Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Former Deputy Richard Miller Charged with Sending E-Mail Threats

A former Blue Earth County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with a felony for an alleged e-mail threat he sent to other deputies in November.

The terroristic threats charge was filed Wednesday against Richard Glenn Miller, 36, of Mankato. Miller resigned from his job as a deputy in December after being placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 11.

That was the day Miller allegedly sent an e-mail, with the subject “Union Contract,” to 14 other deputies at 5:46 a.m. He was the only deputy on duty at the time, the criminal complaint said.

After discussing upcoming union negotiations, Miller allegedly ended the e-mail with, “We absolutely need to have this added to our contract and if we don’t I’m gonna bring a gun into our office and shoot this place and everyone to hell.” The e-mail allegedly ended with “MILLER” in all capital letters.

Miller was put on administrative leave later that day after the e-mail was shown to Lt. David Karge and Capt. Rich Murry. Miller allegedly told Karge and Murry, who went to his house to confront him, that the e-mail was a joke, and he ends all of his e-mails with a “bit of his sense of humor,” the complaint said. Miller’s squad car, M16 rifle and handgun were taken at that time.

All of the deputies who received the e-mail, as well as Karge and Murry, were interviewed by Sgt. Steve Collins of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Three of the deputies said they felt threatened by the e-mail and several said they felt “slightly alarmed,” Collins reported.

Others said they weren’t threatened but could understand how the e-mail could be perceived as a threat, the complaint said.

Miller said Wednesday that he never intended to harm or threaten anyone.

“It was an expression meant in a humorous way, and it was taken out of context,” Miller said. “It was a phrase that’s commonly used.

“If I would have known I was going to threaten someone with what I said, I most certainly wouldn’t have said it.”

Miller also said it might have been a mistake to make the comment in an e-mail because it’s more difficult to convey that a phrase is meant to be humorous. If he would have said it in person, the other deputies would have seen him smiling and understood it wasn’t meant to be a threat, he said.

“They were co-workers and friends,” Miller said. “It’s a real tight group of people. Whenever you’re dealing with union negotiations, you always try to lighten the mood.

“It’s really hurtful that someone would think I’m capable of something like that. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life trying to help people. To be accused of something like that is really hurtful.”

After Miller’s resignation, Blue Earth County Chief Deputy Mike Maurer would not disclose why Miller had been placed on paid leave or the reason for his resignation. Maurer would only say there was an internal investigation and that the Scott County department had been asked to do a criminal investigation.

The investigation ended in early January and was turned over to the Brown County attorney’s office to decide if any criminal charges should be filed. Scott and Brown counties were asked to help to avoid any conflicts of interest, Maurer said.

Miller, who had been a Blue Earth County deputy since 1999, had been disciplined twice before by superiors, according to personnel records available to the public.

In 2005, he was suspended for 10 hours without pay for failing to complete two training courses. He also was suspended without pay for one work week in February 2002 after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. In that incident, Miller also was accused of distracting a state trooper so he would be pulled over instead of an intoxicated friend who was driving another car.

Former Deputy Carl Graves Accused of Raping 13-year-old

Jurors heard opening statements Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a former Brevard County sheriff's deputy accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.

An attorney for Carl E. Graves, 47, said he maintains that he is innocent of six counts of sexual battery and three counts of molestation. Each charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

A two-day jury selection process wrapped up Tuesday in Circuit Judge George Maxwell’s courtroom at the Moore Justice Center in Viera.

Legal wrangling between Graves and his attorneys over their possible withdrawal from the case halted proceedings until this afternoon. Attorneys resumed about 2 p.m. to go forward with opening statements.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Graves in May 2007, a month after his former girlfriend went to police with allegations that she caught the Cocoa man holding her daughter against a wall and trying to kiss her, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police said the teen told them that the sexual contact progressed from inappropriately touching her during trips to buy the girl candy, soda and cigarettes to forcing her to have sex several times in summer 2006.

Officials said Graves was fired in February 2007 before the rape allegations.

Deputy Richard Heverly Charged with Bringing Weapon to Court

A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy facing criminal charges for allegedly holding a gun to a man's head while off duty has been charged with an additional felony for allegedly bringing his service weapon to court on his trial date.

Richard Charles Heverly, 43, of La Verne arrived last week at the Larson Justice Center in Indio in full uniform, with his duty belt and service weapon, according to an arrest declaration written by the bailiff in the courtroom.

