Thursday, October 23, 2008

Former Officer Christopher Buckley Accused of Raping Child Has History of Sexual Assault


A former police officer accused of raping a 13-year-old girl has a history of sexual assault complaints made by young girls, Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Wednesday.

At a news conference Riley said similar allegations were made against Christopher Buckley, 36, in 2001 and 2003. The department opened internal investigations both times, and the cases were handed over to the district attorney's office. Each time, he said, the cases were refused.

The district attorney's office, under the administrations of Harry Connick and Eddie Jordan, cited as reasons for dropping the cases "failure of the victim or their parents" to cooperate, Riley said.

A 16-year-old girl accused Buckley in one case; in the other, two girls - ages 12 and 8 - complained of inappropriate sexual behavior, the chief said. The alleged incidents occurred when Buckley was off duty, he said.

Riley said he was disappointed the cases were not handled differently by the department but stopped short of criticizing the previous administration. Because criminal allegations were made, an administrative inquiry was not opened.

Still, he noted "this officer should never walk the streets again."

Buckley, a 10-year veteran of the department, was arrested Tuesday for the alleged rape of the 13-year-old daughter of an acquaintance. He was booked into the parish jail on three counts of forcible rape and three counts of oral sexual battery. He resigned shortly thereafter.

Buckley is being held on $525,000 bond. No court date has been set, and police did not know whether Buckley had an attorney.

The arrest came after an internal investigation conducted by the department's Public Integrity Bureau.

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Former Police Captain Aaron Hughes Preliminary Hearing Set for Grand Larceny Charge

A Dec. 18 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for a former Elko police captain charged with attempted grand larceny.

The Eureka County District Attorney's office is prosecuting Aaron Hughes at the request of Elko County District Attorney Gary Woodbury, who recused his office to avoid any appearance of bias.

Hughes is accused of trying to steal an all-terrain vehicle from the shuttered Jerritt Canyon mine site.

He was placed on administrative leave following his arrest in August, and resigned from the Elko police force in September.


Information from: Elko Daily Free Press,

Sheriff Daniel Presgraves Indicted on 22 Federal Charges

Page County Sheriff Daniel Presgraves has been indicted on 22 federal charges, including conspiracy and money laundering, some of which are linked to a cockfighting operation.

Among the charges announced Thursday were accusations that Presgraves took bribes from operators of the Little Boxwood cockfighting pit.

In exchange, the government claims he allegedly promised not to interfere with the cockfighting operation.

In a press conference Thursday, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Julia Dudley explained, "According to the indictment, Presgraves was aware of the cockfighting pits and by allegedly taking bribes and steering law enforcement away from it, was a member of the conspiracy that kept Little Boxwood in operation."

Dudley goes on to explain that over the course of several years, Presgraves allegedly physically, verbally and sexually harassed 12 subordinate female employees at the Page County Sheriff's Office and intimidated to keep them quiet.

"Presgraves told his victims whatever information they had about him that could be useful to the feds should be taken to the grave," said Dudley.

Another allegation against Presgraves is that he would take inmates from the Page County Jail to do manual labor on his home.

"Presgraves did not disclose to the Department of Corrections that these particular inmates were performing personal work for him and his family and others," commented Dudley.

Dudley assured Page County residents Thursday that Presgraves will be held accountable for his actions.

She said, "They must know that their elected officials are being held to the highest legal and ethical standards and they must know that even when high-ranking members of law enforcement are accused of breaking the law, they will be prosecuted."

Presgraves was arrested early Thursday morning by FBI agents.

He has been charged with six counts of obstructing a law enforcement investigation, four counts of obstructing an investigation by a federal grand jury, four counts of violating civil rights of female subordinates at the Page County Sheriff's Office, two counts of making false statements, two counts of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of violating federal racketeering laws.

Presgraves faces 304 years in prison and a $2 million fine if convicted on all of the charges. He was arraigned Thursday afternoon and is currently free on a $50,000 bond.

The judge said he does not have the power to remove Presgraves from his elected office. However, one of the stipulations of Presgraves' bond is that he cannot go near or be inside the sheriff's office.

A court date has not been set yet, but since Presgraves did not waive his right to a speedy trial, he is expected in court within the next 69 days.

Former Officer Scott Nugent Goes to Court on Taser Death


Motions will be heard today in the case of former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent.

