Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Officer David Seaton Indicted for Manslaughter

A former San Antonio police officer involved in a high-speed wreck last year that killed a colleague has been indicted on manslaughter and aggravated assault charges.

David Seaton, 44, could face up to life in prison if convicted of either of the felony offenses — a stark contrast to the maximum 10-year sentence he faced last month before rescinding a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Seaton rescinded his no contest plea Nov. 12, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced on the manslaughter charge in connection with Officer Robert Davis' death.

State District Judge Sid Harle granted Seaton's last-minute request to back out of the plea agreement, saying he would allow it because the former officer's case had not yet been reviewed by a grand jury.

On Monday, a grand jury returned the indictments against Seaton, who remained free on bail Tuesday afternoon. The aggravated assault charge stems from serious injuries motorist Darrell Lampkin suffered in the Nov. 28, 2008, crash. Seaton is expected to again surrender to authorities now that he has been indicted.

Both felonies are generally punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but because Seaton was an officer when the crash occurred, the maximum possible punishment range was enhanced to 99 years or life in prison.

Tuesday marked one year since Davis' death. The rookie officer suffered massive head injuries and was taken off life support three days after being struck on Potranco Road at Hunt Lane, where he had been working an unrelated accident.

Investigators believed Seaton was driving more than 100 mph without his overhead lights on when he was responding to a low-priority shoplifting call, according to the San Antonio Police Department. The Police Department recommended to the district attorney's office last December that he be charged with manslaughter.

The indictment and its enhanced sentence range should not come as a surprise to Seaton, said Adriana Biggs, chief of the district attorney's white-collar crimes division.

“We thought these were the appropriate charges to put before the grand jury,” she said. “Now it's up to the trial jury.”

Defense attorney Jay Norton on Tuesday said he still holds out hope his client can reach another plea agreement with prosecutors given the uncertainty of a jury trial.

Prosecutors previously said a plea agreement is still feasible, but the terms wouldn't get better than what Seaton has been offered. Norton declined to comment on what changes Seaton might seek, or why the original agreement became untenable.

Ultimately, he said, his client is ready to place his fate in the hands of jurors if necessary.

“It's not like he walked away from it unscathed,” Norton said of the wreck, pointing out that Seaton is still undergoing physical therapy for his injuries. “It's a tragic situation all around.”

Former Officer Brad Boyd Arrested for Doctor Shopping

A former Williamsburg Police Department officer is behind bars following an arrest Monday evening.

Kentucky State Police officers arrested former officer Brad A. Boyd. The 45-year-old had a warrant for his arrest in connection to an investigation performed by another police agency. A source explained that Boyd was being investigated for doctor shopping.

The only official record available as of press deadline Monday night indicates that Boyd was arrested by Trooper Mike Witt, who was serving an arrest warrant for another agency. The source, however, said that Boyd will likely be charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit. The source could not speculate as to how many counts of the offense Boyd will face. Also according to the source, the investigation was performed by the Kentucky Inspector General’s Office.

Chief Wayne Bird of the Williamsburg Police Department confirmed that Boyd resigned as an officer sometime in May, but he could not provide an exact date for Boyd’s resignation. Bird could not comment on the circumstances surrounding Boyd’s resignation, but he indicated that more details may be available within the next few days.

Officer Latrenta Grayson Charged with Aggravated Assault

A Paterson police officer Tuesday was charged in an indictment with official misconduct and aggravated assault in connection with her shooting a man who got into a fight with her boyfriend in her home.

Police Officer Latrenta Grayson, 32, of Paterson, had obtained a restraining order on Feb. 6, 2009, barring 30-year-old Albert Mullings of Teaneck from her residence, according to officials. Mullings allegedly entered Grayson’s home at 238 Wall Ave. through a rear bathroom window at about 2:10 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2009. Once inside, he threatened to kill and then assaulted Grayson’s boyfriend, Anthony Spruil, authorities allege. A subsequent confrontation near Wall and 15th avenues led to Grayson firing two shots at Mullings, hitting him once in his right arm, according to officials.

