Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deputy John Franklin Accused of Shaking Down Priest

A San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s deputy has filed a civil claim seeking an unspecified amount of money against a Roman Catholic priest whom he said emotionally traumatized him during an undercover sting operation.

Claiming personal injuries, Sheriff’s Deputy John Franklin filed a civil claim against a Roman Catholic priest he arrested in 2007 for lewd conduct in a public place near Avila Beach. Franklin claims he suffers “mental and emotional distress including feelings of anger, rage, disgust, revulsion and embarrassment as a result of the despicable and oppressive behavior” of the former assistant pastor of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Nipomo.

“It is not so much monetary as a position of principal he is seeking. My client is making a statement that this is not acceptable behavior,” said James R. Murphy, the deputy’s attorney.

Church officials, their attorneys and the priest’s attorney contend Franklin is attempting to strong-arm the priest and the church for monetary gain.

“I think John Franklin is just looking for money,” said Thomas Riordan, vicar for temporalities for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey, which includes San Luis Obispo County. “We continue to be surprised by his actions.”

On July 18, 2007, Franklin was working undercover at the area around Pirate’s Cove, a nude beach with a reputation as a hook-up spot for homosexuals, when he spotted the priest, Geronimo Cuevas, standing in the brush rubbing his genitals through his shorts.

“I asked him (Cuevas), ‘What have you got over there,” Franklin said in the arrest report. “With his right hand he motioned for me to come towards me and he stated, ‘Touch me.’”

“I took two steps towards him asking him, ‘What did you say?’ He reached out with his right hand and touched my genitals,” Franklin said in the report.

Franklin then informed Cuevas, who claimed he was unemployed and living in Las Vegas, that he was under arrest for sexual battery and lewd acts.

Cuevas was convicted in 2008 of two misdemeanor counts of lewd conduct in a public place, ordered to take an AIDS awareness course and placed on three years probation. The church also stripped the fallen priest of his “faculties” (permission to perform church duties).

“My client (Franklin) was ordered to do patrol duty there,” Murphy said. “While he was minding his own business, he was grabbed by a priest.”

Following Cuevas’ conviction, Murphy sent a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey stating his client’s plans to seek monetary damages for injuries incurred during the arrest.

“A demand was made upon the diocese and refused,” said attorney for the Diocese of Monterey, Paul Gaspari of the San Francisco-based Tobin and Tobin law firm. “I think it was a claim that had no foundation in law or fact.”

Murphy said he wrote the diocese a letter at the time because he assumed Cuevas was still a priest. Later, he was informed that Cuevas was no longer performing priestly duties. He contends that, due to past transgressions, attorneys for the church should not be discussing his client’s case.

“The attorney for the diocese is a rude and tasteless individual,” Murphy said. “With the past cover-ups of indecent conduct, he should mind his own business.”

Both James McKiernan, attorney for Cuevas, as well as Gaspri contend that the case has no merit and, because of the Fireman’s Rule, Franklin has no legal standing to seek damages.

California’s Fireman’s Rule bars lawsuits by police officers and firefighters for collecting on damages that occur in the course of their duties, even when there is negligence by another party.

Two of the precedent-setting cases that form the basis for the Fireman’s Rule involving law enforcement cases occurred in San Luis Obispo County.

In 1982, San Luis Obispo police officer and ex-county supervisor, Jerry Lenthall, filed an injury claim against an assailant who shot him. The case was dismissed under the Fireman’s Rule.

In 1999, a psychiatric patient shot Atascadero Police Officer William Tilley. Tilley’s attorney, Eric Parkinson, then filed suit against the man’s psychiatrist, claiming negligent care. Again, the case was dismissed because of the Fireman’s Rule.

“In a nutshell, firemen get burned, dog catchers get bitten, police get shot and vice cops get groped,” McKiernan says in court documents. “A person, like the defendant, specifically hired to encounter and combat particular dangers is owed no independent tort duty by the party who created the dangers.”

Murphy’s rebuttal is that in some cases of intentional criminal activity the rule has been overridden.

“Just because you are on duty, someone has a right to grab your scrotum and penis?” Murphy asked. “How much has the diocese spent paying out claims of sexual abuse by priests and they dump Cuevas?”

