some of the weapons purchased did end up in Guatemala, said investigators.

"They put them in towed cars, secreted them inside towed vehicles and towed the vehicles across the border. They also put them in secret compartments in the cars," said agent James Cavanaugh of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Authorities said all five men indicted have citizenship in another country but are in the United States legally.

Morales had been assigned to routine patrol in the North precinct. While Morales was an officer, according to Serpas it doesn't appear he used his position in any way to purchase the guns.

"I think (Morales) was stupid to be involved in this criminal enterprise and think he could get away with it," Serpas said.

Morales was fired Sept. 15 from the Metro Nashville Police Department. He had been a police officer trainee since April 1, 2007.

"This community and this police department has no tolerance for anyone involved in this type of behavior," said Serpas.

Authorities would not say how they were tipped off but said they started piecing things together after two of the men were pulled over after leaving a gun shop in Franklin.

As for the former police officer involved, Serpas said sometimes you cannot keep those who uphold the law from breaking it.

"I think in every walk of life, people get through the cracks, people slip through, and somehow secret what their true motivations and true behavior is," said Serpas.

All five of the people involved have turned themselves in to authorities. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. district attorney.

Morales passed a background check and had a clean record before becoming a Metro officer.

Trial Begins for Chief Deputy Barry Taylor

A chief deputy accused of interfering with a police investigation is on trial.

The trial of Chief Deputy Barry Taylor of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was moved from Lincoln to Cleveland County. A jury picked Monday got special instructions since an officer is the one accused of a crime.

The case is also complicated by the fact that officers are being called to testify against Taylor.

The sergeant at the center of the case was called to testify Monday about the night that he says Taylor stepped in during a driving while impaired investigation. The prosecution says that officer pulled over someone who happened to the boss of the chief deputy’s fiancee or girlfriend.

Prosecutors say the chief deputy interfered in the case and kept the sergeant from executing a breathalyzer test.

The defense argues that Taylor executed his own test with a sensor that is not admissible in court. The prosecution said no one ever saw the reading from that test, while Taylor said it was .07 -- just one-tenth of a point under the legal limit.

If Taylor is convicted, he will lose his position at the sheriff’s office.

The jury is comprised of six men and six women, and it includes a former Gaston County Police Department officer. Although the venue was changed, four of the jurors said they had heard, read or seen TV reports on the charges of felonious obstruction of justice against Taylor.

Officer Stevie Perry Accused Stealing Reward Money

A Detroit Police Officer accused of stealing more than $26,000 in reward money from a police tip line stood silently in 16th District Court in Livonia this morning as a judge ordered his case to circuit court.

Officer Stevie Perry, 39, of Detroit, a 14-year law enforcement veteran, said before the 9:30 a.m. hearing he did not want to talk about the case. He faces five felony charges, the most serious of which -- uttering and publishing -- includes a possible 14-year prison sentence for a conviction.

"Any and all issues will be tried in court," his lawyer, Paul Bernier of Royal Oak, a retired Wayne County assistant prosecutor, said after the three-minute hearing in front of Judge Sean P. Kavanagh. Bernier waived the preliminary examination and Perry was again released on a personal bond pending a hearing in two weeks in Third Circuit Court in Detroit.

According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Perry deposited reward checks from an auto-theft tip line into his personal bank account between June 2007 and November 2008.

Perry is charged with uttering and publishing; using a computer to commit a crime; identity theft; committing a crime under false pretenses, and misconduct in office. Assigned to investigate auto thefts for the past five years, Perry has been suspended without pay since March.

After the charges were announced against Perry in July, the Detroit Police Officers Association went to court in an attempt to fight the release of Perry’s booking photo to the Free Press. The union claimed the photo was part of Perry’s personnel file and that a collective-bargaining agreement prevented the city from releasing it.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and ordered the city to release the image.