Thursday, February 05, 2009

Former Officer Daniel Huntsinger Pleads Guilty to Having Child Porn

A former Missoula police officer will plead guilty Feb. 12 to a federal charge of receiving sexually explicit photos of children over a computer owned by the police union.

Daniel Jason Huntsinger, who was hired in Missoula in January 2000, is charged with a single count of receipt of obscene material and will appear in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Documents filed in federal court in Missoula outline the case against Huntsinger and note his agreement to plead guilty to the single federal charge.

Huntsinger, who spent more than a year on administrative leave, resigned from the Missoula Police Department last September. He had been under a cloud of suspicion since Sept. 10, 2007, when federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized his work computer at Missoula City Hall and a laptop computer from the Missoula Police Protective Association.

At the time, police officials repeatedly declined to say why Huntsinger was on leave, citing employment privacy concerns.

According to an offer of proof filed in the case, the investigation got under way in April 2006 when ICE agents began looking at commercial Web sites that offered “pay subscriptions to pornography and erotica depicting persons under the age of 18 years of age.”

In December 2006, Huntsinger used a Sears MasterCard and a PayPal account to buy access to a Web site called “Lolitas on Holiday.” Huntsinger registered with an e-mail address of and used as his MasterCard address a post office box number registered to a federal drug task force to which he was detailed.

“He used a computer belonging to the Missoula Police Protective Association, of which he was then president, to access the site,” states the offer of proof from Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd.

A forensic examination of that computer “revealed that Huntsinger had used the computer to access the purchased site, as well as used the computer to search the Internet for various other types of images,” Hurd wrote. “Some of the images found were obscene, in that they were images of persons under the age of 18 years engaged in sexually explicit conduct by the lascivious exhibition of their genital areas.”

The offer of proof said Huntsinger also had visited other Internet pornography sites involving juveniles.

The documents state that Huntsinger has agreed to plead guilty, but there is no reference to a sentencing recommendation.

The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said the department would have no further comment until Huntsinger appears in court.

Jason Huntsinger was a popular officer who moved quickly up the ranks in Missoula, but his reputation eventually started to unwind on two lines.

Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir was assistant chief when the September 2007 search took place, but he put together bits and pieces of the case as time dragged on and Huntsinger remained on paid leave.

By the time Muir became chief in June 2008, he knew a handful of things.

“I knew that our computer had been taken and been returned, and I knew that the association's computer hadn't,” Muir said. “I knew a credit card had been used, and I knew he used the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) address. I also knew what ICE investigates, so I had an idea what was in the balance. But I didn't have any other evidence.”

Still, by July, Muir was ready to tell Huntsinger that his paid leave was over.

“I had to decide how long I'd let this go on,” he said. “We'd already been past two deadlines where the feds had told us they'd be done (with the investigation), and I had to make a decision as to whether the taxpayers should keep paying for this guy.”

Muir called Huntsinger in and told him he'd return him to his job if he was cleared, but for now, he was on unpaid leave.

“He told me he'd be back at work one day,” Muir said.

Less than three months later, on Sept. 25, 2008, Huntsinger called Muir and wanted to visit.

“He came in and gave me a one- or two-line resignation and that was it,” Muir said.

Huntsinger's reputation had taken another hit in March, when details of his departure from a previous police job in Downey, Calif., appeared in the Missoulian.

Based on interviews of officers and city officials in Missoula and Downey, the story revealed that Huntsinger lost his job in Downey for two reasons.

First, he had taken pictures of female crime victims for evidence. Those pictures involved intimate areas and would normally have been taken by a female officer or evidence technician.

Worse, the pictures were found in Huntsinger's personal possession rather than an evidence locker, officers aware of Huntsinger's employment told the newspaper. The women later told Downey officers they were uncomfortable with Huntsinger taking the pictures, but didn't say anything because he was a police officer.

Second, another female crime victim became concerned about Huntsinger's solicitous behavior toward her after he investigated the crime committed against her.

“She wasn't clear who the good guys were anymore,” a former Montana law enforcement official said.

Although Downey officers said Huntsinger's employment file revealed precise reasons for his departure, the Missoula Police Department's vetting process failed to find the information when he applied for work here.

Former Missoula Police Chief Pete Lawrenson said last March that he wasn't as thorough as he should have been in the hiring process.

On two subsequent occasions after his hiring, Missoula police were notified about Huntsinger's issues in Downey, but he remained on the force and eventually became a sergeant.