In the past, Franklin has filed numerous workers’ compensation claims for incidents such as slipping down an embankment and multiple exposures to blood and toxic mold, according to court documents. However, he has not filed a workers’ compensation claim or received medical assistance regarding the Pirates Cove incident.

“This is the type of lawsuit that gives the judicial system and lawyers a bad name” McKiernan said. “This is a case when the ranting, raving, threatening and blustering is over, the Fireman’s Rule will kick it out of court.”

Another bone of contention centers around why Franklin has continued to serve as an armed sheriff’s deputy when he states in his civil claim that he suffers from daily feelings of anger and rage.

“We have programs available to our staff suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after highly special incidents,” said Rob Bryn, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, who said because of personnel privacy issues he was not permitted to say if Franklin informed the sheriff’s department of his alleged emotional injuries.

“If someone is allegedly suffering some type of emotional distress, tell someone and we would assist them.”

Officer Eugene Hlavac Fired for Slapping Girlfriend so Hard he Dislocated Her Jaw

Pittsburgh's police chief has suspended a sergeant for five days pending his eventual firing for allegedly slapping his former girlfriend so hard he dislocated her jaw.

Chief Nate Harper made that decision following a 90-minute disciplinary hearing Tuesday for 42-year-old Eugene Hlavac (huh-LAH'-vac) Jr. The sergeant is awaiting trial on a simple assault charge in the incident Dec. 18.

Authorities say Hlavac slapped the 23-year-old woman because she was late picking up their son, making him late for work.

Hlavac's attorney has said the sergeant was attacked and merely defending himself.

Hlavac told reporters he'll fight the decision, saying "I've been a police officer since 1991 and I've never been more eager to go to court."

Officer Doyle Braden Arrested for Threatening Neighbor with Gun

A Belton Police Officer, who lives in Killeen, is under arrest for threatening his neighbor with a hand gun.

The incident happened Sunday in the 4300 Block of Neta Drive, and has been under investigation by Killeen Police since then.

This evening Killeen Police arrested a 44-year-old Doyle Ray Braden on a warrant charging him with aggravated assault. Braden is currently an officer with the Belton PD, but was placed on administrative leave Monday.

The below is a description from the Killeen Police Department of what happened leading up to Doyle's arrest:

"Officers responded to the 4300 block of Neta Drive on Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 6:10pm, after a 911 call was received stating that one neighbor threatened another neighbor with a handgun. Officers responded to Neta Drive to speak with the victim, who advised she was having a verbal altercation with the neighbor when he threatened her with a gun. The victim and her husband went back to their residence and called 911. Officers spoke with all the parties involved and a report was filed.

The suspect in this case is employed as an officer with the Belton Police Department; he was placed on administrative leave by his department on Monday, December 28, 2009, pending the results of this investigation."

This case was reviewed by the Bell County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 and a complaint was returned charging Doyle Ray Braden with Aggravated Assault with a Firearm; a warrant was issued by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin."

Braden was arrested by officers at the Killeen Police Department at 6:13pm without incident; he is currently in the Killeen City Jail with a $100,000 bond issued by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin."

Patrolman Scott Garan Arrested Again for Drunk Driving

Aurora Patrolman Scott A. Garan was arrested Dec. 19 in Kent, where he lives, on drunken driving and criminal damaging charges.

Kent Patrolman Martin Gilliland stopped Garan, 41, driving his wife's car. Garan refused to take a breath-alcohol test, so his driver's license was automatically suspended. Kent Patrolman John Altomare brought the criminal damaging charge. Kent police would not discuss the case.

Mayor Lynn McGill placed Garan on leave from the police force he has been a part of for 17 years.

Kent Municipal Court Judge John Plough ordered Garan to wear a SCRAM alcohol monitoring device. The ankle bracelet will detect around the clock whether Garan drinks alcohol. Court records indicate that this was Garan's second drunken driving charge.

And Garan has a prior conviction in Kent for disorderly conduct. Then-Sgt. Garan pleaded guilty July 23, 2007, and was fined $130. McGill took away Garan's sergeant stripes.

McGill said any misbehavior is unacceptable for a police officer, "but I can't prejudge. We have to have the appropriate hearings" about the latest charges.

