Category: #GoodCops

15 black men exonerated after #GoodCop is caught framing them

CHICAGO (AP) —A Cook County judge on Thursday threw out the felony drug convictions of 15 black men who all say they were locked up for no other reason except that they refused to pay former Chicago police sergeant Ronald Watts.

 One by one, the men told the same story: A Chicago police officer would demand money from them. And if they didn’t pay, they would find themselves in handcuffs with drugs stuffed in their pockets.

It was the largest mass exoneration in memory in Chicago. And even in a city where it has become almost routine for police misconduct to lead to overturned convictions, the courthouse had never seen anything like the order issued in front of more than a dozen men whose lives were changed forever by the former sergeant.

The men described how it was common for blacks in the city’s poorest communities to be shaken down.

“Everyone knew if you’re not going to pay Watts, you were going to jail. That’s just the way it was going,” said Leonard Gipson, 36, who had two convictions tossed out.

“Watts always told me, ‘If you’re not going to pay me, I’m going to get you.’ And every time I ran into him, he put drugs on me,” he said. “I went to prison and did 24 months for Watts, and I came back home and he put another case on me.”

“I had to, I had a baby due,” said 33-year-old Marcus Watts, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in exchange for a six-month sentence and a second set of drug charges in exchange for a seven-month sentence. “The way I looked at it was if they put the cuffs on you, you already lost.”

He and others said there was nothing anyone could do about it. They watched Watts and his crew continue to extort residents, a practice that lasted for years, despite complaints to the police department and statements made during court hearings.

Finally, in 2013, Watts and another officer pleaded guilty to stealing money from an FBI informant, but Watts’ sentence of 22 months was shorter than those being handed out to the men he framed.

Thirteen of the 15 men were out of custody before Thursday’s hearing, with the other two still behind bars on unrelated charges. Their sentences ranged from nearly a decade to probation. Some said the only reason they were out of custody is that they agreed to plead guilty in exchange for shorter sentences than the drugs planted on them might have produced.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Joshua Tepfer, the lead attorney for the 15 men, praised the “unprecedented” action by Foxx’s office but said the cases were “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to cases tainted by Watts.

“It’s a remarkable effort by the state’s attorney’s office to recognize the significance of this horrendous injustice and to do their part to start correcting it,” Tepfer said. “But there are still more than 400 convictions (by Watts’ team) that are unaccounted for … it’s no doubt the tip of the iceberg.”

Prosecutors asked the judge to act after the conviction-integrity unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed the cases.

“In all good conscience we could not let these convictions stand,” said Mark Rotert, who heads the unit.

The office’s agreement to throw out the sentences was part of a larger effort to regain public trust, he said.

In the last two years, the city has seen an officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Jason Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer in decades to be charged with first-degree murder in an on-duty killing.

Just this week, prosecutors announced they would not retry two men who have long maintained their innocence. One man spent 29 years in prison for a double murder he insists he did not commit. The other spent 27 years in prison in another double murder case involving an officer who has had several convictions overturned amid allegations that he beat suspects and coerced witnesses.

Police said late Thursday that seven police officers who were once part of Watts’ crew have been removed from street duties while their conduct years ago is investigated.

When asked earlier about the status of the officers tied to Watts, Superintendent Eddie Johnson noted none had been convicted of a crime and their jobs couldn’t be taken from them arbitrarily.

The University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project is examining another 12 to 24 cases, but the problem is much larger because Watts was involved in about 1,000 cases and perhaps 500 convictions over eight years, said Joshua Tepfer, a defense attorney with the project.

State’s attorney spokesman Robert Foley said prosecutors are investigating dozens of other cases and identified a pattern suggesting “corrupt activity” involving Watts and “members of his crew.”

Chicago has paid more than a half billion dollars to settle police misconduct cases in a little more than a decade.

Tepfer would not discuss what the men might do next, but it is almost a certainty that at least some of them will sue the city and the police department. He offered a hint about what those lawsuits might contend.

“These convictions stick with you,” he said. “You can’t get back the time you served. It affects your ability to get jobs, housing. You get thrown off of public aid with a felony conviction.”

#GoodCop caught tampering with evidence 

WEST DEPTFORD, NJ — West Deptford police officer Thomas M. McWain, 30,  has been charged with official misconduct, tampering with evidence, and computer crime in connection with an alleged scheme to place an individual in a drug rehabilitation program in which he had a financial interest, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office announced.

