Friday, June 27, 2008

Tulsa Judge Harris Sues Accusers

A Tulsa judge who faces two counts of indecent exposure has filed a civil lawsuit against his former girlfriend and another woman for allegedly slandering and libeling him with an intent to destroy his judicial and legal career.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of District Judge Jesse Harris is seeking an unspecified amount of actual damages in excess of $10,000 and punitive damages from the women.

A special prosecutor charged Harris on April 24 with exposing himself to the two women March 9 in the parking lot of a Tulsa motel. Harris has denied the allegations.

According to the lawsuit, the women conspired to make false claims of criminal conduct against Harris and carried out their scheme. The women have no credibility, the lawsuit alleged.

Judge faces alcohol charge

Judge Catherine B. Steenland of the 39th District Court has been accused of driving drunk in Ogemaw County in northern lower Michigan, the prosecutor there said Thursday.

Steenland, 41, of Roseville, is named in a complaint charging her with one count of operating while intoxicated, first offense. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 24 in 82nd District Court.

Details surrounding her arrest were not divulged. In a press release announcing the charge, Ogemaw Prosecutor LaDonna Schultz credits the Michigan State Police and the Ogemaw County Sheriff's Office for their "fine work and professionalism ... in the investigation and apprehension" of Steenland. The statement, however, included no details about the circumstances surrounding Steenland's arrest, nor any specifics on why law enforcers earned the prosecutor's praise.

Steenland's arrest had been widely rumored in recent weeks. During that time, officials at the Michigan State Police post in West Branch and Ogemaw prosecutors declined comment on the incident pending an announcement of formal charges.

Schultz was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon at her office, and her home telephone number is not published. Meantime, the administrative office at the state police post was closed for the day.

Steenland's attorney, Stephen Rabaut, described her as a respected judge.

"I can tell you she's respected by judges, attorneys and litigants alike. She has an unblemished record. She intends to address this matter immediately and resolve it as soon as possible," Rabaut said. He declined to elaborate or comment on the allegations.

Misdemeanor drunken driving is punishable by up to 93 days in jail, but incarceration of that length is uncommon for first offenders. Steenland has no prior offenses on her current driving record, according to the Michigan Secretary of State.

The offense also carries a fine ranging from $100 to $500, up to 360 hours of community service and licensing sanctions.

Voters in Roseville and Fraser first elected Steenland to the 39th District Court in 2002. She ran unopposed for re-election to a 6-year term in November 2004.

Her husband, Richard Steenland, is Roseville's city clerk and a former councilman. Her father-in-law, Joseph Steenland, is the longtime president of the Roseville Public Schools Board of Education.

Catherine Steenland graduated from Detroit College of Law. In May 2006, she and the court's other judges, magistrate and chief probation officer were honored by the Roseville Optimist Club as part of the club's Respect for Law/Non-Violent Day, designed to influence and impress children.

As part of her statement in The Macomb Daily Voter's Guide in 2004, Steenland said: "I will stand by my pledge to administer justice fairly and diligently to keep our communities safe."

Steenland is the second judicial official from Macomb County arrested this year on suspicion of drunken driving. In January, Warren police arrested 37th District Court Administrator James Conrad. Conrad refused to take breath tests and was released by Warren police less than an hour later when Chief 37th District Judge Walter Jakubowski Jr. set a personal recognizance bond.

In April, Jakubowski rejected a request by a law firm serving as special prosecutor on behalf of the Warren City Attorney's Office, for a warrant charging Conrad with misdemeanor drunken driving. Conrad no longer serves as a magistrate in the Warren-Center Line district court, but remains the administrator of Macomb County's busiest district court.

Guards Accused of Passing Contraband to Inmate

Two Rikers Island correction officers were fired on Wednesday after they were accused of smuggling marijuana, alcohol and tobacco to an inmate who is awaiting trial in the death of a police officer last July, officials said.

Stephen J. Morello, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Correction, said it was not yet clear exactly when the two officers, Auguste Durand, 31, and Michael Santiago, 24, smuggled the contraband to the inmate, Lee Woods. Mr. Woods is housed in the punitive segregation unit of the George R. Vierno Center at Rikers Island. On Tuesday, jail officials were tipped off about the smuggling, and they discovered the items during a search on Tuesday night, Mr. Morello said.