Then came Sept. 10, 2007, when ICE officers entered the police department and seized Huntsinger's computers.

Because Huntsinger resigned from the department last year, the federal charge won't have an effect on day-to-day operations at the police department. However, the case still may affect both the department and the city of Missoula.

Huntsinger is currently a defendant, along with the city, in a federal case filed by Dr. Walt Peschel. Peschel claims his civil rights were violated when he was arrested in 2007 while trying to help a suicidal woman.

Huntsinger was the ranking officer in that case and was also the last person to allegedly view a police video of the incident before the video disappeared.

Peschel's attorneys have argued that it's possible Huntsinger erased the video.

“I think it's fair to say that this is interesting information having to do with one of the principal officers involved in the events that gave rise to our case,” said attorney David Paoli, who represents Peschel. “It really has us looking at the hiring and retention practices at the police department.”

Huntsinger will soon be deposed in the Peschel case, Paoli said.

But first he will appear Feb. 12 in Missoula before U.S. District Judge Don Molloy.

More Information:

Two Glasgow Officers Threaten Witness

Two high-ranking Glasgow police officers illegally possessed pain pills and threatened a witness, a federal indictment charges.

Johnny Lee Travis, 41, and Maxie Christopher Murray, 36, face up to 21 years in prison if convicted, according to a news release from the office of Candace Hill, acting U.S. Attorney for Western Kentucky.

Police arrested the two Wednesday after they were indicted. They pleaded not guilty Thursday, according to a court document.

U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Robert Goebel ordered the two held until a detention hearing scheduled for Friday. Their attorney was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Glasgow Police Chief Gary Bewley said he has put Travis and Murray on paid administrative leave.

Travis and Murray are majors and assistant chiefs — the top two officers under Bewley. Travis has been a Glasgow officer for 16 years and heads the patrol division, while Murray has been with the department for 12 years and heads the criminal investigations division, Bewley said.

The indictment says that the officers conspired with each other and with others between February 2004 and January 2008 to possess hydrocodone, a painkiller, without a valid prescription.

The document also charges that they threatened a witness to try to hinder an investigation of their activities.

In November 2007, for instance, Travis told a person he could kill him if Travis found out the person was giving information to authorities.

The indictment indicates the officers suspected someone in the police department was giving information to outside authorities.

In December 2007, according to the indictment, Travis said to a witness: "When I find out where this is coming from, and I said if it is somebody in our police department, I said the (expletive) is going to pay."

Officer Angel Ramirez Arrested for Child Sexual Assault


The Midland Independent School District has fired the police officer who was arrested and charged with sexual assault on a child and improper student/teacher relationship, according to a news release the district.

Angel Ramirez, 30, arrested Wednesday and fired Thursday.

Ramirez is charged in connection with a 14-year-old female student's complaint that Ramirez had "inappropriate conduct" with her in an incident between September and January at a north Midland home, according to reports.

A release from the Midland Police Department said the MPD is leading the investigation of Ramirez with help from the MISD police and the school district administration.

"We are committed to fully cooperating with the Midland Police Department as they lead this investigation and will assist them in every way possible as they proceed with the next phase," MISD Superintendent Sylvester Perez said in the release.

The release said Ramirez had been with the MISD Police since July 2008. The release said Ramirez, a licensed and state certified police officer, passed his criminal history background check before he was hired.

More Information:

Former Officer Jerry Bristow Accused of Stealing Guns will Stand Trial


A former police officer accused of taking guns from the Clinton Police Department evidence room has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will go on trial later this year.

Jerry Bristow, who will tried on eight felony charges and one misdemeanor, is accused of taking a target pistol and shotgun on May 12, 2008; a pistol on July 3, 2008 and a revolver on August 1, 2008.

Because the revolver was valued at less than $300, it carries the misdemeanor charge. He is also charged with six counts of official misconduct.

Bristow entered a not guilty plea during his appearance Wednesday.

Bristow, who supervised the evidence room, left the force Jan. 1. An investigation by the DeWitt County Sheriff's Department led to the discovery of the missing weapons.

Bristow is free after posting $1,000 bond.

More Information:

Former Officer Bill Billings Arrested for 3 Felonies

A former Gainesville police officer turned himself in early Wednesday on three felony charges, adding to the three misdemeanors he was charged with last month. All the charges are tied to his work as a police officer.