Nugent has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and malfeasance in office in the death of Baron Pikes.

Nugent allegedly shot Pikes, 21, with a Taser stun gun nine times within 14 minutes, according to police records and Winn Parish Coroner Randy Williams. Pikes died in police custody.

Nugent faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

The Winnfield Civil Service Board in September upheld the firing of Nugent

Only one of the five members of the panel voted to reinstate Nugent to the police force, Civil Service Board Chairman Ronald Melton said. The dissenting member said Nugent’s officer bill of rights was violated.

Nugent initially was suspended with pay.

The manner of Pikes’ death was homicide, Williams said, and Nugent pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and malfeasance in office during an August arraignment.

Nugent was fired by Winnfield Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter after the suspension deadline passed. That firing was appealed to the civil service board but denied. The board’s decision can be appealed as well.

Pikes’ family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in August against not only Nugent but also the city of Winnfield, the mayor, City Council, police chief and other officers on the force, in addition to Taser International Inc. -- the manufacturer of the stun gun device Nugent used.

The LAPD and Racial Profiling

On monday, the ACLU of Southern California released a report analyzing more than 700,000 cases in which Los Angeles Police Department officers stopped pedestrians and/or drivers of motor vehicles between July 2003 and June 2004.

The study, which I wrote with my research assistant, Jonathan Borowsky, asked not simply whether African Americans and Latinos are stopped and searched by the LAPD more often than whites -- it's clear that they are -- but the more complex question of whether these racial disparities are justified by legitimate policing practices, such as deciding to police more aggressively in high-crime neighborhoods.

We found persistent and statistically significant racial disparities in policing that raise grave concerns that African Americans and Latinos in Los Angeles are, as we put it in the report, "over-stopped, over-frisked, over-searched and over-arrested." After controlling for violent crime rates and property crime rates in specific neighborhoods, as well as a host of other variables, we found the following:

For every 10,000 residents, about 3,400 more black people are stopped than whites, and 360 more Latinos are stopped than whites. Stopped blacks are 127% more likely to be frisked -- and stopped Latinos are 43% more likely to be frisked -- than stopped whites.

Stopped blacks are 76% more likely to be searched, and stopped Latinos are 16% more likely to be searched than stopped whites.

Stopped blacks are 29% more likely to be arrested, and stopped Latinos are 32% more likely to be arrested than stopped whites.

Now consider this: Although stopped blacks were 127% more likely to be frisked than stopped whites, they were 42.3% less likely to be found with a weapon after they were frisked, 25% less likely to be found with drugs and 33% less likely to be found with other contraband. We found similar patterns for Latinos.

Not only did we find that African Americans and Latinos were subjected to more stops, frisks, searches and arrests than whites, we also found that these additional police actions aren't because of the fact that people of color live in higher-crime areas or because they more often carry drugs or weapons, or any other legitimate reason that we can discern from the rich set of data we examined.

Police Chief William J. Bratton quickly rejected these findings, primarily because the study used data that was more than 4 years old. This is a fair point. But we had no other choice: The department has not released the more recent stop data that it has been collecting, nor has it analyzed the more recent data to test for racial disparities. If Bratton is truly confident that unjustified racial disparities are a thing of the past, he should be able to show the change in the current data. I would be happy to organize a group of respected academics to help analyze it.

Bratton also asserted that the report was flawed because we failed to control for the race of both officers involved in the stop. On this point, Bratton is simply wrong about how to conduct a statistical analysis. When testing for unjustified racial disparities in who is stopped by the police in cars and on the street, it's inappropriate to control for the race of either of the officers. The likelihood of being stopped, frisked or arrested shouldn't turn on whether a black, Latino or white officer was involved.

As an ancillary test -- after we'd calculated the general disparities -- we did look at the officers involved, and we found that the racial disparities in the likelihood of arrest were substantially lower when at least one of the stopping officers was the same race as the suspect.

For example, we found that the black arrest disparity was 9 percentage points lower when at least one of the stopping officers was black. Bratton should be troubled that there is less disparity when the officer is the same race as the person stopped, as that result adds credibility to the idea that the disparities in different-race interactions may be because of racial bias.

The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Tim Sands, even more harshly rejected the results of our report. Sands said I appeared to start with my conclusions and then "worked data to fit." This is a vague charge, but one way to respond to the concern is with transparency. I've posted the data I used in the report and the associated statistical files to the Internet so that other academics can easily double-check the report's analysis.

