Monday, January 25, 2010

Corrections Officer Charles Rowe Arrested on Drug Charges

A veteran Calipatria State Prison Corrections officer could soon be on the other side of the jail cell.

A prison official says Charles Rowe was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Brawley on Friday.

The 42-year old sits behind bars at the Imperial County Jail facing charges on drug related offenses.

We're told Rowe has worked at Calipatria State Prison for the past 17 years.

Former Officer Nathan VanFleet Charged with Rape of Child

A 31-year-old former Hunter police officer will face a jury trial in Coxsackie court on Feb. 9, answering to accusations of sexual misconduct with an underage female.

Nathan VanFleet, of Durham, was charged in Dec. 2008 with third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sex act, both felonies, as well as endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct, both misdemeanors.

VanFleet, whose case is being prosecuted by the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office, has since had his charges reduced to two counts of sexual misconduct, a class A misdemeanor.

The original charges, filed by the New York State Police with the assistance of the Greene County District Attorney’s Office, were the result of an investigation into reports that VanFleet was engaged in an unlawful relationship with an underage female. It has been alleged that the sexual incidents occurred while he was on duty as a police officer, as well as off duty.

Town of Hunter Police Chief Jennifer Reich assisted state police in the investigation.

The case will be heard before Coxsackie Town Justice Thomas J. Fori.

Jury selection is scheduled to being on Feb. 9 at 10 a.m.

Resource Officer Louis Buck Morris Given New Court Date

Judge Stephen Kistler granted a new date for a former Stillwater Police Department school resource officer’s arraignment during a court date on Friday.

Kistler scheduled the new date for 1:30 p.m. on March 12.

Louis Alvie “Buck” Morris, 48, was charged with three counts of inappropriate acts with a child less than 16 years old and two counts of rape by instrumentation on June 16, according to court documents. All five counts are felony offenses.

If convicted on all five counts, Morris could spend life in prison without parole, according to the documents.

“Eventually the judge will get the case set for a jury trial,” said Robert Hudson, Payne County district attorney, in a phone interview Thursday.

Morris was released on bond in June, according to court documents.

Morris’ counsel couldn’t be reached for comment.

On May 20, a Stillwater citizen reported that Morris was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old girl, according to a June 16, Stillwater police press release.

Two investigators were assigned to the case and on June 1 they found evidence that Morris might have broken the law.

That day, Stillwater Chief of Police, Norman McNickle, asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to help Stillwater police investigate, according to the press release.

Morris was suspended June 2, when investigators found cause that he could have broken the law, according to the press release.

Morris worked as a Stillwater police officer for 17 years, according to the press release.

The Stillwater Police Department declined to comment further on the case.

The girl’s father said he allowed his daughter and Morris to spend time together and thought that he could trust Morris because he was a police officer, according to the affidavit.

Morris met the girl at Stillwater Junior High School where he worked, according to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation affidavit.

“We’re really not changing anything (about our policies),” said Ann Caine, Stillwater Public Schools superintendent. “Our counselors are really great about telling the kids what is appropriate behavior and what’s not appropriate behavior. We weren’t aware of what was going on.”

After he found out he was under investigation, Morris spoke to a school resource officer who worked at another Stillwater school, according to the affidavit.

Morris said he was sorry; that he felt like he was 15 again.

Officer Dan Saba's Fall into Addiction

Within months of joining the Minnetonka Police Department, a young officer named Dan Saba won high praise from his chief for saving a woman's life on Christmas Eve in 1996.

Shortly before Christmas last month, that same officer sat in the Hennepin County jail on the verge of losing his job, addicted to pain medicine and awaiting sentencing on one burglary while being investigated in two others.

Strung out on Vicodin, Saba also has admitted to breaking into at least 10 homes last year looking for drugs. Many of those burglaries, he said, involved breaking into homes he'd responded to earlier while on duty as an officer.

"I have seen many officers make many mistakes of varying degrees," Robert Fowler, Saba's attorney and the general counsel for the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police, said in court documents. "I have not seen a more tragic case involving the fall of a peace officer."

Those sentiments are echoed by friends, relatives, and colleagues who know Saba, arrested and convicted last year for burglary after breaking into a Chanhassen home looking for prescription drugs.

Saba, 38, was to be sentenced next week in Carver County District Court, but that has been postponed.

In the meantime, Saba also faces a burglary charge in Hennepin County District Court and a disorderly conduct citation in Carver County in connection with break-ins last month.

"It's a very complicated issue," said Minnetonka Police Chief Mark Raquet, who placed Saba on unpaid leave last year. "To navigate through this is difficult. I don't have any complaints about Dan as an officer. I would not describe him as a problem officer."

Rise and fall

By most accounts, Saba was a dedicated officer, joining Minnetonka in 1995 in what Saba described as his dream job.

Almost immediately Saba made an impact. On Christmas Eve in 1996 he saved a motorist who had suffered a stroke by running alongside her moving car and steering it into a snowbank before pulling her out.

"Officer Saba displayed an extraordinary amount of courage and good judgment at this call," then-Chief Richard Setter wrote in commending Saba.

But things began to fall apart by 2005. Saba's drug habit began after a doctor prescribed the painkiller Vicodin to help him deal with migraine headaches, according to court records.

As his addiction grew worse, so did his conduct, according to court papers and letters from friends, relatives and fellow officers in the department.

After Saba was caught in the break-in last May in Chanhassen, he also was arrested in December on suspicion of a similar incident in Hennepin County, where he has been charged with first-degree burglary.

A second Hennepin County complaint, in a burglary in Excelsior in early May, included an interview with Saba.

"He estimated that he has entered ... 10 residences without consent since February 2009 and has taken prescription medications in many of them," the complaint said.

A week later, the Carver County Sheriff's Office investigated an attempted break-in at a home in Victoria in which Saba was ultimately cited for disorderly conduct.

While investigators were talking to Saba he "made some suicidal threats," according to a Sheriff's Office report.

Unintended consequences

Saba has told police investigators he doesn't remember all of the details of his break-ins because his mind was so clouded by narcotics.

Saba has been through rehab at least twice. He also has been treated by a psychiatrist, according to court records.

Raquet and others who know Saba attribute much of his behavior and lapses in judgment to the grip that they say drugs have had on him for at least four years.

"Dan never intended for this to happen," his wife, Sheila, wrote to Carver County officials last year. "He did not choose this for himself, his family or his friends."

Many of his fellow officers in Minnetonka agreed, saying in letters to the court that they had witnessed changes in Saba over the past several years as the drugs slowly took over.