Friday, January 22, 2010

Deputy Robert Stogner Arrested for Stalking

A West Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputy was fired Wednesday after being arrested for allegedly stalking a man he believed was seeing his wife.

Robert Wayne Stogner, 48, 8909 Island Road, St. Francisville, tried to contact the man Wednesday at his place of employment, Georgia Pacific’s Port Hudson mill, an affidavit of probable cause said.

Stogner arrived at the mill between Baton Rouge and St. Francisville around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and asked a dispatcher to contact the man via radio, the affidavit said.

Sensing that something was wrong, the dispatcher continued talking to Stogner instead of contacting the mill employee, the affidavit said.

During their conversation, Stogner told the dispatcher “that if he were a crazy man, he could have killed everyone he contacted thus far with the two handguns and the shotgun that were in his truck,” the affidavit said.

The dispatcher told investigators with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office that she saw the shotgun in Stogner’s vehicle, the affidavit said.

Stogner admitted to investigators he went to the mill with his service-issued .40-caliber weapon to talk to the man he believed was having an affair with his wife, the affidavit said.

Stogner also admitted to calling the man and going to the man’s motel room and the mill on previous occasions.

On one of two previous occasions at the mill, Stogner confronted the man with a hammer and a crowbar, the affidavit said. A fight did not ensue, but the man told investigators he felt threatened.

East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Stogner and booked him into Parish Prison on one count each of stalking and aggravated assault.

As a result of his arrest, Stogner was fired from his position with the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, West Feliciana Parish Sheriff J. Austin Daniel said.

The sheriff said Wednesday he wrote a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office asking that Stogner’s law enforcement commission be revoked.

Daniel said that on the same day deputies recovered Stogner’s service-issued weapons from his home.

Stogner started working with the Sheriff’s Office in March 2002, Sheriff’s Office records show. He left the office in June 2008 and was rehired in February. His position with the office as a patrol deputy was part time.

“He did a good job for us,” Daniel said. “He worked a lot of hours at night.”

According to West Feliciana Parish court records, Stogner’s latest arrest was not his first.

Stogner was arrested on Oct. 15, 1993, in St. Francisville for allegedly threatening to beat up his then-wife at a law office, court records show. Stogner was charged with disturbing the peace, simple assault and criminal damage to property.

Stogner was sentenced to one year of probation for the misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property, court records show. The other two charges were dropped.

Officer Anthony Vann Arrested for Drunk Driving

A Navajo Department of Public Safety officer was arrested on extreme DUI charges over the weekend.

According to Flagstaff police reports, Anthony J. Vann, 43, of Kaibeto, was arrested by Flagstaff police and charged with extreme DUI with a blood-alcohol content above .15 percent but below .20 percent at 2:11 a.m. Sunday.

Vann is a sergeant with the NDPS Dilkon district.

The arresting officer noted in his report that Vann handed over a Navajo Nation law enforcement identification and asked, “Can you help me out?”

According to police reports, Vann was arrested on a previous DUI charge in Flagstaff in 2006. According to information from the NDPS, Vann was not employed as a police officer at the time.

Lt. Emerson Lee of the Dilkon district said Vann is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

“Nobody is above the law,” Lee said. “I commend the staff and law enforcement personnel at the Flagstaff Police Department on doing a fine job.”

Officer Mitchell Sent Text Messages to Woman Accused of Drunk Driving

Days after an officer arrested a woman on suspicion of drunken driving, police say he used his personal cell phone to send more than 90 text messages, some including photographs, to the suspect.

The texting is the basis of an internal investigation by Police Chief Robert Williams.


On Thanksgiving Day, three officers, including veteran officer John Mitchell, conducted a traffic stop at Wales Road and Andrew Avenue NE, according to police reports. Witnesses had reported a possible drunken driver operating a gold Ford Taurus in the area.

The officers conducted field sobriety tests on a 58-year-old Perry Township woman, who acted “lethargic” and failed to respond well to officers’ instructions, reports said. Police found in her car a straw and mirror, as well as bottles of prescription medications.

The suspect was taken to Affinity Medical Center for blood and urine tests. She was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of failure to control, operating a vehicle impaired, and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. The Independent generally does not name misdemeanors crime suspects.

Days after the arrest, more than 90 text messages were sent from Mitchell’s cell phone to the suspect. The suspect showed the material to her attorney, Jeff Jakmides, who took the information to Williams and Chief City Prosecutor John Simpson.

