Friday, January 01, 2010

Harold Ricky Hughes Suing Police for Violating his Civil Rights

An Oklahoma Borough man is suing Vandergrift police for allegedly violating his civil rights in July 2007.

The federal lawsuit by Harold R. "Ricky" Hughes, of Thorne Street, was filed last month in the Westmoreland County Prothonotary's office in Greensburg and recently transferred to federal court in Pittsburgh.

In 2007 and until last month, Vandergrift provided police service for Oklahoma.

That borough voted last month to end police coverage by Vandergrift and relies on state police for patrols.

Hughes alleges that he saw Vandergrift police Sgt. Steve Callipare twice on one day fail to stop at two stop signs near the Hughes home. Hughes said he motioned for Callipare to pull over, and the officer pulled over and opened his window.

According to the suit, Hughes asked Callipare "if he thought he was above the law," and the men exchanged swear words.

Hughes claims the sergeant handcuffed him and put him into the police car. At the police station in Vandergrift, Callipare "grabbed Hughes by the back of his collar with force, hit him in the head and told him to move towards the police station," according to the lawsuit.

Hughes was charged with disorderly conduct.

At a preliminary hearing in October 2007, all state charges against Hughes were dismissed.

District Judge Bernice McCutcheon dismissed the disorderly conduct charge, but told Hughes he had other options rather than calling the officer over in what she termed a "ballsy move."

She said Hughes should have called the police chief to complain about the officer's driving rather than confront him.

In the lawsuit, Hughes' attorney Craig H. Alexander asserts the incident violated Hughes' free speech rights and the right protecting him from unreasonable search and seizure.

He alleges that Callipare and police Chief Joseph Caporali were "deliberately indifferent" to citizens' rights.

Defense counsel Paul D. Krepps said the case is properly in federal court.

"In this case, whether there was a conviction or not is irrelevant," Krepps said. "The issue is if there was probable cause for the officer to make the arrest. That will be up to a judge or jury to decide."

Krepps, who was a police officer in Pennsylvania and Florida before becoming an attorney, specializes in civil rights cases and was hired by the borough's insurance company.

Officer Charles Missel Arrested for DUI

A Charleston police officer was arrested Tuesday after the S.C. Highway Patrol investigated a weekend incident in which a parked car was struck by a vehicle that left the scene.

Charles C. Missel is charged with first-offense driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, said Sid Gaulden, press officer for the state Department of Public Safety.

Missel has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the charges, Charleston police public information officer Charles Francis said.

The Highway Patrol was asked to assist in the investigation of a wreck that took place in a parking lot late Saturday or early Sunday, Gaulden said.

"A parked car was hit and a second car left," Gaulden said. As a result of the patrol's investigation, Missel was charged.

Sgt Reginald McReynolds Says He is Victim of Racial Profiling by NYPD

The New York Police Department has been accused of racial profiling by one of its own.

NYPD Sgt. Reginald McReynolds, who is African-American, said he was a victim of racial profiling when he was stopped by two fellow police officers while in his girlfriend's apartment building in the Bronx on October 26.

According to the official police report, the officers were responding to a domestic abuse call in the same building and mistook McReynolds for the suspect, handcuffing him after he refused to identify himself.

Eric Sanders, McReynolds' attorney, told a different story.

As a former NYPD officer himself, Sanders claims McReynolds immediately identified himself despite what he said was a lack of grounds for stopping him.

"You have to have a legal basis to stop someone in the first place," Sanders said. "They can't do that in a private building unless they establish that there are some grounds for suspicion."

The police report cites the Clean Halls program, which allows officers to stop suspicious occupants of private buildings, interrogate them and place them under arrest for criminal trespass, as legal basis for interrogating McReynolds,

McReynolds was walking up the building's stairs, returning with a bag of take-out Chinese food, when he encountered Officers Kyle Bach and Joseph Azevedo. Both officers had just left an apartment on the same floor as McReynolds' girlfriend, Yvelisse Cruz, in response to a domestic abuse call.