His trial date was postponed, and a new court date was set for Monday. Prior to the Monday court appearance, prosecutors filed criminal charges against Heverly for unlawful possession of a weapon in a public building.

When Heverly returned to the court, he was arrested on the gun charges. He was released from custody after posting $20,000 bail.

Heverly appeared in court on Wednesday to be arraigned on the new charge, but the hearing was postponed to Feb. 9. A jury trial in Heverly's prior case is also set for that date.

Heverly remains employed by the Sheriff's Department and is assigned to work at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire said.

"He is not on any type of paid administrative leave or anything like that," Wiltshire said.

In August 2008, Heverly was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers after he allegedly held a gun to a tow truck driver's head and threatened to kill him in an apparent off-duty road rage incident.

Prosecutors have charged Heverly with four felonies for his role in the incident, which occurred on the 10 Freeway about 50 miles east of Indio.

One of the officers who arrested Heverly testified in a preliminary hearing last year that Heverly claimed he felt threatened by the tow truck driver and said he was acting in self-defense.

Law enforcement officers are allowed to carry weapons in courthouses and other public buildings if they are there carrying out their official duties. Heverly allegedly violated the law because he was armed during an appearance in a case where he was the defendant.

Heverly and his attorney did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Former Officer Anthony Tuleta Indicted for Purchasing Steroids

Dr. Ramon Scruggs was indicted for illegally writing prescriptions for Schedule III Steroids. Anthony Tuleta, a Cleveland Police Officer, was indicted for illegally purchasing the steroids.

Dr. Scruggs, 61, of Santa Ana, California, prescribed Schedule III Steroids over the internet for non-medical purposes from January 2003 to June 2007. Prosecutors say Anthony Tuleta illegally bought and submitted insurance claims to Medical Mutual.

Medical Mutual contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after it identified excessive amounts of steroids being prescribed. Dr. Scruggs pleaded guilty to 5 counts of drug trafficking. On December 14, 2009, Dr. Scruggs was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Anthony Tuleta's trial is scheduled for tomorrow, January 27, 2010, at 9:00 am in front of Judge John O'Donnell.

Lt Brian Leary Faces Drunk Driving Charges

A city police lieutenant faces drunken driving charges after his car rear-ended another vehicle while he was off-duty over the weekend, the chief said.

Lt. Brian Leary, 48, will be summoned to Brockton District Court to face charges of operating under the influence in connection with the accident on Saturday, Police Chief William Conlon said.

Leary was also cited for following too closely, the chief said.

Conlon said the accident occurred Saturday, around dinner time, at Court and Cary streets. Leary was driving his personal vehicle and was off-duty at the time, Conlon said.

Leary was not arrested at the scene because he was taken to the hospital after suffering head trauma when the airbag deployed, Conlon said.

The other driver was not injured, the chief said.

Leary could also face disciplinary action by the department even though the crash occurred while off-duty. “It is a serious occurrence,” Conlon said.

Leary has not been back to work since the accident, he said.

The chief said Leary has been a hard-working officer and is considered “a great officer, a smart guy.”

However, Conlon said police officers must be held to a high standard.

“Incidents such as this are unacceptable,” he said.

Officer Sean O'Brien Arrested for Hitting Handcuffed 14-year-old

A Chattanooga police officer has been arrested and relieved of duty after he reportedly hit a teenager in juvenile custody. Members of the Internal Affairs Division arrested Officer Sean O'Brien Wednesday.

Investigators say the alleged incident happened at the Juvenile Detention Center. Employees there filed a complaint after they reportedly witnessed O'Brien hitting the handcuffed 14 year old who was under arrest. The juvenile was seated in the intake hallway when he reportedly exchanged words with O'Brien who then hit him on the head then pushed him to a wall.

O'Brien has been charged with simple assault and was taken to Hamilton County Jail.

More Information

Family Says Kenneth Howe Beaten by Police

The family of a Worcester man who died after being stopped at a state police sobriety checkpoint filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit yesterday, alleging that Kenneth R. Howe was beaten to death by police.

The family's lawyer, Frances A. King, called on the U.S. attorney to take over the investigation from the Essex district attorney's office. State police are working with the DA's office on the investigation into the Nov. 25 incident, she said, which is unacceptable.