Williams said he immediately launched an internal investigation into Mitchell’s alleged misuse of a personal cell phone to communicate with the suspect.

Mitchell has not been charged with a crime. It is unknown if the allegations against him would rise to criminal charges if they are found to be true. Mitchell remains on duty, according to Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, because the matter still is being investigated.


Mitchell’s personnel record does not contain information about the investigation. He was hired March 18, 1996, and has no record of discipline.

Attempts to reach Mitchell at the Police Department on Thursday were unsuccessful. Williams, speaking through a clerk, would not permit The Independent to speak to Mitchell or his union representative.

Jakmides would not comment on specifics of the text messages.

“My client is cooperating with the Massillon Police Department, specifically Lt. (Keith) Moser, in the investigation of the conduct of one Massillon police officer that was involved in that arrest,” Jakmides said.

“The investigation is still ongoing, and my client and I are scheduled to meet again with the police authorities. We have turned over certain documentation and I suppose since the matter is a pending investigation, we probably shouldn’t comment any further.”

Jakmides said his client has no plans to take any legal action against the officer at this time.

“I don’t want to jeopardize any investigation, and I don’t know that it would really be fair to the officer either because the investigation is going to show what it’s going to show,” he said.

“I don’t know what they intend to do with the information. This is a police matter, and we’re going to let the police handle it the way they see fit.”

Williams said there is no timeline to complete the investigation. He noted that the suspect still was in the process of turning over about a dozen of the text messages as of Thursday.

Law Director Perry Stergios said his office is aware of the case, but is waiting for the department to finish its investigation.

Safety-Service Director Mike Loudiana said the case has been prolonged, in part, because the city is in the process of acquiring phone records. Stergios expects the case to be forwarded the Canton City Prosecutor’s Office when it is completed to avoid any appearance of impropriety.


While the internal investigation continues into the officer’s actions after the drunken driving arrest, all but one traffic charge has been dismissed against the woman.

A blood test showed no signs of alcohol. A urine test showed no signs of drugs or alcohol. And crime lab test proved that the straw and mirror contained no drug residue, Prosecuting Attorney Laura Darrow said.

Jakmides also provided prescriptions for the medications found in the suspect’s car.

“I knew right away that I was going to dismiss this,” Darrow said. “As far as I’m concerned, these pictures or text messages have nothing to do with my case. My labs are what control my case. I cannot prosecute when the exculpatory evidence shows they are not guilty.”

Massillon Municipal Judge Edward Elum dismissed the criminal charges and the suspect pleaded to a charge of failure to control.

Lt James Cifala Charged with Receiving Child Porn

An Anne Arundel County police lieutenant is in federal custody on charges he received child pornography in the form of sexually explicit text messages and digital pictures sent to his cell phone by a teenage girl more than 30 years his junior.

Lt. James B. Cifala, 47, could be sentenced to between five and 20 years in prison if convicted. A detention hearing is scheduled today.

"This case is particularly disturbing because it involves an individual who had a professional duty of protecting our children," Richard McFeely, the special agent in charge of the Baltimore office of the FBI, said in a statement.

According to a redacted FBI affidavit filed, a mother and stepfather contacted the agency's Baltimore division in September, concerned that their daughter, who was born in 1993, was involved in a sexual relationship with an adult male.

Text messages between the girl and a man named "Johnny," identified by agents as Cifala, are explicit.

"You were great today," reads an Aug. 15 message sent from Johnny. "Sex with you is fun," the girl replied.

Between Aug. 14 and Sept. 6, 2009, there were more than 1,300 exchanges, mostly texts, between their cell phones. The girl told agents she also sent nude photos to Cifala, who is also accused of sending images of himself. Cifala made his initial appearance in Baltimore U.S. District Court on Thursday, wearing what appeared to be police apparel: a dark, long-sleeved shirt with epaulets and cargo-style pants. He was arrested Wednesday.

A defense attorney, standing in temporarily, declined to comment on Cifala's behalf, as did three family members, including his wife, who were in the courtroom. She passed Cifala his blood pressure medication after the brief hearing, and the couple exchanged a kiss by putting their lips to their fingertips and touching hands before he was led from the room in cuffs.

Anne Arundel County police spokesman Justin Mulcahey said Cifala, a 27-year member of the force, is still employed with the department. He declined to address whether he had been suspended, as was suggested in court. Department regulations allow an officer to be suspended without pay if charged with a felony.