Prosecutors say Grayson falsely reported the circumstances leading up to the shooting when giving her initial account to Paterson patrol officers, in her official report filed several days later and in a follow-up interview conducted by detectives from the Passaic County’s Prosecutor’s Office. Authorities say they found that Grayson was not justified at firing the two shots at Mullings in trying to protect herself or Spruill under state Attorney General’s Office guidelines on appropriate use of force by a police officer.

Mullings is also charged in the indictment with contempt of court in connection with violation of the restraining order, burglary and terroristic threats.

Officials did not offer further details of the case Tuesday. Grayson and Mullings, or their representatives, could not immediately be reached for comment nor could it be immediately confirmed what Grayson’s status is on the force.

Officer Brian Ditmore Shoots Brother-in-law Then Turns Gun on Himself

An off-duty policeman shot his brother-in-law Thanksgiving Day and then turned the gun on himself, authorities say.

Members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's tactical team late Thursday found Mangum police officer Brian Ditmore dead inside his home in the 900 block of W Tyler, said Jessica Brown, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman.

Brown said it appears Ditmore, 37, shot himself in the chest after wounding his brother-in-law, Mangum Fire Chief Fred Willis, 41. The investigation is ongoing, she said.

About 2:30 p.m. someone in the home reported a domestic dispute between Ditmore and his wife. Police responded, along with Willis who lives nearby, Brown said.

"When police arrived Mr. Willis was stumbling out of the house, injured from a gunshot wound to the stomach," Brown said.

"A few minutes later there was a single gunshot from inside the house."

Brown said officers tried for several hours to communicate with Ditmore. They later sent an OHP robot into home and determined it was safe to enter, she said.

Willis was listed in fair condition Friday after getting surgery at Jackson County Memorial Hospital in Altus.

Officer Shawn Parra Arrested for Drunk Driving

Another Toledo police officer has been arrested for drunken driving, marking the third such offence in the past two months.

Officer Shawn Parra, 35, was cited by Toledo Police on Thanksgiving Day for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Authorities say Parra was involved in a hit and run crash early Thursday morning. Police reports indicate the off-duty officer was driving a Jeep Cherokee south on Tremainsville Rd. when he struck a utility pole before fleeing the scene.

Parra has been charged with OVI, failure to control a vehicle and failure to stop after an accident.

Officer Kyle Zumbrunn Sentenced to Prison for Selling Drugs

A former Weston, Mo. police officer was sentenced to prison for selling drugs in Atchison.

Kyle Zumbrunn will serve the 15 months in state prison for distribution of a controlled substance and eight months concurrently for illegal use of a telephone.

Zumbrunn was arrested Sept. 22 after he sold 80 pills containing a controlled substance to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation undercover agent in Atchison. The 26-year-old Zumbrunn pleaded guilty.

Atchison County Attorney Gerald Kuckelman agreed with defense attorney's request for probation. But District Judge Martin Asher said he could not disregard the fact that Zumbrunn was a police officer when he committed the crime and said he deserved prison time.

Officer Bryan Spiotti Acused of Hitting Suspect Gets Deal for Lesser Charge

The Wolcott police officer accused of hitting a suspected drunk driver has worked out a deal for a lesser charge.

Officer Bryan Spiotti said he stands behind how he handled the events inside of the Wolcott Police holding cell the night he arrested Glenn Pelletier in January for drunk driving.

Spiotti was arrested after prosecutors watched a surveillance tape of the assault, but Monday in court, Spiotti pleaded to a lesser disorderly conduct charge.

The state's attorney said that what happened in the holding cell was criminal, but after talking to Pelletier, the decision was made to work out a plea agreement because he was not looking to press charges.

Former Officer Kyle Zumbrunn Going to Prison

A former Weston, Mo., police officer will go to prison for selling drugs in Atchison.

