Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Fifth Police Officer In Madison Is Fired

A fifth town police officer linked to a series of scandals in the department was fired Thursday by the board of police commissioners.

Town Attorney William Clendenen said that commissioners sustained all the charges against Officer Daniel Hedges, who was charged with eight departmental violations, including conduct unbecoming an officer, lack of respect, lack of civility and failure to adhere to the oath of office and the code of ethics.

Hedges is accused of throwing his badge and a loaded service weapon onto the pavement outside police headquarters after a dispute with management in 2006. The gun, with a round in the chamber, hit the ground and skidded toward a supervisor, according to police department documents.

Hedges is also accused of telling a dispatcher that any supervisor who went to his house to order him to work an overtime shift "better watch out for the red dot on their forehead" — an alleged reference to the laser sight on a sniper rifle, police documents said.

In 2007, Hedges allegedly said, "I have some names I'd like to add to the list," when ordered by a sergeant to remain on patrol during the dedication of a plaque for officers who had died.

Four other police officers have been fired in the past year, and the department's police chief is serving a suspension.

In January, Officer Matthew Sterling was fired on sexual misconduct and other charges related to corruption on the midnight shift. He and fellow Officer Bernard Durgin Jr. were accused of frequenting strip clubs, massage parlors and prostitutes in Bridgeport. Durgin was fired late last year.

Durgin also faces criminal charges at Superior Court in New Haven after his arrest on charges of interfering with a police investigation in New Haven on behalf of a friend while off-duty. Police said that he also looked up the names of women he knew on police computer databases, committed a workers' compensation scam and threatened witnesses.

In addition, Sgt. Timothy Heiden was fired on charges that included failing to supervise the officers on his shift. And Officer Joseph Gambardella was terminated after he was arrested on charges of stealing $900 worth of lobsters and meat from a local restaurant and $500 worth of gasoline from the town's public works garage.

Last month, the police commission suspended Police Chief Paul D. Jakubson and began an investigation of his conduct.

Former Officer Feliciano Sanchez Arrested on sexual assault charges

Feliciano Sanchez, 33, is charged in a federal indictment with sexually assaulting a motorist after stopping her for a traffic violation in 2007.

A former Bell police officer was arrested by federal agents today after being indicted on federal civil rights charges and accused of forcing a woman to have sex with him while he was on duty.

Feliciano Sanchez, 33, of Pico Rivera sexually assaulted the woman after a traffic stop last year, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

After pulling the woman over, Sanchez drove her to a remote area, where he forced her to engage in a sex act, the court documents state. The indictment also charges Sanchez with using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.

Sanchez is expected to appear in federal court this afternoon. If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence, federal prosecutors said.

Officer Sentenced to Year for Sexual Misconduct

A former Salisbury police officer convicted of misconduct for having sex with a woman he arrested was sentenced to a year in jail.

Twenty-seven year-old Tracy Ross Sparpaglione of Laurel was acquitted of rape, but found guilty on charges of misconduct in April. The former officer's attorney said an appeal was planned.

According to testimony at his bench trial, Sparpaglione had been an officer for about six months when he went to the 19-year-old woman's home last May, about four hours after arresting her for allegedly striking her mother-in-law with a filled water bottle.

Prosecutors argued that Sparpaglione intimidated the woman into having sex with him. But a defense attorney contended the sex was consensual and questioned the woman's credibility.

Two Veteran Miami Officers Charged with Corruption

Two veteran police officers were charged Friday with providing protection for purported shipments of cocaine and stolen goods in what was actually an undercover FBI operation.

Officer Geovani Nunez and Detective Jorge Hernandez are accused in court documents of helping protect shipments of what they thought were stolen televisions and computers and at least 12 kilograms of cocaine — sometimes by using their police cars to escort trucks.

Prosecutors said the 13-year veterans of the Miami Police Department were paid a combined $39,500 by a secret FBI informant they thought was involved in illegal businesses, prosecutors said.

Nunez and Hernandez were released on bail after appearing briefly in court. Nunez's attorney, Michael Catalano, said the allegedly illegal conduct was staged and not real because it was an FBI sting. Catalano also said the officers would fight the charges, which carry potential life sentences.

"They are charged with committing crimes that did not exist," he said.

It was not immediately clear if Hernandez had an attorney.

Police Chief John Timoney said the two officers would be fired.

"These two, as far as I'm concerned, are aberrations," he said.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the case was particularly disheartening in a year when several South Florida police officers have died in the line of duty.

"It is sad that a handful of individuals choose to repay their colleagues' sacrifice through criminal conduct," Acosta said.

The case is similar to a recent FBI sting that led to guilty pleas from five officers in Hollywood, Fla. Four received lengthy prison sentences.