“It is nothing short of absurd to think that the Massachusetts State Police can investigate the Massachusetts State Police,” she said at a press conference in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Boston.

She called it outrageous that none of the officers at the checkpoint that night had been disciplined or suspended, even after the state medical examiner declared Mr. Howe's death a homicide. The medical examiner recently ruled that Mr. Howe died of “blunt impact to the head and torso with compression of chest,” and that he died as a result of a “struggle with police.” The medical examiner also said Mr. Howe had a history of high blood pressure and heart problems that might have contributed to his death.

The lawsuit noted that Mr. Howe, 45, did not receive medical attention for 46 minutes after he was arrested at the checkpoint. Had he been immediately rushed to Lawrence General Hospital, a seven-minute ambulance ride away, he might still be alive today, Ms. King said.

The lawsuit requests monetary damages, Ms. King said, as well as changes to police procedure at sobriety checkpoints. She said there is no cap to the amount of money that the family might receive, and that no figure has been requested.

Margaret Howe, Kenneth's wife, appeared at the press conference with two of their three daughters, 15-year-old Ashleigh and 10-year-old Dakota. Mr. Howe, who co-owned the Majestic Barber Shop in Clinton, also had a 1-year-old daughter, Raynemarie Howe.

“We want justice done, for me, for my kids, and for Kenny,” Mrs. Howe said yesterday. “My life hasn't been the same since he has been gone. It's hard, especially with my kids not having a dad right now.”

The lawsuit names 20 state police officers, 13 North Andover police officers, and two Essex County deputy sheriffs as possibly causing Mr. Howe's death. Ms. King said the lawsuit names every officer on the duty roster of the sobriety checkpoint that night. Ms. King said she would seek to drop the names of those officers not involved as evidence became available.

A spokesman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said the office's investigation continues, and he declined to comment further. A state police spokesman referred all questions to Mr. Blodgett's office. A spokesman for the North Andover Police Department was unavailable yesterday.

According to the lawsuit, on Nov. 25, Mr. Howe had gone to North Andover with two friends, Michael Garbauskas and Michael Barbour, to buy a speedboat they found in an online ad on Craigslist. Mr. Garbauskas drove a gray Chevrolet Silverado truck, Mr. Howe sat in the front seat, and Mr. Barbour sat in the back. Also in the car was Mr. Howe's pet pit bull, a fact that had not been disclosed.

After buying groceries for Thanksgiving dinner, they headed for home on Route 114. Mr. Howe was smoking a marijuana cigarette and did not have his seat belt on. Upon seeing police, Mr. Howe tried to extinguish the joint and put on his seat belt, the lawsuit said.

At the checkpoint, Mr. Garbauskas and Mr. Howe were ordered from the truck by state police. State Police Officer Jodi Gerardi “forcefully removed” Mr. Howe from the truck, according to the lawsuit.

The dog apparently started barking. The lawsuit notes that Mr. Howe's pit bull was “never commanded to attack officers, nor was it intentionally ‘released.' ” The police report noted the dog was controlled without incident.

“Trooper Gerardi forcefully removed Kenneth from the truck and screamed, ‘He assaulted me!' ” the lawsuit stated.

Police say Mr. Howe then ran away.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Garbauskas said Mr. Howe never assaulted the female trooper.

“We deny any struggle took place,” Ms. King said yesterday. “But even if a struggle did take place, there is a proper protocol for placing a person under arrest. You do not beat them to death. There's no justification and no rationale.”

The lawsuit then stated, “At that point, between 10 and 20 law enforcement officers swarmed on Kenneth.”

The arrest occurred very close to the offices of The Eagle-Tribune, a daily newspaper. Photographer Carl Russo saw the commotion from the parking lot and rushed over to photograph the scene. He shot 43 photographs, which showed Mr. Howe face down on the pavement for 10 minutes, with seven to 12 officers standing “very close” to him, according to the lawsuit. One to four officers sat on him, according to the photos, while handcuffs and leg irons were placed on his wrists and ankles.