With his attorney, J. David Farris, beside him, Kyle Zumbrunn appeared in court Monday for sentencing before District Judge Martin Asher. Mr. Farris had two rows of witnesses sitting in the courtroom ready to testify on behalf of his client.

On Sept. 22, Mr. Zumbrunn sold 80 pills containing a controlled substance to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation undercover agent at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Atchison. Mr. Zumbrunn pleaded guilty.

Sgt. Kerry Stone, a detective with the Atchison Police Department, testified that Mr. Zumbrunn, 26, is serving his punishment every day and said he believed that probation was appropriate.

Mr. Farris told the judge that others would testify to the same thing.

The KBI agent involved in the case told Gerald Kuckelman, Atchison County attorney, that the drug deal was a fluke and Mr. Zumbrunn didn’t even know the drugs’ street value.

Mr. Kuckelman said Mr. Zumbrunn was no risk to the community and agreed with the defense’s probation recommendation.

The defendant spoke briefly before sentencing, saying he didn’t really know why he tried to sell the pills but took responsibility for his actions.

Mr. Asher had other thoughts. The judge told the packed courtroom that this was the most difficult sentencing decision he’d had to make. The defendant lost his job, his career and put shame on himself, Mr. Asher said.

“And your actions show a complete disregard for community safety,” he said.

The crime wasn’t an impulse, but something you thought about, Mr. Asher said.

“The court struggles with the fact that you were a law enforcement officer and can’t overlook that,” he said. “The appearance of justice has to apply equally ... It can’t be a two-tiered system.”

Mr. Zumbrunn will serve 15 months in state prison on the charge of distribution of a controlled substance and eight months concurrently on a second charge of illegal use of a telephone.

The pronouncement of sentence ended quiet in the courtroom as women started weeping. Atchison County Sheriff John Calhoon took custody of Mr. Zumbrunn and removed him.

Mr. Zumbrunn’s arrest led to Greg Hoffman, Weston’s mayor, asking the Platte County Sheriff’s Department to investigate police procedures for handling evidence. Three detectives are handling that investigation and the Weston Police Department’s evidence locker was seized. No date has been announced for completion of the investigation.

Officer Joseph Pena Arrested for Domestic Violence

A La Vergne police officer is under investigation for his role in an alleged domestic incident following an arrest early Sunday morning.

Joseph Pena, 37, was arrested by Smyrna police around 5:30 a.m. after fighting with his girlfriend at a Henricks Hill Drive home.

A transcript of the call shows an unidentified female at the home called police to report Pena and her aunt, Janet Morris, 36, were fighting. Morris asked the female to call, but Pena said not to because he was afraid of losing his job. Pena has worked as a patrol officer in La Vergne since Nov. 23, 2008.

“He’s been put on administrative leave pending our internal investigation. We’ve asked him to come by the police department, but he has yet to do so,” La Vergne Police Chief Ted Boyd said late Monday afternoon.

The dispatch report from Smyrna police states Pena threw Morris into a wall at the home and sat on her. In addition to the caller, Pena’s three children visiting from Ohio, were at the home as well. One of the children managed to get a cell phone and dial 911.

At one point, Pena took the phone from the caller and said nobody had been assaulted, but that he and Martin had been drinking. He also told dispatchers that he and his girlfriend had no history of assault and that Martin was upset by the argument.

Dispatchers were able to hear Martin calling for the children to come witness part of the struggle as Pena was holding her down, the report said.

The mother of Pena’s children was notified and drove down from Ohio to pick them up.

Pena was charged with domestic assault and resisting arrest and given a $3,000 bond. He was taken to the Rutherford County Jail on a 12-hour hold and was released sometime after 4 p.m. Sunday.

Boyd said he and other members of his department were conducting their own investigation to determine what caused the situation.

