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Monday, September 15, 2008

News Recap for 09-15-08

A new feature that examines misconduct in the news

Sturgis Shooting Update
The Sturgis Shooting case has had a few new developments in the last couple of weeks. Joseph Patrick McGuire, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club member who was shot by an off-duty Seattle police officer, is set to appear on Sept. 24 for his next court date on charges of aggravated assault or an alternative count of simple assault.

The person who shot McGuire, Detective Ron Smith of the Seattle Police Department, also faces the same charges as McGuire along with a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed pistol without a permit. A separate perjury charge against Smith was dropped by state's attorney Jesse Sondreal last week.

Four other members of the "Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club", of which Detective Smith is a member, also face a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, including another police officer from Seattle. Sondreal has stated that ALL of the defendants must appear in court in person and may not answer their warrants via video conference, as might have been requested by one of the defendants.

A lot of controversy over the weapons charges has been stirred up due to HR 218 "The Public Safety Officers Act" which supposedly allows police officers to ignore laws regarding concealed carry while off-duty, supposedly including establishments where such weapons are prohibited such as bars or taverns. HR 218 does not apply, however, to officers who are "under the influence" but that terminology has not yet been defined and Detective Smith did admit in media interviews that he had been drinking that night.

Also, according to an official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives interviewed by the Rapid City Journal about the case, that while the act was passed, it has not yet been put into effect by the US Attorney General. Detective Smith and the other Iron Pigs members have yet to appear in court to answer to the charges that have been filed against them last month.

UPDATE: According to the Seattle Times, prosecutors dropped the remaining felony assault charge against Detective Ron Smith today after suggesting that the police-led investigation found Smith shot McGuire in self defense and that the shooting was justified. Smith still faces the same misdemeanor weapons charges as do the other members of the Iron Pigs motorcycle group who were with him that night in Sturgis, though it is likely that those charges will also be dropped.

San Diego Slapdown Suit
After suffering a fractured skull that put him in a coma for nearly a month and a traumatic brain injury from which he still has not recovered from, 28-year-old law clerk Pablo Gomez has won a stunning $8,000,000 police misconduct judgment from the city of San Diego California.

In January of 2006 Gomez was leaving the scene of an altercation that two intoxicated men had started with Gomez and his friend when he was ordered to stop by SDPD officer Joseph De Veaux. According to the suit, Gomez stopped and turned around when De Veaux shoved him backward, causing Gomez to fall and strike his head on the sidewalk.

A previous trial resulted in a mistrial when the jury couldn't come to a decision and there was no indication that the officer faced any disciplinary action as a result of the incident and there were no criminal charges. Although, it's likely he didn't as the city attorney defended the officer and said Gomez was responsible for his own injury and that the city plans on appealing.

Can't Keep A Bad Cop Down
According to the Northwest Herald in Illinois, two officers who had felony convictions of assault, obstruction, and other charges, have been recertified to serve as police officers and one reportedly has two job offers with departments other than where he last served despite pleading down to misdemeanor charges when their trials were overturned due to prosecutors allegedly withholding information.

The charges had stemmed from a 2005 incident outside of a bar where three officers allegedly beat a man after they had handcuffed him. As a result of the plea bargain they were able to have their court records sealed and since they only plead to misdemeanors they can now work as cops again... A third officer was convicted of several felonies related to the same case in a separate trial but has been released pending an appeal.

Someone Needs A Computer Time-Out
According to the East Valley Tribune in Phoenix Arizona, a Tempe Arizona cop recently fired and charged with cyberstalking a woman and threatening to distrubute nude photos of her over the internet has also been accused of collecting child pornography. The officer allegedly has a long history of misconduct and dishonesty during his career as an officer and had once been disciplined for receiving overtime pay while browsing the internet.

The allegations stem from a search of the data on his computer that was seized as part of a search warrant served in the cyberstalking case. The investigation is ongoing because the police have not analyzed the files found to determine if the subjects in the files, some named "lolita" or "teen", are really underage.

Police Chief Wants Less Discipline
The Deseret News in Salt Lake County Utah reports that the sheriff there wants to have more control over the disciplinary board that suspended or decertified 18 officers in the last quarter for misdeeds ranging from sexual misconduct to lying to investigators.

The sheriff said that the board should give more consideration to an officer's individual case and accept recommendations from an officer's commanders when asked to reduce disciplinary actions, but the council wants the board to be independent from the departments it reviews. The argument stems from disciplinary findings such as in the case of one sheriff's officer who faces a four year suspension for sexual misconduct who asked for a reduced sentence so he could look for another job in law enforcement...

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