The police report said, after being advised that the alleged suspect might still in the building, the officers immediately stopped McReynolds thinking he might be the alleged abuser.

The report also said that after refusing to answer interrogation questions, they attempted to handcuff him as McReynolds pushed Azevedo in the chest. Cruz, who took pictures of the incident, was then instructed by McReynolds to call 911, and, according to the report, was told to lie to the dispatcher and claim that "a uniformed member of the services was hitting him in the face."

When back-up officers were called in, McReynolds was released, but was later suspended for 30 days on charges of misconduct toward an officer. He has since been ruled to be fit for duty and has returned to his position in the Quality Assurance Division of the department.

Sanders maintained that McReynolds is innocent on all counts of alleged misconduct.

Both Sanders and the police report said that McReynolds clarified that he "was on the job." Sanders explained this is a common phrase among the law enforcement community as indication of officer status, adding that the officers should have recognized that.

Sanders also said McReynolds never pushed any of the officers, and never instructed Cruz to lie on the 911 call, citing the lack of a call transcript in the police report.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said that the police commissioner was aware of the incident but had no comment.

Sanders said he plans on filing suit against the City of New York and linking this case with another racial profiling case involving three black detectives to show a pattern of racial profiling in the city.

"African-Americans and Latino citizens are stopped by police on a higher basis than any other group in New York and most don't even end in arrest," said Sanders. "They're tossing people to find an arrest. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. They think 'If I toss ten people, then I'll find maybe one out of ten.'"

No charges have been filed against the officers involved.

Police Officer's 3-year-old Son Shoots Cousin

A police officer's 3-year-old son shot his cousin of the same age to death in what the county sheriff is calling a "tragic accident."

The New Year's Eve shooting happened in Rayville, in northeastern Louisiana.

The 3-year-old victim was the officer's niece. He had gone to visit another off-duty officer, according to

Sheriff Charles McDonald says the two children were playing in the front yard.

The police officer reached inside his vehicle to get something and turned away, the paper said.

While his back was turned, the little boy reached inside the driver's side door and grabbed the officer's sidearm, pulling the trigger.

The bullet accidentally struck the girl, killing her instantly.

The names of the officers and children involved were not released.

Officer Kevin McCann Charged with Abusing Children with Taser-Like Weapon

A part-time police officer has reportedly been charged for allegedly abusing his girlfriend's young children with a Taser-like weapon.

Kevin McCann, 47, of Lawrence Township, Ohio, has been charged with two counts of felonious assault and two counts of felony child endangering. McCann allegedly used a Taser-like weapon this on Christina Robinson's 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, the Canton Repository reports.

Authorities do not believe McCann shocked the children and they do not believe the weapon he allegedly used in this incident was given to him as part of his official duties, according to the newspaper.

Robinson, 22, also of Lawrence Township, is charged with four counts of felony child endangering.

Both suspects were arraigned Wednesday and denied all charges. They remain in the Stark County Jail with bond set at $500,000.

The two children in question and a younger sibling have been placed with a relative with supervision provided by the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services, the newspaper reports.

Former Officer Jared Rohrig Faces New Charge of Illegally Hunting Deer

The ex-Orange police officer accused of posing as his identical twin to lure a woman to his bedroom and then raping her after she realized she was with the wrong man now also faces a charge that he was illegally hunting deer.

During Jared S. Rohrig’s brief court appearance Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Eddie Rodriguez Jr. said he would preside over pretrial proceedings involving the misdemeanor charge of violating deer hunting regulations, and the felony charges of first-degree sexual assault and criminal impersonation.

Rohrig, 25, of 7 Flax Mill Lane, was arrested Oct. 17 after a Department of Environmental Protection conservation officer came upon Rohrig perched in a tree stand with a hunting bow, but no hunting license, said DEP spokesman Dennis Schain.