“There’s always two sides to a story. It’s a bad situation for anybody, but especially an officer, because it limits your ability to earn a living,” he said.

Officer Jonathan Pratt Arrested for Drug Possession

A reserve Athens police officer arrested over the weekend for drug possession is no longer with the force. The Athens Police Department removed Jonathan Pratt on Sunday. A Limestone County sheriff's deputy arrested Pratt on Saturday after a traffic stop.

The deputy stopped a car Pratt was riding in, and arrested him and the driver for possession of a controlled substance.

Athens reserve officers volunteer with the police department. They are not sworn officers. They work special events, wear a reserve officer badge, carry a gun, and sometimes drive a car. Most of the time, they ride with a police officer.

Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper says it's a shame what has happened.

Limestone County stopped the car Jonathan Pratt was a passenger in Saturday night. The deputy stopped the driver for speeding. Reports say the deputy then found prescription pills in the car.

"It's not a good thing, and it's embarrassing," said Harper. "Mr. Pratt's been with us for about a year. We did an in-depth background on him when we put him on our reserve unit and he checked out well."

Harper says Pratt had seemed like a good fit for the department.

"It's a bad situation," Harper said. "I wish it hadn't of happened."

Chief Harper says they had to take care of the situation.

"As soon as we found out we found out yesterday [Sunday], he was immediately relieved," said Harper. "He's no longer with the reserve program."

Harper says this shouldn't give the reserve program a black eye.

"They're a valuable asset. This in no way is representative of our reserve unit or our police department and i just wish it hadn't of happened," said Harper.

Athens Mayor Dan Williams says the city may evaluate drug testing the reserve officers.

"We do background checks on the people that come to work for us," said Williams. "The reserve officers are restricted in what they can do and they have to be with people who are certified policemen."

The report from the Limestone County Sheriff's Department says Pratt said he has a prescription for the pills found on him. There were other pills found in the car that were unaccounted for.

Chief Harper says Pratt came by the office Monday morning and apologized for embarrassing the police department.

Five Toledo Officers Face Criminal Charges

All of five of the officers face a variety of criminal or administrative punishments.

Five Toledo police officers are being accused of either driving drunk or using drugs, just in the last six weeks. The numbers have some concerned.

It's the job of Deb Chany and the Sylvania Community Action Team to try to keep Lucas County teens away from drugs and alcohol. So when she heard a Toledo police officer was charged with drunk driving she was concerned.

Deb Chany, executive director of the Sylvania Community Action Team says, "It saddened me at first because these are our role models. These are the people we trust to help our community be safe and healthy."

Shawn Parra, 34, is accused of driving drunk, crashing his vehicle then leaving the scene. The incident happened just before 3:00 Thursday morning.

"It really sends a mixed message. We are kind of fighting a battle, saying oh my goodness here are people trying to help our community be safe and make good choices and they aren't themselves."

Two weeks ago, during a random drug test, two other Toledo police officers tested positive for an illegal substance. In late October, Officer Donald Mitchell was arrested after showing signs of drunkenness while on the job. It was the second that month. James Breier was charged with driving drunk after showing signs of intoxication at an accident scene. Chany says teens will take notice, not only of the actions, but also the punishment.

"What are the consequences going to be of that I think people are going to sit back and look at that," says Chany.

All of five of the officers face a variety of criminal or administrative punishments.

Officer Nigel Hodges Waives Rights to Hearing for Assaulting Bartender

A Robinson Township police officer accused of assaulting a female bartender at closing time waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday morning before North Fayette Township District Judge Anthony Saveikis.

Nigel Hodges, 51, a North Fayette resident, will be tried in Allegheny County Court on charges of indecent assault, indecent exposure, harassment and false imprisonment, according to court documents.

A charge of official suppression was dropped.

The incident occurred after 11 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Tavern With the Lights. According to court records, Hodges visited the bar, left, and then returned when the bartender was alone.