Officers Durand and Santiago had worked in the Correction Department since August, and they were still in a probationary period, Mr. Morello said. Their dismissal was reported on Wednesday by The New York Post. A representative from the correction officers’ union did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

On Wednesday, Mr. Woods was prevented from attending a court hearing while prison officials tried to determine whether he possessed other illegal items, including a weapon, Mr. Morello said. On Thursday morning, Mr. Woods failed a magnetometer test, a search for metal on or inside a person. Officers did not find any visible sign of metal on Mr. Woods, and he was allowed to attend a court hearing but was required to wear mitts and remain shackled, according to a spokesman for Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney.

Mr. Woods, Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis are charged with firing from a car at Officers Russel Timoshenko and Herman Yan on July 9 during a traffic stop in Brooklyn. Officer Timoshenko died five days later.

Also on Thursday, Mr. Bostic was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center after complaining that he had fallen in the shower at the jail. He was treated and returned to custody.

Officer Arrested on Drug Charges

A former Oak Lawn police officer accused of misconduct for allegedly extorting money from motorists during traffic stops is in trouble with the law again after a recent drug arrest.

Steven Harrison, 26, was arrested June 20 when a Chicago police officer allegedly witnessed him exchanging cash for several packets of heroin on the street.

The arrest happened around 7:40 p.m. in the 4700 block of West Lake Street, a police source said.

Harrison was charged with possession of a controlled substance and was held on $55,000 bail, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office. On Friday, Judge Rosemary Higgins tacked on another $5,000 for violating a $100,000 bail in the misconduct case.

If Harrison posts bail, the judge ordered him to seek treatment immediately for drug abuse.

Harrison's attorney, Brian Barrett, declined to comment about his client's drug use or if it might have contributed to the misconduct case.

"We're dealing with any issues he has," Barrett said after Friday's hearing.

In the extortion case, Harrison was charged with 23 counts of official misconduct, five counts of theft by deception and three counts of intimidation in connection with a series of traffic stops he made in September. Harrison pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Harrison is accused of pulling over five drivers and telling them they had committed traffic offenses such as driving without a valid license or not having insurance, prosecutors said.

Harrison would then allegedly threaten the motorists, some of whom spoke limited English, with fines or jail if they did not pay him.

In one case, Harrison is accused of telling a man that he needed to pay him $160 because he was driving without a license or insurance. The man said he did not have the money, and Harrison told him to call friends and relatives to bring him the money, officials said.

When that failed, Harrison told the driver to go home, get the money and bring it to him at the Oak Lawn police station or else an arrest warrant would be issued, officials said.

Authorities said that after the driver returned with the money, Harrison gave him a pink ticket sheet with "$160" written on it. According to officials, when the motorist asked if it was a ticket, Harrison responded, "That's the way we do it in the suburbs."

In another case, Harrison is accused of telling a driver he had "two options: Go to jail or pay $100," prosecutors said.

All five motorists identified Harrison in a police lineup, prosecutors said. The beginning of two of the traffic stops was captured by Harrison's squad car camera, prosecutors said.

Correction Officer Steven Krause Accused of Stabbing Man


A correction officer at the State Correctional Facility in Otisville has been arrested by Pennsylvania State Police and charged with stabbing a Port Jervis man.

Steven Carl Krause, 46, of Matamoras, is accused of stabbing Sean Patrick Conklin, 26, of Port Jervis early Wednesday morning outside Mr. Spanky’s bar in Dingman Township, Pa.

Police say Krause became angry when the bartender gave the last call for alcohol and spat a mouthful of beer at the bartender. Conklin, who police say had been arguing with Krause on and off through the evening, reportedly scolded him for being rude.

Krause then left the bar with Conklin following behind. Moments later, Conklin stumbled back into the bar yelling that he had been stabbed, police say.

Conklin was taken to Bon Secours Hospital in Port Jervis and underwent emergency surgery for a punctured intestine.

Krause was apprehended at his residence and sent to the Pike County Correctional Facility in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Officer Accused of Selling Handgun to Felon

Another Indianapolis Metro Police officer faces a criminal charge.

31-year-old Officer Jason Barber, an eight-year veteran, is accused of selling a handgun to a felon and a related charge of official misconduct.

Officer Barber, assigned to the Dangerous Drug Section of the Narcotics Branch, had been under investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force since March.

Barber worked alongside Officers Jason Edwards and Robert Long, who are both under federal indictment for drug offenses. But police say the two cases are separate and unrelated.

Philadelphia Man Arrested over Anti-police Video


A man who authorities say posted an Internet video showing himself waving a gun and claiming to rejoice whenever a police officer is shot in the city was arrested Thursday.

Andre Moore, 44, of West Philadelphia, faces charges of aggravated assault, terroristic threats, corruption of morals of a minor and harassment, police Lt. John Walker said.