“Between two and seven officers picked up Kenneth off the ground and dragged him to the cruiser,” the lawsuit stated. He was taken to the state police barracks in Andover. While awaiting booking, he slumped over, unresponsive. He was taken by ambulance to Lawrence General Hospital and was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Juvenile Officer Philip Spaman Pleads Guilty to Grabbing Teens Genitals

The regional representative for the New York Police Juvenile Officers Association has pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Philip Spaman, 47, a 12-year police officer with the Ilion Police Department, had been indicted in July for allegedly grabbing the genitals of a 17-year-old male several times between September 2007 and October 2008.

In his former role as a juvenile officer, he attended training workshops that explore investigative techniques for dealing with sex crimes against children. Spaman has resigned from that position. He is currently suspended from his job with the police department.

Spaman entered his plea after the jury had been selected for his trial on Monday but before testimony could begin.

It is expected he will be sentenced to three years of probation on March 23. He could have faced up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Spaman who was dating the boy’s mother and had allegedly fondled the teen for more than a year. After Spaman moved out of the house, the teen sent his mother a text message, telling her that Spaman had “violated” him.

Former Officer Craig Murrah Sentenced to 6 Months in Jail for Spanking Teen on Butt

A former Fort Worth police officer was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail for slapping a nearly nude teen on the buttocks after discovering her having sex with her boyfriend in a north Fort Worth park in 2007.

A six-member Tarrant County jury deliberated only 50 minutes before convicting Craig Arlen Murrah of official oppression because he mistreated the 18-year-old woman after ordering her out of her car in Oakhurst Park shortly after 1 a.m. on June 22, 2007.

At Murrah’s request, 213th District Judge Louis Sturns held a 90-minute hearing before sentencing the 39-year-old to six months in jail. The Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Sturns also ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine.

Murrah, who was fired after he was charged in the incident, won’t have to serve his time while he appeals his conviction. He will remain on bond until then, said his attorney, Wes Ball.

The woman, now 20, testified during the two-day trial that she and her boyfriend were having sex in the car when they saw the lights of a patrol car as it pulled into the parking lot. Because of the nature of the crime, the woman and her boyfriend are not being identified.

She said she tried to get dressed but was still nude from the waist down when Murrah made her get out of the car and put her hands behind her back. That caused her to drop the shirt covering her lower body, she said. Murrah forced her to bend over and spanked her on her naked bottom, she said.

After Murrah left the park, the woman’s boyfriend said, he called 911 while following the officer’s patrol car to a downtown police station. He said he initially gave the operator the wrong number for Murrah’s car but corrected himself after he got closer to the car.

The couple talked to an officer about the incident. But after they couldn’t reach him for several weeks, the woman and her father went to the Police Department and the woman gave a statement to Sgt. Pedro Criado.

The first officer was demoted because of his handling of the incident.

During closing arguments, Ball stopped short of saying the woman made up the allegations, although he said the couple’s testimony had discrepancies. But he criticized police for not investigating the possibility that another officer had committed the acts attributed to Murrah.

Prosecutors Lucas Allen and Sherry Whelchel dismissed defense contentions that Murrah’s activity reports support his claim that he pulled the couple over that night on a traffic stop at 1500 E. Northside Drive.

"Is he going to put down that he pulled the girl over and spanked her in the park?" Allen asked. "Of course not. That’s ludicrous."

During deliberations, jurors asked to review the 911 tape of the man frantically telling the operator what had happened while the woman cried uncontrollably in the background. They returned the verdict about 20 minutes later.

Several jurors remained in the courtroom while Sturns heard testimony from five witnesses, including two former students and the former principal of Wedgwood Middle School. The three testified that Murrah, while a teacher and coach at the school, touched the two girls on the buttocks and thighs. He resigned after a school district investigation.

Murrah’s mother and a longtime friend urged Sturns to grant him probation, saying he is a good father whose 5-year-old son would be devastated if his father were jailed.

Sturns said that he considered the impact on the boy but that Murrah’s actions breached the trust of fellow officers as well as the community.

"I believe the message has to be delivered that you can’t engage in this type of conduct and get a free pass," Sturns said.

"It’s not something I can condone."

University Officer Cory Hall Accused of Hit and Run

An Augusta State University officer is on administrative leave, accused of a hit and run with a commissioner.

Cory Hall was arrested late Tuesday night. Deputies said he rear-ended Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson's car in Augusta on Washington Road, and drove off.

Hall was arrested a short time later.

ASU has placed Hall on leave pending an internal investigation.

Commissioner Johnson was not hurt. Hall is charged with hit and run and having an expired tag.