McWain was the first officer in Gloucester County to earn the distinction of being certified as a drug addiction recovery coach. He said his passion stemmed from his experiences encountering addicts on the streets. A 2016 South Jersey Times story noted that he had used the opiate overdose antidote Narcan more than any other officer over the previous year. McWain also lamented the lack of options for addicts when they encounter police.

“We’re arresting the same people over and over again,” he said. “I wanted to be able to find something else to do”

However, McWain is now accused of filing a police report containing a “false narrative” regarding a 2017 evidence seizure and arrest. He sought to refer “a subject with whom he had contact as a West Deptford Township police officer,” to a drug rehabilitation center in which he had a financial interest, according to authorities. Officials say McWain, while apparently posing as a civilian, allegedly asked people to meet up with him and to bring narcotics. He would then arrest them and refer these people to drug rehab services, prosecutors allege.Officials say the allegations involve more than one incident.

 

He surrendered at the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday and was released pending a Dec. 21 court appearance in Superior Court Woodbury, according to authorities. McWain, an officer with the West Deptford Police Department since 2013, was initially suspended with pay on April 28 and was suspended without pay on Nov. 6.

The prosecutor’s office also said he accessed computerized criminal records without authorization in order to benefit someone else and deleted text messages asking someone to bring drugs to the scene of a traffic stop. He deleted the messages once he learned that he was the subject of an investigation, authorities said.

LAPD body cams catch #GoodCops planting drugs on suspect

Los Angeles- A body-camera video played in court Thursday seems to directly contradict an officer’s sworn testimony in the case of a man arrested after a hit-and-run accident, and a defense attorney claims the video proves an officer planted drugs on the man.

LAPD officer Samuel Lee left a Van Nuys courtroom Thursday after a defense attorney showed Los Angeles Police Department bodycam video that he says caught the officer in a lie. The officer had no comment.

“He looked dumbstruck to me,” attorney Steve Levine said. “Period. He had really no answer.”

CBS2 News Investigative Reporter David Goldstein obtained 12 videos from bodycams worn by officers on the scene of an accident in April, and the LAPD confirmed it has opened an internal investigation into the use of bodycams by officers in the field.

This is the first time media has seen video from the cameras in a real police investigation. LAPD has refused to release any of them since the video program began two years ago.

Ronald Shields, 52, was arrested and has been charged with felony hit-and-run and possession of cocaine. The officers were called to testify in a pretrial hearing as Shields’ attorney challenges evidence to be used at trial.

Lee is seen searching the suspect. He testified in court, as in the police report, that the cocaine was found in Shields’ left front pocket.

But the videos shows a different story.

In video from another angle, LAPD Officer Gaxiola picks up Shields’ wallet from the street and shows it to Lee, who points to the suspect as if to say it’s his. He then puts it back down, steps to the street, bends over and picks up a small bag with white powder. It eventually tested positive for drugs. Gaxiola goes back onto the sidewalk, picks up the wallet, motions to Lee and appears to put the bag into the wallet.

At this time, you hear the audio and see the officers hand, when he activates the recording on the camera. But what the officer appears not to have known is that the previous 30 seconds are automatically saved without audio.

And if you rewind those 30 seconds, that’s where this all takes place.

Gaxiola hasn’t testified and had nothing to say Thursday. On the video, after he collects the wallet, he brags about it to the other officers. “He has a little bag of narco in here,” he says on the video. He says it three times. Lee says the bag of drugs fell out of Shields’ pocket and onto the sidewalk.

Levine has another theory and believes it proves Gaxiola planted the drugs.

“There’s a little white square here in his hand,” Levine said about one point in the video. “I believe the video shows the drugs were in his right hand and transfers to his left hand.”

The hearing will continue in December.

Sheriff encourages citizens to arm and “neutralize threats”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called on residents to arm themselves to be prepared for the next active-shooter situation. He called the Sutherland springs, Texas gunman “a nut” and “mentally deranged, obviously.” Then he added, “Someone’s got to be there with a gun to stop them.”
“I mean, think about it,” he says in the video. “He shows up with an AR-15 and a lot of ammunition, sure it’s easy to kill people when there’s no one there shooting back. But all of that changed when the neighbor shows up with a gun and starts shooting at him.”