Rohrig was allegedly hunting on Beard Sand and Gravel Co. property. It was deer hunting season, but failure to have a hunting license carries a $200 to $400 fine and up to 60 days in prison.

Rohrig was free on $50,000 bail from his August sexual assault arrest when he was arrested in connection with the hunting incident.

Rohrig is accused of pretending to be his twin brother, Joseph, to have sex with a woman who came to the Flax Mill Lane home to see Joseph in July. In statements to police, the alleged victim said after she realized she was with the wrong Rohrig, she was forced back onto the bed, and Jared Rohrig continued the sexual encounter against her will.

Jared Rohrig has pleaded innocent to charges stemming from the alleged sexual assault, but has yet to enter a plea to the illegal hunting charge.

Bridgeport defense attorney Ed Gavin said he received Tuesday a computer disc from State’s Attorney Kevin D. Lawlor containing information about the alleged sexual assault. The case was continued to Feb. 23 to give both sides time to review the evidence in the case.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to have substantive discussions before the next court date,” Rodriguez said.

Four motions Gavin previously filed, including a motion to dismiss the case, were not heard or ruled on Tuesday.

“It was only a status conference,” Gavin said outside the courtroom.

Gavin said the motions to dismiss the charges, suppress certain evidence, have other evidence preserved and to be notified of any misconduct that Rohrig will not be charged with, but may still be used at trial, are routine and filed in almost every criminal case. A hearing date for those motions has not been set.

Officers Getting Rich on DUI Scheme

Drunk driving is a real problem, with real victims. We assume that the police officers driving the streets of our city are out to protect us. We hope that each drunk driving charge -- each arrest -- is one less dangerous driver for us to worry about.

But what if the police officer is the real danger? What if drunk drivers are not the ones being charged? What if we're all simply open game in a get-rich-quick scheme?

We would be furious and, in Chicago, many citizens are.

When a police officer writes a DUI ticket, he faces the possibility of being called to testify in court if the charge is challenged. By appearing in court, the officer is able to claim overtime pay. If a crooked cop is charging innocent drivers, who will most likely contest the charge, you can imagine that he or she would be bringing in a lot of overtime pay.

Recent public outrage has been focused on Officer Richard Fiorito, a Chicago cop accused of, not only padding his DUI arrests, but of targeting gay and lesbian drivers.

A quick search online turns up multiple videos of Fiorito, recorded on his dashboard camera. Onscreen, the alleged drunk drivers complete every task he gives them, but are eventually taken into custody anyway, confused and scared.

As of late November, Officer Fiorito was still on the city payroll, despite a pile of evidence showing his misconduct and a growing number of lawsuits. Many wonder just exactly what it will take to make city officials take definitive action.

Officer Fiorito isn't the first Chicago officer accused of filing false and misleading DUI charges against innocent drivers. Earlier this year, Officer Joe Parker was accused of the same thing and, in 2008, another Chicago cop, John Haleas, was brought to trial over alleged indiscretions.

In Officer Haleas' case, a Cook County judge dismissed the indictment against him in early November -- hardly the justice his victims were hoping for.

Not only were these three officers engaging in extremely suspect actions, they were commended for it. Fiorito was personally honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for his number of DUI arrests, and Parker had been widely acclaimed by DUI enforcers throughout Illinois. Haleas was about to be honored by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists when allegations against him began to roll in.

The idea that someone would willfully abuse a system meant to protect innocent people in order to make money is extremely troubling.

While one will hope that such instances are isolated and that a few bad apples don't reflect on the entire system, who can say? One can imagine that, in the future, high-performing DUI officers will be watched more closely -- or so we can hope.

If you have been falsely accused of a DUI offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with extensive DUI experience.

Article provided by Michael T. Norris, Ltd. and John W. Callahan, Ltd.
Visit them at

Const Kevin Gregson Charged with Killing Officer

An RCMP officer accused in the stabbing death of an Ottawa police officer was allegedly dressed like a detective, wearing a Kevlar vest, a holster and carrying a pellet gun, sources tell CTV Ottawa.