Sands has argued that the results are not valid because officers often don't know the race of the suspect when they decide to pull over a car. That may or may not be true. But our study looked not just at motor vehicle stops but at pedestrian stops as well, which also showed racial disparities. We also found that, once people were stopped, officers were more likely to frisk, search or arrest African Americans and Latinos than whites. At the point of making these decisions, officers can certainly see the apparent race of the suspects.

It is particularly telling that neither Bratton nor Sands responded to the evidence that the frisks and searches of minorities systematically produced less evidence of crime than the frisks and searches of whites. It is implausible that higher frisk and search rates are justified by higher minority criminality, when these frisks and searches are substantially less likely to uncover weapons, drugs or other types of contraband. Independent of racial disparity, it is a sign of ineffective policing to have officers engage in such a large number of fruitless searches.

Sands charges that I cannot use data to "prove what 9,700 individual officers are thinking when they make traffic stops." But if he thinks that is what I tried to do, he seriously misreads the report. I never suggested that the data show what an officer might be thinking, and I was careful not to attribute the disparities to conscious discrimination on the part of individual officers.

What the report finds is that there are statistically significant racial disparities in a variety of police behaviors that are not explained by legitimate police concerns such as the local crime rate -- or, in the cases of frisks and searches, the likelihood of actually uncovering contraband.

My inability to probe the minds of officers does not make my results less important. The report shows that people of color in Los Angeles experience harsher treatment by police that doesn't appear to be justified by any legitimate law enforcement concerns. The LAPD can't just deny that racism is involved and let the matter rest; it should take steps to address that inequality.

So what does this all mean? The LAPD should be more open to evidence-based policing. Bratton, with good reason, extols data-driven policing when it comes to detecting emerging patterns of crime. The department already has an early warning system to identify officers with troubling patterns of uses of force or civilian complaints, but that system doesn't address racial disparities, even though the data to do so are available. The department must be as open to the same kinds of statistical analysis when it comes to tests of racial disparity.

Former Officer Jonathan Lutman Charged with Additional Counts of Stealing

A former Slidell Police officer who quit the force after being accused of stealing from Hispanic motorists has been booked with additional counts of shaking down motorists after pulling them over.

Jonathan Lutman, 26, of Slidell, turned himself in to police Wednesday afternoon on outstanding warrants for theft over $500, theft under $100 and two counts of malfeasance in office.

Police began investigating Lutman earlier this year after several Hispanic motorists came forward with allegations that he had stolen from during traffic stops. Lutman, who had been on the force for two years, resigned and was arrested in July.

Two more alleged victims, also Hispanic, went to police in July after seeing Lutman's picture in a store in Slidell after his arrest, Slidell Police spokesman Capt. Kevin Foltz said. In both cases, the victims told police Lutman had taken money from their wallets after stopping the cars they were driving or riding in, Foltz said.

In his initial arrest, Lutman was booked with one count of theft over $500, eight counts of theft under $300 and four counts of malfeasance in office. The status of that case was not immediately clear Thursday.

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Officer Jeffery Pennaz Charged with DWI

A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with one count of driving while intoxicated and one count of careless driving, according to charges filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court.

Jeffrey David Pennaz, a Minneapolis police officer since 2007, was stopped Tuesday afternoon by police from Medina and Plymouth after a motorist called authorities to report that a man was swerving while driving in the vicinity of Medina Road and County Road 101, then was slumped behind the wheel after stopping at a traffic light, the complaint said.

Two children were in the vehicle when officers approached Pennaz at 3:53 p.m. and instructed him to move his vehicle to a nearby church parking lot, according to a Plymouth police report.

Officers said that Pennaz's eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy and that they detected a "strong odor of an alcohol beverage" when they questioned him. They also found 10 bottles of Blue Moon beer in the vehicle, the complaint said.

Pennaz, 36, identified himself as a Minneapolis police officer and told authorities he was taking his kids to a cabin to go hunting. He declined sobriety tests at the scene and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He was taken to the Plymouth Police Department, where he later submitted to a breath test. Two hours after his arrest, the test showed his blood alcohol content was .21 percent, more than 2 1/2 times the limit of .08 percent.

Pennaz, who was off duty at the time of the incident, was booked into the Hennepin County jail and later released.

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