In the video posted on YouTube, a man authorities identified as Moore complains about officers in West Philadelphia's 18th police district, calling them "a bunch of liars" and saying he celebrates "whenever they shoot a cop in Philadelphia."

At another point, he is shown waving a gun and talking about officer shootings in the city. According to a probable cause affidavit, the man removes the ammunition magazine from the gun, racks the slide, points the pistol at the camera and pulls the trigger as he speaks.

"Boom! ... When you shoot the cop, you shoot them dead, OK? Anywhere, head or the heart. That's why the last cops lost their lives," he says.

Three city police officers have been killed in the line of duty in a little more than two years.

An arrest warrant was issued for Moore after he was identified in the video, which was posted June 7, said Kevin Harley, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office. The video was removed from YouTube following Moore's arrest at his apartment, police said.

"We believe these were terroristic threats that are not protected by the First Amendment, particularly when he encourages people to promote violence in Philadelphia and when he shows people how to use a gun to shoot a cop," Harley said.

Arrest documents said Moore works as a security guard at Albert Einstein Medical Center, where Officer Chuck Cassidy died after being shot during a robbery on Oct. 31.

Moore remained in custody Thursday and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.

Corrections Officer Charged with Smuggling Drugs into Jail

A Middlesex County corrections officer was arrested today in a sting operation at a Winthrop doughnut shop on charges that he ferried drugs from dealers to inmates at the jail where he worked, State Police said.

The sting came at the end of an eight-month investigation into Scott Sears, 36, of Winthrop, said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman. In October, State Police and the Middlesex Sheriff's Office heard from informants that Sears was allegedly smuggling drugs into the Billerica jail.

Sears, who had worked for the sheriff's office for two years, would allegedly meet with drug dealers, collect marijuana and heroin on behalf of the inmates, and then bring it into the jail for a fee.

Michael Hartigan, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said he couldn’t say how long the purported scheme had operated or estimate the amount of drugs Sears had allegedly brought into the facility. “Any amount is detrimental to safety,” he said. Hartigan said that, as far as he knew, no other corrections officers were implicated in the investigation.

State Police and the sheriff’s office set up surveillance at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Revere Street. An undercover agent met with Sears and gave him a variety of drugs in a coffee cup, Procopio said. As payment, Sears received $150 and 3½ grams of cocaine for himself, he said.

As Sears left the shop, officers converged on him and placed him under arrest, Procopio said. He is being held at the Suffolk County jail on $15,000 bail.

Officer Jason Crawford Accused of Brutality


An East Brewton couple filed a police brutality lawsuit this month against an officer they claim repeatedly harassed them and caused the woman to prematurely deliver her child.

Michael Palmer and Amber Ballard, who seek unspecified damages, accuse Officer Jason Crawford, Police Chief B.C. Cooper and unnamed officers with 13 violations of state and federal law.

The lawsuit represents one side of a legal argument. Neither Cooper nor Crawford, who has left the Police Department, could be reached for comment.

According to the civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Mobile, Crawford repeatedly stopped and harassed Michael Palmer at work and other locations in East Brewton.

"For whatever reason, this officer targeted Mr. Palmer and his family," said April England-Albright, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

The complaint cites a June 14, 2006, altercation on Mayo Street in which Crawford stopped a car that Amber Ballard was driving and told Palmer there was a warrant for his arrest. He took Palmer into custody, refusing Palmer's requests to double-check his information with the police station, according to the suit.

Crawford said that he was going to search the car, according to the suit. Ballard would not consent to the search and asked the officer to state his probable cause.

When Ballard reached for her cell phone to call her father, the suit states, Crawford said, "I am sick of you and you are under arrest.

Ballard, 23, and Palmer, 37, were convicted of disorderly conduct stemming from the events that day, according to Escambia County District Court records. The judge also found Palmer guilty of resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer, disorderly conduct from a March 2006 arrest and endangering the welfare of a child.

The suit states that Crawford grabbed Ballard's hand during the June 2006 traffic stop and pushed her into the car, pressing against her stomach. The suit alleges that Crawford searched Ballard in a sexual manner, touching her panties and asking her if she had any thing on her.

Other officers arrived and held Ballard's hands behind her back in an awkward manner, according to the suit.

At the police station, Ballard complained that she was in pain and asked to see a doctor, but the officers ignored her, the suit maintains.

Later that month, Ballard gave birth about five weeks before her due date. She and the baby had to stay in the hospital for six weeks, and the child still has complications, according to the suit.

deputy fired after being accused of stealing school band funds


For the second time in two weeks, a Bibb County sheriff's deputy has found himself on the other side of the law.