Garan is on paid leave for now. He's due back in Kent Municipal Court Jan. 20.

In October, the Portage County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving named Garan Aurora's top cop for getting drunken drivers off the road, McGill said.

Three years ago, an Aurora lieutenant was demoted to patrolman after a drunken driving conviction.
Previous Post

Corrections Officer Caught Asleep on the Job

Maybe the inmates really are running the asylum.

A correction officer has been disciplined for dozing on the job after a colleague snapped a picture of her asleep while on post at a Rikers Island infirmary, officials said yesterday.

A clearly conked-out Nadja Green is leaning in a chair with her head back, arms folded, eyes closed and mouth open.

But even more alarming is an amused inmate seen hovering above her, mere inches from a set of keys that hangs from her belt.

Green was transferred on the island and placed on modified duty watching female inmates. She will face charges of sleeping on the job and other security- and performance-related charges.

"We do not expect this type of behavior or performance from our officers, nor do we tolerate it," said city correction spokesman Steve Morello.

The officer who took the picture, Claudel Barrau, was also transferred and placed on modified duty.

Morello said possession and use of cellphones in jails, even by guards, is prohibited.

"They are only allowed to carry a cell into a property locker and not into jail proper," Morello said. "And not where inmates circulate. It's a basic and obvious regulation and this represents a breach."

Officials said the embarrassing photo was taken earlier this month in the prison's North Infirmary Command, formerly Rikers Island Hospital, which houses nearly 400 sick prisoners.

The facility includes a wing for AIDS patients, one for sex offenders and one for exceptionally violent inmates.

The disciplined officers will not be supervising inmates, according to officials.

Morello said the picture was brought to the attention of the department's senior management.

He said officials do not believe the sleeping officer was ever in any danger. There will be no charges against the inmate in the picture.

Green, who turned 30 yesterday, has been on the job 4½ years. She lives in Queens and could not be reached for comment.

Barrau, 47, has been on the job 18 years. When approached by a Post photographer at his Long Island home, he asked, "Why are you taking my picture?"

A prison source described Green as "the Precious of Corrections," a reference to the movie about a teen from a dysfunctional family.

A source said Green had a difficult upbringing and is the mother of several children. The source said she worked 96 hours of overtime this month.

A union official said prison authorities should avoid a rush to judgment.

"Many correction officers are forced to work 70 to 80 hours of mandatory overtime," said Correction Officer Benevolent Association spokesman Michael Skelly.

"Since we don't know the particular circumstances of that particular officer, we are not going to condemn her. She may have been sick.

"We believe it was highly suspect for the other officer to take a picture and potentially jeopardize her safety."

Cameras to Record Contacts with Civilians

San Jose police, under fire for interactions with the public that have turned violent, this weekend launched a pilot project equipping officers with head-mounted cameras to record contacts with civilians.

Officers will activate the cameras, about the size of a Bluetooth device and attached by a headband above the ear, every time they respond or make contact with a person. At the end of the officer's shift, the recording will be downloaded to a central server.

Chief Rob Davis said the devices, to be tested by 18 patrol officers, are a technological advance comparable to the advent of police cars, two-way radios and the 911 emergency system.

San Jose is the first major U.S. city to try out the devices, known as AXON.

Although officers are already bearing vests, weapons and radios, most of them welcome adding a camera to record their actions, Davis said. In addition, he said, "We're making it so it has cachet."

A leading critic of the department welcomed the cameras as a tool to provide useful evidence, but dismissed their significance as a solution to rocky police-community relations.

"The AXON project is unfortunately a positive thing right now because the level of distrust is so high," said Raj Jayadev, director of the community organization Silicon Valley De-Bug. "But it doesn't address the more fundamental problem: What stereotypes police may carry when they see people of color on the street and make assumptions about character."

The cost of the trial is being shouldered by maker Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The kit includes a camera, a control piece and a computer that can hang from the belt. In the pilot project, officers have been directed to switch on the camera as they are about to contact a civilian.

The cameras, equipped with an audio recorder, align with the officer's viewpoint, and can be switched to standby mode.

