Thursday, December 24, 2009

Officer Dwayne Johnson Accused of Defrauding the Government

Prosecutors say for roughly four months Officer Dwayne Johnson worked private security at the Hess Express gas station near Route 890 when he should have been on patrol, then tried to cover himself by lying on police department time sheets.

With his attorney by his side Wednesday, Johnson answered "yes" to several questions from Schenectady County Judge Karen Drago ensuring he understood his legal rights and the 15-count indictment that accuses him of defrauding the government, two counts of offering a false instrument for filing and grand larceny. He pleaded not guilty to those felonies and the 11 misdemeanors that Drago unsealed. He left court on his own recognizance without comment, leaving his attorney Gaspar Castillo to do the talking.

The Albany lawyer said his client, who earned an all-time city pay record of $168,000 in 2008, is being punished for being a "hard working man," that the city was well aware he was moonlighting and who never worked his private security and city job simultaneously.

"He has served the city and served it well and loves being a cop," said Castillo. "When everything comes out, it will become clear he has not done anything wrong."

But Gerald Dwyer, counsel to the district attorney, said the charging document only deals with the alleged double dipping from Oct. 25, 2008 to Feb. 7 at the Brandywine Avenue business and not accusations Johnson remained inside a Woodlawn apartment earlier this year when he should have been on patrol. Outside police headquarters, Mayor Brian U. Stratton said the department is still looking into what Johnson, 50, was doing there as part of its ongoing internal probe.

He said his administration will continue to aggressively go after cops who cross the line and that in Johnson's case they would be seeking to fire him and try to recoup any monies he was paid by the city while working his private job.

"The public should know we're not tolerating this," he said, adding he was still hopeful that any police commanders who may have turned a blind eye to Johnson's alleged misdeeds should be punished.

Later Wednesday, the police department released a statement saying Johnson had been suspended 30 days without pay and that it would be seeking to fire him through disciplinary hearings.

Besides the felonies, Johnson is also charged with five each of counts of official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities and scheme to defraud, all misdemeanors. On the top count felony alone, he could face a maximum four-year prison term

In February, he was suspended without pay for 30 days amid an internal probe into allegations that he spent several hours on a number of Tuesdays in an apartment in the Woodlawn section during his midnight-to-8 a.m. shift.

The revelation came less than a month after city payroll records for 2008 showed that Johnson, who has been on the force since 2001, had the highest earnings for one year in the department's history.

At the time, the department's Office of Professional Standards was looking into allegations he spent time at the apartment at the corner of Queen Philomena Boulevard and Sir Benjamin Way when he should have been working.

Police said the officer's cruiser, equipped with a GPS, was parked outside the location around 4 a.m. even though he was scheduled to work until 8 a.m. Months later, the department launched a second in-house investigation into fresh allegations that Johnson was working security at Hess when he should have been on patrol.

Chief Mark Chaires has said tax-related documents reviewed by investigators showed Johnson was "simultaneously being paid by two employers."

With overtime and about $35,000 in retroactive pay, he made $168,921 last year, nearly triple his base salary.

Johnson is one of several city police officers scheduled for disciplinary hearings next year.

Detention Officer Alfred Casas Arrested for Helping with Jailbreak

A Bexar County Jail detention officer was arrested Thursday afternoon after an investigation revealed he supplied inmates with a hacksaw for an attempted jailbreak late last week, officials said.

Alfred Casas, 30, was arrested on the job without incident and is charged with providing implements for escape — deadly weapon, which is a second-degree felony, officials said. The officer has been with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office for three years, said Roger Dovalina, deputy chief of the detention division. Casas' bail was set at $15,000.

Dovalina said he is trying to restore confidence in his officers because their morale is low after hearing about the incident. He said he told them “to keep their heads up” and that “one bad apple” is not a reflection of every officer in the division.

A fifth inmate also has been charged in the escape plot. All five unidentified inmates were facing long sentences and high bail amounts. They are being held in separate high-security cells, Dovalina said.

Since sheriff's deputies and the district attorney's office still are investigating the incident, he said, many details couldn't be released. It wasn't disclosed if investigators are looking for any other suspects or exactly how Casas may have benefited from helping the inmates.

Dovalina said the men had been planning the escape since early September and that they were able to saw off a metal bracket on a window in an outside recreation area. If the men had been able to proceed with the plan, the deputy chief said, the only extra line of security keeping them from freedom was a metal screen covering the window.

The plan was thwarted Saturday when officials found two 30-foot ropes, dyed prisoner clothing and a hacksaw blade. The hand-braided ropes were made from strips of bedsheets and blankets. A few cells down, authorities found dyed clothing and a 5-inch hacksaw blade. Officials said the inmates used teabags to dye their jail-issued orange jumpsuits dark brown. Authorities also found a broken window and a brick that had been chipped away.

Up until Saturday's incident, the jail did not have a “set procedure to check officers” for foul play, Dovalina said. Now, he said, the jail will implement “daily inspections targeting the entire facility.”