The sheriff's office announced Wednesday that a deputy was terminated following an investigation of a possible theft totaling more than $2,000 from the Westside High School band program.

Robert Moran, 41, who volunteered as president of the school's Band Boosters, was arrested Monday and charged with felony theft by taking in connection with the incident, sheriff's office spokesman Lt. George Meadows said.

He was released on $3,400 bond from the Bibb County jail, where he worked as a corrections officer, and fired the same day.

A tentative trial date has been set for July.

Deputy Jiwana Daquare Green, 30, who is also assigned to the corrections division, was arrested June 12 on charges of misdemeanor marijuana possession following a traffic stop by Macon police for a burned out headlight and cracked taillight.

Green remains on suspension with pay from the sheriff's office pending results of investigations by the sheriff's office internal affairs department and Macon police.

Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena called the incidents "regrettable."

"It's regrettable whenever we have to take this kind of action against one of our deputies. But in each case, when it comes to our attention that they have violated their oath of office in some manner, we have taken quick action and will do so anytime that's occurred," Modena said in a statement Wednesday.

In January, school officials began noticing discrepancies in the club's fundraising account. Problems with the account continued until May when $2,600 was unaccounted for. School officials contacted the sheriff's office.

Bibb County schools Deputy Superintendent Sylvia McGee said Westside principal Laura Perkins had been involved in the investigation from the beginning.

"She's very much aware of the investigation. It started earlier in the year. She had sent (Moran) several certified letters requesting information with no response."

McGee said she and Perkins were not aware of Moran's arrest before being contacted by The Telegraph late Wednesday.

"This is a very unfortunate situation. It's most unfortunate for the students who were in the band. As a result of funds, I'm sure there were probably services they were not able to take advantage of," she said.

Band Boosters, made up of Westside High parents, is not a direct entity of the high school. The organization raises money mostly for band trips and clinics, McGee said. It has its own fundraising account.

Westside High band director Dan Tyner was not immediately available for comment.

Moran became president of the club this year, McGee said. He has a daughter who graduated from the high school in May.

Meadows said Moran joined the sheriff's office about three years ago and has no prior reprimands.

In addition to the two arrests, the department is continuing to deal with a GBI investigation into allegations of overtime pay abuse by employees at the sheriff's office. The initial investigation, undertaken last year, involved five deputies and overtime submitted - but not worked - for three days.

Modena has said that only one deputy claimed overtime hours she did not work.

All of the deputies, four of whom represented the command staff of the Corrections Division, were reprimanded for violating the policies and procedures of the sheriff's office.

The sheriff "holds his deputies to a higher standard and that higher standard plays a role in every investigation," Meadows said.

Information from The Telegraph's archives was used in this report.

Officer Accused Of Using Racial Slur During Traffic Stop


A Georgia police officer is under investigation after a man he pulled over claimed the officer used racially charged language during a traffic stop.

Chris Wilburn filed an open records request for the dashboard camera video after he was arrested on charges of driving alone with a license that required an adult in the car. He was also charged with disorderly conduct for telling the officer he thought the arrest was wrong and for saying, “Jesus, have mercy on all your kids. Have mercy, have mercy.”

Once Wilburn got the tape, he said he was shocked when he heard Monroe police Officer Eric Harrison apparently say, “Bagged me a smart *** (n-word) a while ago running his mouth.”

The comment has Harrison on paid administrative leave and in jeopardy of losing his job.

“I think he should lose his badge,” said Wilburn.

Harrison was allegedly referring to Wilburn when he made the slur. “I hear him say the n-word. That really burned me up,” said Wilburn.

When asked the police chief if it was disorderly conduct on Wilburn’s part for saying, “Jesus, have mercy on all your kids.”

“If the officer perceived there was some kind of threat against his kids, it may,” said Chief Keith Glass with the Monroe Police Department.

As for the slur, Glass said Harrison made the comment after he dropped Wilburn off at the jail. Glass said it was inadvertently recorded and inexcusable.

“He used a term that he shouldn’t have used. There’s no excuse,” said Glass.

Glass said Harrison brought the incident to the department’s attention after one of Wilburn’s relatives told him about it. Wilburn said he is happy he picked up the tape.

“That explains why he stopped me,” said Wilburn.

The department ordered Harrison to apologize but when he tried to, Wilburn told the officer -- "I’ll see you in court." Glass said Harrison was disciplined even though Wilburn never filed a complaint.