Afterward, the officer can switch the camera to a "buffer" mode, where it still records limited segments of video, and a non-record mode. The officer may review the tape, but it may not be erased. At the end of the shift, the device's memory is downloaded onto a central server.

Davis said commanders will randomly review the tapes, to evaluate the system and to gather information that could help assess police policies and procedures.

Officers, he said, welcomed the devices.

"I used it this morning in making an arrest," said William Doane, one of the AXON test officers. "It verified what I saw." In the two days of testing, he generally remembered to turn on the AXON before incidents, but sometimes forgot to turn it off afterward, he said. Overall, he said, "It's a good system."

The devices could provide evidence of crimes, timely information about suspects, help with police training and be a resource in investigations of complaints against police and deterrence of public misbehavior, Davis said. Critics, however, are interested in how the cameras might prevent police from overstepping bounds.

Over several months, groups representing Latinos, Asians and African-Americans have criticized San Jose police for too easily resorting to force. Per capita, San Jose police make more arrests for resisting arrest than does any other major California city, according to a San Jose Mercury News investigation.

Criticism spiked after police fatally shot a mentally ill man, Daniel Pham, in May and after a cell phone video showed officers apparently beating Phuong Ho, a San Jose State University student from Vietnam.

A detailed review by the Mercury News showed that San Jose police have repeatedly used force in incidents that began as seemingly benign situations. In response, Davis has formed a panel to review the department's use of force.

In 2008, police received 117 use-of-force complaints, but said none of the complaints was justified.

Davis said that the department will balance privacy concerns in making the camera footage public.

Cost per officer in first year if San Jose fully adopted the police camera system. Chief Rob Davis said he expected the price would decrease.

Sgt Steve Pelligra Arrested for Drunk Driving

A New Jersey State Police sergeant faces drunken-driving and other charges following a Dec. 17 two-vehicle crash on Route 517 north of Hackettstown, state police Capt. Gerald Lewis said Thursday.

Sgt. Steve Pelligra, 45, of Sussex County, was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation, Lewis said. Pelligra is assigned to state police at Hope Township.

He was off duty and driving a Nissan Frontier pickup north on Route 517 when his vehicle crashed into the driver's side of a southbound 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Scott Lehnes, 40, of Vernon, N.J., said Lewis, who is based at state police headquarters in West Trenton, N.J.

The 10 p.m. crash occurred near Johnson Road just north of the Route 517 interchange on Interstate 80.

Pelligra fled after the crash, Lewis said.

The police sergeant was also charged with refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test, leaving the scene of a crash and failing to report a crash with injuries.

A person who is convicted for the first time of refusing to submit to a breath test faces a driver's license suspension between seven months and one year, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission.

Details, including where Pelligra fled, who suffered injuries and the extent of those injuries were not immediately available from Lewis.

Pelligra could not be reached for comment. It was unknown if he had retained an attorney.

Another sergeant at the Hope Township barracks referred inquiries to the state police public information office at headquarters.

Officer Eugene Hlavac Jr Charged with Assaulting Ex-Girlfriend

A Pittsburgh police officer who was arrested after assaulting his ex-girlfriend earlier this month will have an internal hearing regarding the incident today.

Eugene F. Hlavac Jr., 42, of Greenfield, was originally charged with aggravated assault, but that count was reduced to simple assault during a preliminary hearing.

According to Lauren Maughan, 23, Sgt. Hlavac slapped her face during an argument. She said she sustained a dislocated jaw in the incident.

Sgt. Hlavac claims he was defending himself.

Phillip DiLucente, who is representing Sgt. Hlavac in his criminal case, said all he hopes for is a thorough investigation.

"I truly believe if there is a complete and thorough investigation the disposition will be that Sgt. Hlavac should be able to maintain his job," Mr. DiLucente said.

While a judge last week approved a protection from abuse order in the matter requiring Sgt. Hlavac to stay away from Ms. Maughan and to give up all of his weapons, a final hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday morning before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco.

In the meantime, Sgt. Hlavac late last week filed for shared custody of the 3-year-old boy he has with Ms. Maughan.

Judge David Wecht, who is assigned to the custody matter, has ordered that both Ms. Maughan and Sgt. Hlavac attend an education and mediation session on Jan. 16 at the Wightman School Community Building. Further, the judge scheduled mandatory mediation on the matter for Feb. 5.