Bill Billings, 51, turned himself in at the Alachua County jail on 4:30 a.m. on charges of grand theft, scheme to defraud and official misconduct. Bond in his case was set at $15,000. He had previously been charged with three misdemeanor prostitution counts.

The felony charges allege that Billings falsely reported he was working overtime, accepted $5,409 in unearned overtime and falsified records to show he was working overtime while he was not.

Billings' problems became public in November when the police department announced the results of an internal investigation involving Billings. The report was turned over to the State Attorney's Office.

The internal report determined that 14 women reported they had had sex with Billings for money while he was on duty, in uniform and driving marked police vehicles.

The investigation also turned up evidence used to charge Billings with the felonies for which he turned himself in on Wednesday morning.

Billings, who had been a corporal with the agency and handled recruitment for GPD's Personnel Unit, resigned from the Police Department three months before the results of the internal investigation were released.

More Information:

Trooper Sgt. Carrie Rindal Does Questionable PIT Maneuver

Minneapolis, MN

A state trooper stopped a Hudson man and arrested him for evading an officer. But the man says he was simply looking for a safe place to pull stop with his kids in the car.

Sam Salter was packed in his mini-van heading home to Hudson after at family New Year's Eve party in St. Paul.

Salter was headed eastbound at about 10:30 p.m. when a trooper put on her lights and sirens behind him. He was in the far left lane and immediately signaled to move to the right.

He says he got to the far right lane and there was nowhere to pull off because the shoulder was ice and snow and he wanted a safe place to pull over with his kids in the car, and it was dark.

He immediately got on the 61 exit and at the end of the exit takes an immediate right to a road. The trooper, Sgt. Carrie Rindal, thinks he is evading an officer and does a PIT maneuver on him (rams his van) to force him to stop.

He then and jumped out screaming, "What are you doing? I have kids in the car."

With her gun drawn and pointed at Salter, the trooper then pats him down with screaming kids in car and takes him to squad car to inform him he is under arrest and going to jail for the felony of evading an officer.

The kids stayed in van until mom arrives to pick them up.

Salter was taken to jail where he stays for almost two days. His kids ages two, three, six, all saw the altercation with the trooper and are traumatized.

Salter was not charged with the felony by Ramsey County because the county attorney said there was insufficient evidence that he was fleeing.

He was left with $1,500 damage to his van, a ticket for illegal lane change and a $140 towing fee.

Rindal is not on paid administrative leave and has been a trooper for 11 years.

YOUR TAKE: Was the trooper in the wrong?

Trooper Charles Odom Arrested for Sexual Battery

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper has been arrested on a charge of sexual battery after a woman he pulled over Jan. 28 in Wakulla County reported the alleged assault.

Trooper Charles Odom, 52, is being held at the Leon County Jail on $250,000 bail. He was arrested about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. He has since been fired, said Capt. Mark Welch, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol.

“Incidents like this are a black eye for all of law enforcement,” Welch said.

The woman reported the incident the day after it allegedly occurred to the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office. Odom pulled her over on Shadeville Highway for going 4 miles over the speed limit while crossing the Wakulla River Bridge, according his arrest report. He ran her driver’s license and discovered it was suspended. He asked if she’d been drinking, and she admitted it. The woman said Odom asked her to get out of the car and then fondled her while she was leaning on the hood.

He told her to follow him to the rear parking lot of Savannah’s Restaurant, 968 Woodville Highway, where he took a picture of her breasts with his cell-phone camera and then had her perform oral sex on him, she told deputies. He then told her: “Do not say anything to anybody,” and let her go without a citation or warning, she said.

FHP is conducting an internal investigation. Odom has worked for the Highway Patrol since 2006, said Lt. Ken Ellis, an FHP spokesman for the Tallahassee area. Before that, he worked for the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy and in corrections. He’s being housed at the Leon County Jail for his own protection.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” said Odom’s lawyer, Don Pumphrey. “We cannot make any comment at this time. It would not be appropriate.”

Another trooper in Jefferson County was arrested in September 2007. Kamau Bell, who was also fired at the time of his arrest, was convicted of unnatural and lascivious acts, a second-degree misdemeanor, and sentenced to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine and six months of probation, Welch said.

Bell had stopped two women who worked at an adult nightclub as dancers, and they accused him of asking them to take their tops off, Ellis said.

State Attorney Willie Meggs said: “That’s one of the reasons this is not a good thing -- You need to have respect for law-enforcement officers, and then when something like this happens, it does cause some anxiety among people, and that can and does create a problem.”