Const. Kevin Gregson, 43, is under suicide watch following a court appearance where he faced first-degree murder charges in connection with the death.

He held his head low during the appearance on Wednesday morning, and is remanded in protective custody until Jan. 7.

Gregson is charged with first-degree murder, robbery and using an imitation firearm.

The robbery charge is in relation to a vehicle that was found parked at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, where Const. Eric Czapnik, 51, was killed.

Judge Richard Sculthorpe granted a Crown request to put Gregson under suicide watch on Wednesday morning.

However, defence lawyer Israel Gencher said the move is precautionary.

"It's a precaution that the police are seeking. Something during the course of their interviews have caused them to have concerns; and in an abundance of caution, they've requested it from the court," said Gencher.

He said he could not comment on the state of his client's mind. However, he is considering asking for a psychiatric assessment for his client.

He also said it's common for police officers to be granted protective custody regardless of the situation because police have been known to be in danger when they are put behind bars.

Family shaken by charges

Gregson's parents, who were visibly shaken and upset, sat in the courtroom as their son appeared before the judge. They asked not to be questioned by the media.

"His parents are understandable quite upset. They are asking to please honour their privacy," said Gencher.

"They're elderly. This has rocked their world and they're really not in a position to give a statement at this time."

He said his next step is to take the case to a superior court judge to ask for bail for his client.

Suspect's past

Gregson -- who has two daughters and is originally from Ottawa -- worked for the RCMP in Saskatchewan. He was suspended with pay in 2006. However, he was recently suspended without pay.

Gencher could not say how long his client has been residing in Ottawa, or where he was living.

In 2006, Gregson was arrested for pulling a knife on a Mormon church official in Regina.

He received a conditional discharge after explaining to the court that he had recently undergone brain surgery for cysts on his brain.

Following the incident, a formal RCMP board reviewed the case in 2008 and ordered Gregson to either resign or be dismissed.

Gregson appealed the decision, which is currently being reviewed by an external review committee.

Murder charges

The charges were laid Tuesday night, more than 15 hours after Czapnik was killed.

Police say Czapnik was sitting in his cruiser outside the emergency room of the Ottawa Hospital taking notes on an unrelated case when he was attacked by a male suspect at about 4:30 a.m.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said late Tuesday that he was "shocked" to learn the suspect charged in the case was a member of the RCMP.

Love for others

Czapnik was a Polish immigrant who moved to Canada in 1990. He was a proud father of three sons and one daughter.

He joined the Ottawa police force late in life, after deciding to follow in his father's footsteps in 2007.

Those who knew Czapnik say it was his love for people and his determination that brought him to the ranks of the Ottawa police.

"His dream was to be a police officer," said friend Roger Furmanczyk, who sits on the parish council of the St-Hyacinth Polish Church, where Czapnik was a parishioner.

Others remembered him as a man who always had a smile on his face, and left a powerful impression on everyone he met.

"He will be missed certainly by everybody -- by his family, our community and the entire Ottawa community. It's a loss for all of us," said Wlodek Ciepala, who played soccer with Czapnik.

A memorial will be held at the St-Hyacinth Polish Church at 201 LeBreton St. N. on Monday.

Outpouring of support

People streamed in and out of Ottawa police headquarters on Wednesday to sign a book of condolences for the slain officer.

Many wiped away tears and tried to muffle sniffles as they wrote messages of support. The book at 474 Elgin St. is available to sign 24 hours a day.

Other books of condolences are also available at police stations across the city from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Those locations include:

* 4561 Bank St.,
* 211 Huntmar Dr.,
* 3343 St. Joseph Blvd.,
* and 245 Greenbank Rd.

Those who can't make it to the police station are invited to send email messages to

His funeral will be held at Lansdowne Park on Thursday, Jan. 7 at 1:30 p.m. Visitations will be at Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Ave., on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Donations to a trust fund for the children can be made at the Ottawa Police Credit Union at 274 Elgin Street.