"The Police Department holds its officers to the highest ethical standards," Col. James Teare, Sr., chief of police, said.

The Arundel state's attorney's office said that it's unlikely Cifalo was an arresting officer recently because of his rank. Still, officials plan to review whether his testimony is central to any pending cases, said spokeswoman Kristin Fleckenstein.

Police Misconduct Lawsuit Settled in New Orleans

Attorneys for the city of New Orleans recently settled a pair of high-profile federal lawsuits alleging police misconduct.

One alleged brawl, involving city transit workers and off-duty officers, took place on Mardi Gras night at the Beach Corner bar in Mid-City. The other case centered on an incident in July 2006 inside a Central City bar.

On Friday, the city attorney's office reached a settlement in federal court with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Steven Elloie, a bar manager who alleged he was beaten, twice shocked with a Taser stun gun and falsely arrested inside the Sportsman's Corner bar.

According to the suit, Elloie was taking inventory in the stockroom that night when the officers "entered the bar in an aggressive and belligerent manner" and announced they were looking for two young black men wearing blue jeans and white T-shirts. The 16 customers inside the bar told the police that no one fitting that description had come in.

Though they had no search warrant or permission to search the bar, the officers began "forcefully opening and attempting to open doors," and one officer grabbed Elloie and told him he was going to jail, the suit alleged. Elloie said four or five cops then began hitting and kicking him.

Police booked him with resisting arrest and battery on one of the police officers, but the charges were later dropped. The Elloie family filed Public Integrity Bureau complaints with more than a dozen supporting witnesses. The internal affairs division of the NOPD found that Elloie's claims were "unsubstantiated."

Elloie's attorney, Katie Schwartzmann of the ACLU, declined to release the settlement amount, which is in addition to attorney's fees.

"The settlement in this case is a great outcome for Steven Elloie, but until we have meaningful internal accountability for officers who break the law, we will continue to have problems with police misconduct in this City," Schwartzmann said in a released statement. "People must be able to trust the police."

Police spokesman Bob Young did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. The city attorney, Penya Moses-Fields, did not return a request for comment late Friday afternoon regarding the Elloie case.

Some of the same officers involved in the Elloie incident were later involved in another well-publicized case. That case, closed Friday in federal district court, was brought by a Regional Transit Authority employee who alleged he, and some co-workers, were beaten and falsely arrested in a racially charged bar brawl with off-duty officers in 2008. The dismissal came two weeks after the two sides reached an agreement.

Lamont Williams, the RTA worker, alleged that he and three co-workers, who are all black, were subjected to racial epithets, followed outside and beaten by off-duty, plainclothes officers. He also alleged that a police officer pulled a gun from a co-worker's car, planted it on Williams, then falsely arrested him for possession of a gun - a charge that was later dropped.

The city settled the case for $25,000, according to Moses-Fields.

"The City of New Orleans decided it was a good business decision to settle the cases because litigating them to completion would have cost more than $25,000," Moses-Fields wrote in an e-mail message. "The City of New Orleans entered into the settlement with absolutely no admission of liability."

One of the officers, David Lapene, was dropped from the lawsuit "after it became apparent that the officer had absolutely nothing to do with" the incident, Moses-Field noted.

Police attorney Frank DeSalvo said Friday that the "whole case was a sham" and that the small settlement amount shows the allegations had little merit.

Attorney Stephen Rue, who brought the case, said Williams had difficulty identifying the specific officer who punched him. Ultimately, Williams wanted to settle the case and move on, Rue said.

The NOPD's own initial investigation concluded that five officers broke police conduct rules and then lied to investigators, with at least one officer coercing a civilian witness to lie.

Police Superintendent Warren Riley fired two officers: Sgt. Warren Keller Jr, who allegedly exchanged harsh words with Williams inside the restroom stall, kicking off the imbroglio; and Lapene, who was dropped from the federal suit, and who allegedly threw a punch that landed on William's face. Both officers have appealed their terminations to the city's Civil Service Commission.

The NOPD initial investigation also concluded that another off-duty officer, Jennifer Samuel, committed wrongdoing. She was suspended for 80 days.

A criminal inquiry into the officers' actions was opened, but charges were never filed. Then-District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson's office responded to the NOPD in writing, saying the matter had been refused for prosecution because an essential witness, RTA worker Kennis Hagan, had drowned in an unrelated incident.