Hodges is accused of grabbing the 20-year-old bartender, whose name is not being released, and kissing her until she broke away. He then performed a sex act in front of her for several minutes, and asked her suggestive questions, according to a police report. He refused her repeated requests to stop. He also grabbed her hand and began sucking her fingers, according to court records.

The woman reported the incident two days later, saying she was initially afraid because Hodges is a police officer.

Councilwoman Says She Witnessed Police Using Excessive Force

A Darlington City Councilwoman says she witnessed a Darlington Police officer use excessive force while arresting a 64-year-old man.

According to Gloria Hines, the officer arrested Bizmark Richardson around noon on Saturday on South Main Street for "drunkenness."

Hines says Richardson must have said something the officer did not like; the officer allegedly responded by hitting Richardson's head into the back of the patrol car.

Hines said she heard the thump from about 200 feet away.

The officer, who Hines said was a white man, used excessive force on Richardson, who is black, according to Hines.

The councilwoman said she had not yet filed a complaint.

Officer Adam Stoddard Refuses to Make Public Apology

Officer Adam Stoddard was ordered to make a public apology or be thrown in jail by Nov. 30. But late late Monday he defended his actions, saying, "The judge therefore puts me in a position where I must lie or go to jail. And I will not lie."

MCSO detention officer Adam Stoddard was caught on tape snatching a privileged document from the desk of a defense attorney last month.

Stoddard was held in contempt of court for taking the note from Joanne Cuccia's desk. It happened during the aggravated assault sentencing hearing for Antonio Lozano.

"He is to give Ms. Cuccia a sincere verbal and written apology for invading her defense file and for the damage that his conduct may have caused to her professional reputation," said Judge Gary Donahoe. Judge Donahoe said that his deadline for the apology is Nov. 30.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says that Stoddard was just doing his duty and is in opposition of the judge's order.

Full Statement by Officer Stoddard

"I am Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard. I work in the Court Security Division of the Sheriff’s Office and have been with the Sheriff’s Office for five years.

"Recently, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe ordered me to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for doing the job I have been trained to do.

"Part of my job in providing security to the court is to inspect documents brought into the courtroom. On October 19th, I saw a document that I had not yet screened, and that raised security concerns. I retrieved that document in plain sight and had court personnel copy it to preserve it as evidence in case it was a security breach.

"It was a split second decision and I do not regret my actions.

"Judge Donahoe has ordered me to feel something I do not and say something I cannot. I cannot apologize for putting court safety first.

"The judge therefore puts me in a position where I must lie or go to jail. And I will not lie."

Correctional Officer Everette Brown Arrested for Hitting Inmate with Belt

A Concordia Parish Correctional Facility officer was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and malfeasance in office following a weekend incident in which he allegedly struck an inmate on the buttocks with his belt.

In a news release Monday, Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said Officer Everette Brown, 44, of Vidalia was arrested and immediately terminated following an investigation of the alleged incident, which happened Saturday.

The inmate, who was in lockdown for disciplinary reasons, reportedly called Brown a derogatory name, to which Brown allegedly responded by opening the cell door, taking off his belt and striking the inmate, the release said.

The release said the inmate was later checked by CPCF medical personnel and found to have only minor bruises.

“It’s not the extent of the injury as much as it’s the fact that an officer responded like this,” Maxwell said. “It just won’t be tolerated. There absolutely will not be any mistreatment of inmates.”

Such a response is against both prison policy and common sense, Maxwell said.

Brown was employed at CPCF for approximately six months, but Maxwell said it would not have mattered if the officer had been employed for six hours or six years, because his alleged response was intolerable.”

“If you cannot handle someone calling you names, then you just don’t belong in this business, and you certainly cannot work for the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and Correctional Facility,” Maxwell said. “It’s just plain wrong, and you don’t need to work here.”

“That’s why we’ve never had the reputation of this sort of thing, because we will not stand for it.”

Two investigators are assigned to the incident, and the release said the investigation is ongoing.