Sgt. Hlavac said in the court filing asking for shared custody that the best interest of the child would be served because he "has and will continue to provide the minor child with love, affection, care, treatment and all of the other necessary and proper parental duties and obligations which the said minor child needs and deserves."

Sgt. Hlavac, a night shift supervisor at the Zone 2 police station in the Hill District, has temporarily been assigned to the warrant office.

Officer Willie James Sharp Arrested for DUI

Gallatin police officer Willie James Sharp, 43, of 1200 Woodvale Drive, was arrested in Hendersonville and charged with driving under the influence on Saturday, Dec. 26.

According to a Hendersonville police, Sharp was spotted driving “all over the road” just before midnight driving eastbound on Vietnam Veterans Boulevard near New Shackle Island Road.

“The vehicle sped up and slowed down while having the right turning signal on moving in the left lane,” according to the affidavit filed in Sumner County General Sessions Court.

According to Hendersonville police affidavit, Sharp admitted he’d had “one Jack and Coke drink around 7 p.m.”

Police found Sharp’s police –issued .45-caliber Glock pistol in his vehicle. Sharp was charged with possessing a handgun while under the influence, a Class A misdemeanor.

He had two flasks full of Jack Daniels whiskey and another 20-ounce water bottle with a whiskey and Coke mixture, police said. Sharp is also charged with violation of the open container law, and an implied consent violation after refusing a blood alcohol test, the police affidavit said.

Gallatin Police Chief John Tisdale said Sharp was off duty and driving his personal vehicle when the arrest was made.

Sharp was released on $1,500 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Sumner County General Sessions Court on Jan. 12 at 9 a.m.

Sharp has been suspended from duty without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Tisdale said.

“We’ll deal with it just like we would with anybody else,” Tisdale said on Monday. “Police officers are not above the law.”

He has been a police officer with the Gallatin Police Department for approximately four years, according to Tisdale.

Officer Miguel Gallegos Arrested for Drunk Driving

A member of the law enforcement community finds himself behind bars over the weekend for drunk driving.

Fifty five year old Miguel Angel Gallegos was arrested shortly after midnight on December 27th.

According to DPS reports, Gallegos was pulled over off Highway 83, outside Rio Bravo, for failing to use a turn signal.

He was arrested after failing a field sobriety test.

Sheriff Martin Cuellar says this sort of conduct is unbecoming for a member of the law enforcement community and will not be tolerated:

“That’s embarrassing, for someone like that to get arrested, one of our own. But again, we have to follow the procedures and protocol of the Civil Service Commission and we have to abide by what they say.”

Gallegos was charged with driving while intoxicated and has been placed on administrative duty.

Disciplinary action may be taken against Gallegos if convicted on the charge.

He has served as a corrections officer since 1988.

Officers Dana & James DeVries Involved in Domestic Violence

Public Safety Officer Dana Bryce DeVries and her husband and fellow officer, James "Todd" DeVries, are no longer working for the department. The revelation comes nearly two months after allegations that Dana DeVries kicked her husband during a domestic assault.

"They no longer work for the city," Capt. Rick Yonker said of the couple today.

He would not say if the officers resigned or were terminated, and would not disclose any internal findings.

Dana DeVries was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence after allegedly kicking her husband in a Nov. 3 incident. Her employment ended Dec. 16. Her husband's employment ended Nov. 25.

The couple had been married about two years, each bringing a child from previous relationships, records showed. No serious injuries were reported after the alleged fight, but police said the husband had a red mark on his body.

Officer Anthony Plummer Fired for Using Excessive Force

A Cincinnati police officer at the center of a Taser scandal is no longer employed with the city.

Officials said Officer Anthony Plummer, 32, was fired from the police force earlier this month.

Plummer was accused of using excessive force during a traffic stop involving a city councilman's daughter.

Police said Chief Thomas Streicher made the recommendation to the city and that it was upheld.

Managers said Plummer had 10 days to appeal the ruling and has done so.

The case will go before a civil service review board and the board will make the final decision whether the termination was warranted.

Police said that for the moment, Plummer is no longer with the police force. No time line was provided for when the board would make its decision.