“We want the public to know we perform our jobs in a professional manner,” Dovalina said. “We have a case here that doesn't happen very often. We will continue the investigation and take all steps to ensure safety and security.”

Deputy Brian Hillis Accused of DUI While on the Job

Shocking new information about a Fresno county Sheriff’s Deputy accused of driving under the influence while on the job.

A newly released incident report says Deputy Brian Hillis was driving on a suspended license.

The deputy’s suspension was based on him not paying child support.

The report also reveals that Deputy Hillis told a Fresno Police Officer he was taking a mixture of the prescription drug Klonopin, used to treat a variety of things from anxiety to bipolar disorder to seizures, and the over the counter anti histamine Benadryl.

Following his medical exam, it was determined Hillis was under the influence of both a depressant, and a stimulant.

Deputy Hillis is on paid administrative leave.

Officer Calvin Ingram Indicted for Computer Tampering

A police officer who lost his job is now under indictment, accused of accessing computer police databases for personal use.

Calvin Ingram is facing 25 counts of computer tampering, and two other counts related to identity theft.

Prosecutors say Ingram took information from the computer databases and gave that information to people who weren't in law enforcement. The databases contain addresses, criminal records and other personal data.

Ingram served nearly 11 years as a Marana police officer before he was terminated in September. He is appealing his termination.

Officer Vernon Wolford Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery

An Obetz police officer accused of engaging in sexual activity with a woman he had just arrested has agreed to plead guilty to sexual battery next month.

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien said officer Vernon Wolford still faces up to five years in prison for the sexual battery charge - a third-degree felony.

Last month, Vernon arrested a woman wanted in Florida for probation violation. According to a search warrant, she told investigators that Vernon asked her “you want to go home,“ as she sat in the back of the police cruiser in handcuffs. The woman said she then performed the sex act and later reported the incident after arriving at the Franklin County Corrections Center.

A state crime lab later tested a substance on the woman’s tennis shoe and determined it was Wolford’s semen.

“Even while someone may claim that conduct was consensual the law pre-supposes that people cannot under that kind of circumstance give consent. And that’s what would be the basis for the charge in this case,“ O’Brien said

Wolford’s plea hearing in front of Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Lynch is scheduled for January 25. O’Brien said Wolford has been placed on administrative leave by the Obetz Police Department.

Officer Rhashim Campbell Accused of Assaulting Prisoner

A city police officer accused of assaulting a prisoner in November allegedly boasted to several fellow officers about beating the man.

One of those officers was Sgt. Robert E. Ford Jr., who is assigned to the internal affairs division, which investigates allegations of police misconduct.

Ford immediately began an investigation of Officer Rhashim Campbell's conduct during the early morning hours of Nov. 1 and prepared a warrant seeking his arrest on charges of third-degree assault and fabricating evidence. Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy signed that warrant Dec. 4 and Campbell was arrested Dec. 10. Campbell's lawyer, Salvatore Bonanno of Hartford, said Campbell denies the charges and maintains his innocence.

The warrant affidavit was made public this week, after Campbell's arraignment Tuesday in Superior Court in Hartford.

According to the warrant, Campbell told officers gathered in a report writing room on Nov. 2 that a prisoner had punched him in the face, then bitten his finger as he tried to restrain him. Campbell then allegedly told the assembled group that he went into the cell holding Michael Stewart, 41, of Ridge, N.Y., and beat him.

"I opened the door and whooped his ass," Campbell said, according to the warrant. "I tried to kill him, I tried to [expletive] him up." Two officers quickly grabbed Campbell and escorted him from the room. On the way out they told Ford that Campbell was on medication and may not have been aware of what he was saying.

Ford then viewed a video of the cell that allegedly shows Campbell using his hands and a knee to strike Campbell several times. A second officer, Kent Lee, allegedly helped push Stewart to the floor. Police prepared a warrant for Lee's arrest as well, but prosecutors declined to sign it.

Stewart was in custody after being arrested earlier in the evening on charges of breach of peace and resisting arrest. Police described him as being drunk and belligerent at the time of his arrest. An officer had to use pepper spray to get him to cooperate when he was arrested.

The charges against Campbell are for allegedly assaulting Stewart and for allegedly writing a false report on the incident.

Bonanno said Campbell "denies assaulting Mr. Stewart" and "he denies fabricating any evidence."

As to what was said in that report room, Bonanno said Campbell has no specific recollection.

"Officer Campbell does not remember the specific words he may or may not have used in the report room and his remarks were not directed at Sgt. Ford. Whether some of that was bravado, it remains to be seen. Often times we make comments that we don't mean literally."

During Tuesday's arraignment, Bonanno did file a motion asking that all audio and video recordings of the discussion in the report room be preserved. Bonanno said he's received information that an officer who was present may have recorded the conversation on an iPhone, or other device.

"If there was a recording of anything said in the report room, that would be the best evidence of what was said," Bonanno said.