Judd is referring to Stephen Willeford, a local man who exchanged shots with gunman Devin P. Kelley, who killed and wounded dozens inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Willeford, along with bystander Johnnie Langendorff, engaged Kelley in a high-speed car chase before his car veered off the roadway into a ditch. Officials found Kelley dead and said the autopsy revealed that he was shot twice — in the leg and torso — before shooting himself in the head.

Judd encouraged his viewers to sign up for free active-shooter prevention training with his office so they are able to protect themselves.

“I’ve always had the basic philosophy that a good person with a gun is an attribute, not a danger,” he told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“As long as we live in denial that it can’t happen to me and there’s not someone there ready to fight back, then those that want to harm us can freely harm us because there’s not going to be any resistance,” he said.

There will always be “mentally ill people” and “terrorists” who try to kill others, Judd told The Post, so it is better for people to be prepared.

“I mean, go back through the shootings. Historically, there’s no active resistance,” he said. “Gosh, it’s easy to go in a one-room schoolhouse, it’s easy to go into Virginia Tech, or a theater, or Columbine, or any other place and shoot people up indiscriminately if there’s no defense there.”

Judd’s tactical advice for responsible gun owners confronted with an active shooter situation?

“Shoot them. Shoot them a lot until the threat’s neutralized.”

Judd also mad headlines during hurricane Irma when he told sexual offenders and anyonewith warrants to steer clear of shelters during the storm. 

#GoodCop caught exposing himself to children

An NYPD housing cop has been busted for exposing himself to two school-aged sisters as they walked to church in The Bronx last week, police said.

Adam Fridson, 43, a 12-year veteran who works in the borough, was charged Tuesday with acting in a manner injurious to a child, lewdness and exposure of a person for committing the disturbing act against the victims, aged 12 and 7, cops said.

The officer got out of his Subaru on East Tremont Avenue near Barkley Avenue in Schuylerville and approached the children, police said.

Fridson then exposed himself to the victims. One of the girls told police that the man exposed his genitalia through the front opening of his shorts as he asked the girls, “Do you know where McDonald’s is?” according to the complaint.

Police on Saturday released details of the incident and surveillance images of the suspect. They released additional surveillance footage on Tuesday.

Fridson was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of first-degree public lewdness and two counts of public lewdness, misdemeanors, and two counts of exposure of a person, a violation. He has since been released on $5,000 bail.

The officer raked in a total pay of $107,781 last year, according to data posted by SeeThroughNY.

Cop convinces community that police are safe, then covers up a police sex scandal 

Louisville, KY-  a program called the Youth explorer program was created to encourage teens to join law enforcement careers, but the program was eliminated last year over allegations officers were sexually abusing participants. Initially police Chief Steve Conrad suspended The program after rumors began, but reversed himself about a week later at the urging of one officer Curtis Flaherty. 

Now it seems Flaherty was one of officers complicit in covering up the abuse. Conrad ordered the program stopped in a Nov. 18, 2016, memorandum obtained by the Courier Journal, citing the Public Integrity Unit’s investigation into former Officer Brandon Wood, the officer originally accused of sexually abusing participants. 

“I believe this decision is in the best interest of both our department and the community we serve,” Conrad said.

Maj. Curtis Flaherty, named in a civil lawsuit by a former Scout who says Flaherty helped cover up the sexual abuse, sent a memo three days later asking the chief to lift the suspension.

“I believe this suspension penalizes the Explorers who have invested so much of their time in the program,” Flaherty wrote.

Flaherty suggested that the program — meant for youth ages 14 through 19 interested in law enforcement — instead be restricted to two meetings a month. He said a person from either the department’s Professional Standards Unit or the Boy Scout’s Lincoln Heritage Council would be assigned to monitor those meetings.

Flaherty also told Conrad that no parents shared any concerns after being sent a letter informing them about the investigation into Wood. “The attendance at the meetings continues to remain strong,” he said.

In a Nov. 29 response, Conrad agreed to keep the program open despite the investigation. The chief said he preferred assigning a monitor from the Boy Scouts for Explorer meetings over one from within the police department and asked Flaherty to find a monitor.

The revelations about the program’s suspension come amid growing scrutiny of the chief’s decision-making related to the scandal, which has embroiled the police department for more than a year.