Wilburn was supposed to be in court for the charges he faces, but when he arrived he found out court was canceled for the day.

Harrison will find out his fate Friday.

Officer Christopher Paciorkowski Arrested for Domestic Battery


A five-year veteran of the Elkhart Police Department has been arrested for felony domestic battery and interference with reporting a crime.

Police were called to a home on Elkhart’s north side about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. There a woman told the officers she wanted to file battery charges against her fiancĂ©, 40-year-old Christopher Paciorkowski, for pushing her.

Because Paciorkowski is an Elkhart police officer, officers requested the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department handle the complaint.

The Sheriff’s Department determined there was enough probable cause to arrest Paciorkowski for felony domestic battery and interference with reporting a crime. He was booked into the Elkhart County Jail.

Paciorkowski was placed on administrative leave according to the Elkhart Police Department.

Horry County Officer Arrested for Arson

A Horry County police officer was arrested by SLED agents Wednesday afternoon for arson.

SLED says 32-year-old Kyle Gary Bell of Nichols, SC is charged with one count of arson in connection with a fire in Longs, SC in April.

According to the warrant, on April 23, Bell set fire to land belonging to the International Paper Company.

The arrest is the result of an investigation conducted by SLED at the request of the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

University Officer Cpl Marc Decellier Charged with Forging Prescriptions


A Bowie State University police officer was indicted June 5 on 19 separate criminal charges, including several attempts to fraudulently obtain the narcotic Oxycodone, counterfeiting and possession of forged prescriptions, and fraudulent possession of Oxycodone.

Cpl. Marc Ducellier, 39, of Bowie was indicted by a grand jury. His arraignment was held June 19 in Prince George’s County Circuit Court and he was released without bail. BSU Police Chief Ernest Waiters said Ducellier was suspended on Friday. The BSU police were not involved in the investigation and no other officers are under investigation, Waiters said.
‘‘As far as I’m concerned, he’s been a good officer,” Waiters said. ‘‘I’m taking it that this is an isolated incident.”

Cpl. Stephen Pacheco, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Police, said county police were not involved in the incident.

When reached Monday, Ducellier’s attorney, John Pikulski, called several of the charges duplicitous, but said he had not received all charging information from the state and could not comment on them further.

Ducellier allegedly tried to fill a prescription for the powerful and potentially habit-forming pain medication on three separate dates, Jan. 13, 26 and 31, according to the grand jury’s decision. Because Ducellier was issued a criminal summons and not arrested by police, there are no charging documents in his case. No one contacted who is involved with the case, including Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the county State’s Attorney’s Office, would discuss how Ducellier came under investigation. A grand jury hears and receives evidence to determine probable cause exists that a crime has been committed.

However, recently fired BSU officer Tyrone Lawson has filed four lawsuits this year against the department and Chief Ernest Waiters has alleged corruption within the department, according to court records.

The full charges include nine counts of counterfeiting a prescription, two counts of obtaining a controlled and dangerous substance by fraud, one count of possession of a CDS, one count of theft under $500 from the International Workers’ Insurance Fund, and six counts of attempting to obtain a prescription drug fraudulently.

Counterfeiting a prescription and obtaining a prescription fraudulently are both misdemeanors punishable by up to two years in jail, obtaining a CDS fraudulently and possession of a CDS are both punishable by up to four years, and theft under $500 is punishable by up to 18 months, Pikulski said.

Ducellier’s trial has been set for Sept. 10.

Daughter of Police Chief Arrested


Samantha Ann Morgan, the 18-year-old daughter of Georgetown Police Chief David Morgan, could face up to 22 years in prison on charges stemming from an altercation with a police officer.

Officials said Samanatha was riding with three males in a sport-utility vehicle that was stopped June 15 for a broken headlight. When officer Shanna Shelly obtained permission to search the vehicle, she found a purse that contained a bag of marijuana and $1,247 in cash, the affidavit said.

When the officer attempted to arrest Morgan, she ran about 200 yards then dropped to the ground, the affidavit said. While the officer attempted to put her in the police car, Morgan kicked the officer in the thigh, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its online editions Thursday.

Morgan was strip-searched in the Williamson County Jail, and officers found 2.7 grams of crack cocaine. She was charged with assault on a public servant, evading arrest and delivery of marijuana and was released Saturday with bail set at $3,500.

"They performed their duty and held my daughter accountable for her behavior, just as they would any other citizen. As a parent, though she is an adult, she will always be my daughter and I will always be there for her with love in my heart," David Morgan said in a written statement.