Wood and another former officer, Kenneth Betts, were indicted this year on several charges that they had sex with Explorers while they were advisers in the program, which was run by police in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Attorney David Yates, who has filed a civil suit on behalf of a former Explorer alleging abuse, said the suspension and reversal demonstrates that the chief let other commanders guide his decisions even after the investigation began.

“Even after leadership within the department could no longer turn a blind eye to the blatant and extensive sexual abuse of the kids entrusted to the ‘LMPD Explorer pedophilia ring,’ the safety, protection and treatment of the children still came second to Maj. Flaherty’s wishes,” said Yates, who is also Metro Council president.

Attorney Lee Sitlinger, who is representing Flaherty in the civil suit, said his client has always had a heart for the program and believed it could continue given that Wood had been suspended from the program and was assigned to desk duty.

“He thought since Wood was out of the program there was no immediate threat to the kids and he didn’t want the hundred or plus kids to be penalized,” Sitlinger said.

Three years prior to the start of the investigation into Wood, police had also investigated whether Betts had inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old female Explorer Scout. 

The girl’s mother said in an interview last year that Betts had sent her daughter photos of himself “half-dressed” and “kind of sexual-looking pictures.”

Public Integrity Unit investigators did not record audio of their interview with the girl and her parents, according to court records, and no police notes from the interview are known to exist.

The former Scout’s mother now alleges that Flaherty urged their family to keep quiet about the situation, according to court records. 

Former Explorers in the program have said Flaherty was Betts’ mentor. The two had known each other since Betts was in the Explorer program, and Flaherty wrote a recommendation letter when Betts joined the force in 2006. 

Cop arrested for raping minor, filming encounter

New York City- Bronx cop Raul Olmeda, 40  had repeated sex with an underage sex worker — and filmed the illicit encounters, authorities said Tuesday.

Olmeda kept images of his trysts with the teen along with those of other women — and a Dropbox PowerPoint file titled “The List,” which included the names, birth dates and photos of all other women he slept with since 1989, officials said.

“Some of those women also appeared to be underage,” prosecutor Meagan Powers told the judge during Olmeda’s arraignment Tuesday afternoon in Bronx Supreme Court.

According to prosecutors, he had sex five times with the teen between January and April. “The defendant preyed on the vulnerable young woman and videotaped his demeaning and dehumanizing acts,” District Attorney Darcel Clark stated. “It is especially disturbing that these crimes are alleged against a member of the NYPD.”

Investigators didn’t discover the relationship until March, when they obtained a warrant to search his home in the tax case, officials said. Olmeda allegedly filed falsified state and federal tax returns for numerous individuals and amassed more than $200,000 that he deposited in a bank account, authorities allege.

During the raid on his home, agents seized computers, cell phones, video cameras and several encrypted hard drives. Closer inspection revealed the X-rated footage.

After learning of the sex probe, Olmeda allegedly tried to interfere in the case by pressuring the teenage prostitute not to talk to cops and logging into private NYPD databases to access information on the Internal Affairs probe. His Dropbox account included one file titled “My Investigation,” prosecutors said.

Olmeda has been a cop for four years and was assigned to the 42nd Precinct before he was stripped of his gun and badge.

His union lawyer, Stuart London, disputed the prosecution’s claims. “My client will be back to fight these charges because he vehemently denies them from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head,” London said, adding, “This isn’t numerous underage women. It seems to be one underage woman whose credibility we don’t know at all.”

London described Olmeda as a lifelong resident of The Bronx, a devoted cop and longtime caretaker to his mother. He is also engaged to a 32-year-old woman with a brain tumor, the lawyer said.

Olmeda was charged with numerous felonies, including five counts of third-degree rape and five counts of use of child in a sexual performance. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the top charge.

“The fact that the defendant is an NYPD officer evidences an unconscionable violation of his oath to uphold the law and protect the public,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.

The judge set bail at $250,000, half of the amount prosecutors requested.

#GoodCop upset he can’t get job back after he’s found writing fake tickets

Washington Township, N.J. A t judge has determied former police officer Joseph DiBuonaventura,is not entitled to get his old job back, saying the cop’s behavior shows a “pervasive strain of lying.”

DiBuonaventura was fired from his position as a Washington Township police officer in 2016 after an internal affairs investigation concluded that he lied about his reasons for stopping state Assemblyman Paul Moriarity in 2012 and charging him with driving while intoxicated.

DiBuonaventura arrested Moriarty on charges of driving while intoxicated in July 2012. Moriarty denied he had been drinking, refused a breath test and said the incident was the result of an “abuse of power” by DiBuonaventura. The DWI charge was later dismissed after the county prosecutor’s office concluded that the officer lied about his reasons for stopping Moriarty.

Moriarty then filed 27 criminal complaints against DiBuonaventura, claiming the officer committed perjury, filed false reports and committed official misconduct, among other allegations. A judge charged DiBuonaventura with 13 of those 27 complaints and forwarded those charges to the prosecutor’s office. He was found not guilty following a 2015 trial.

The officer fabricated his reason for stopping Moriarty, omitted the real reason for pursuing him in his report and only came clean after realizing the entire matter was captured on his in-car camera, Morgan found in supporting the hearing officer’s original conclusion in the internal affairs probe. DiBuonaventura was also accused of purposefully writing phony warning notices to several drivers for violations that never occurred.  That investigation and his firing followed a criminal trial in which DiBuonaventura was found not guilty on charges related to the Moriarty arrest.

After he was fired, DiBuonaventura appealed the hearing officer’s decision on the disciplinary action, leading to a decision this month by Judge David W. Morgan upholding the earlier decision. “The case reveals an officer with demonstrated animosity and dislike for Moriarty effectively targeting him …” Morgan writes. “The warnings case demonstrates that plaintiff’s potential for fabrication was more pervasive and longer-lived.”

The warnings case involved claims that DiBuonaventura filled out motor vehicle warnings for seven drivers, but did not serve those motorists with the warnings as part of an effort to artificially inflate his productivity.

 

Killer cop Betty Shelby gets her record expunged

TULSA, OK — Former Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby is able to legally say she was never arrested or prosecuted for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher last year after a judge granted her request to expunge the record of her manslaughter case.

District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to state law.

Excluding government and law enforcement, which would have access to the record because Shelby would likely disclose it on job applications, agencies won’t be able to find the case in a background search, said Shelby’s defense attorney, Shannon McMurray.

“This crime does not exist for employment application purposes,” McMurray said Wednesday. She said it was important for Shelby “to have that smear on her name removed from public view.”

“Like any other citizen who is acquitted, Betty Jo Shelby was entitled to have her record sealed and expunged,” the attorney said. “Betty … continues to work to try and serve her community and prays for everyone’s continued healing.”

A spokeswoman for the district attorney declined to comment Wednesday.

Shelby petitioned in August to have her record expunged after jurors acquitted her three months earlier in the September 2016 killing of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.

She was on patrol last year when she encountered Crutcher, whose SUV was stopped in the middle of the street. Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked like he was reaching inside his vehicle.

Prosecutors argued that Shelby overreacted. Videos from a patrol car dashboard and a police helicopter showed Crutcher had his hands in the air.

Shelby was reinstated to the force two days after her acquittal. She returned to work in an administrative capacity but resigned in July, saying she felt isolated from other officers.

She was later sworn in as a reserve sheriff’s deputy in nearby Rogers County.

NYPD sex crimes officer arrested for 83 counts of child sexual abuse

A retired NYPD lieutenant commander from Orange County, NY who was part of a sex crimes unit is set to be arraigned this week on 83 counts of child sexual abuse.

Neighbors in Greenwood Lake say they are in shock after disturbing allegations of child sex abuse and incest against retired NYPD Lt. Commander Nicholas McAteer.

A total of 83 counts were outlined in the indictment, which claims the 45-year-old father of three molested two family members who are not his children for nearly a decade.

Citing a source with close knowledge of the case, local Westchester, New York News 12 is reporting that the 45-year-old father of three is accused of “sexual assaults that systematically took place in McAteer’s home while his wife was sleeping and in his unmarked NYPD patrol car, and while he worked for a sex crimes unit in Manhattan and its Internal Bureau of Investigations.

McAteer, was a lieutenant recently on special assignment with the NYPD and a past detective squad commander, before retiring a few months ago. McAteer was originally brought up on charges by one victim in Greenwood Lake back in August and is out on $75,000 bail. A grand jury indicted McAteer on dozens of new charges last week after the second female victim reportedly came forward. So far, 80 of the counts are felony charges.

News 12 reached out to the NYPD and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, but both declined to comment.