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News in Brief

Arizona: A week after he was shot chasing a suspect, an off-duty police officer from Alberquerque, New Mexico, was arrested on February 21, 2021, for aggravated DWI. According to a report by local TV station KRQE, Officer Fouad Cherair, 29, was found by police in the suburb of Rancho Rio, sitting in his damaged Ford Mustang near a tree he had driven into. An empty beer can was found nearby. He refused to identify himself to police, who said his speech was slurred and that his breath smelled of alcohol. They recognized an Alberqerque Police Department logo on his cellphone and called a supervisor, who confirmed Cherair was employed there. He had been placed on leave after his shooting, and it was not immediately clear if he had returned to work.

Arkansas: On February 3, 2021, police in Little Rock, Arkansas, arrested one of their own, according to a report by local TV station KARK. Officer Marcus Getter was charged with felony theft and placed on leave after an investigation into a November 2020 incident in which a woman reported her purse stolen at a local restaurant. Surveillance video implicated Getter, who was off-duty at the time, in the theft of the purse, which contained $1,600. Because the amount was so high, Pulaski County prosecutors filed the theft charge as a felony. His arraignment was scheduled for March 9, 2021. In a December 2019 post on the police department’s Facebook page, Getter was pictured playing Santa Claus for a pre-kindergarten class at the Metropolitan Career Technical Centers.

Australia: According to a March 2021 report by Newsweek, a police officer in New South Wales, Australia, admitted in a court hearing the month before that he arrested a transgender woman because she failed to make eye contact with him and then falsified the arrest record. At his trial for assault and records-tampering, Senior Constable Mark Follington, 61, testified that when 25-year-old Anya Bradford failed to meet his gaze at a Liverpool bar in 2019, he became suspicious that she was a wanted criminal trying to avoid him. There were no charges outstanding against Bradford, however. But Follington and a fellow officer, Mark Brown, chased and apprehended her, charging her with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer after Follington claimed Bradford shoved him — a claim Brown did not corroborate and Bradford denied. Those charges have since been dropped. Bradford also testified at the hearing that Follington and Brown kicked and punched her during the incident, which was caught on surveillance video. She said the men hurled an anti-trans slur – “it” – at her before shooting her with a stun gun and pepper spray.

California: A police officer in Benecia, California, who had once been honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, pleaded “not guilty or no contest” in March 2021 to a misdemeanor DUI charge. According to a report by the Vacaville Reporter, Alejandro A. Maravilla, 29, had been drinking at two local bars while off-duty in September 2019 when, on his way out of a parking lot after his last stop, he backed his vehicle into a pickup belonging to a bar employee, 31-year-old Andrew Contreras, and sped off. Contreras gave chase, eventually witnessing Maravilla damage his own car again on an Interstate turn-around. A California Highway Patrolman finally caught up with him at a gas station and administered a field sobriety test, which Maravilla flunked. A breath analysis then revealed a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit, leading to his DUI charge. He is still employed by the Benecia Police Department.

Colorado: On February 1, 2021, a federal court in Colorado sentenced former Westminister Police Department Officer Curtis Arganbright to a six-year prison term after the 43-year-old pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty in 2017. According to a press release by the federal Department of Justice, Arganbright had responded to a theft report at a hospital in the Denver suburb when hospital personnel declined to press charges against the woman suspected of the crime. Arganbright then drove the woman home in his patrol car, pulling off the road along the way to sexually assault her. In addition to his prison term and three years of supervised release, he is required to register as a sex offender.

Florida: A former state attorney in northern Florida was arrested in Arizona on February 26, 2021, on federal charges of bribery, extortion and fraud. According to a report by floridapolitics.com, Jeffrey Siegmeister, 52, allegedly abused his elected position in a conspiracy with defense attorney Michael O’Steen, 41, who solicited bribes from his clients that he then shared with Siegmeister in exchange for favorable disposition of their cases. The pair ran the scheme from November 2017 to May 2019, according to charging documents. Another defense attorney, Ernest Maloney Page IV, pleaded guilty to his role in a similar scheme in 2017 in which Siegmeister solicited and received a $20,000 discount on a tractor he bought from Page’s client in exchange for accepting a guilty plea to a lesser crime than the one the client was charged with. Federal prosecutors also say Siegmeister defrauded an elderly person for whom he served as legal guardian by assuming the person’s assets and drafting a will naming his own relative as sole heir of the person’s estate.

Florida: If you’re planning to fish or hunt in the Florida Keys, Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward has a warning: Obey the rules or go to jail. A 23-year-old Miami man with no prior criminal record found that out in February 2021. The Miami Herald reported that Michael Perez Pineda was sentenced to six days in the county jail, 12 months of probation, 50 hours of community service and fined a total of $823 after he was caught fishing two undersized snapper and an out-of-season lobster from waters under an Islamorada bridge in July 2019. Another Miami man caught that month with seven under-sized lobsters, 47-year-old Rodolfo Rafael Gonzalez, received the same sentence, plus an extra four days in jail. In March 2021, Ward had officers from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission looking for two men who fatally mutilated a pelican while fishing off another Islamorada bridge. The sheriff’s office maintains a small zoo at the county jail with about 150 abandoned or confiscated animals. In October 2019, inmate Jason Aaron Gibson had a charge of animal cruelty added to one for vehicle theft that got him locked up after he fed two of the jail’s pet iguanas to an alligator at the zoo.

Louisiana: On February 24, 2021, the mother of a minor girl whom fired New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Officer Rodney Vicknair is charged with sexually abusing, filed a civil lawsuit, according to a report by Law & Crime. In addition to the 54-year-old Vicknair, the suit named other defendants, including his former NOPD supervisor, Shaun Ferguson, and the city of New Orleans. NOPD terminated Vicknair when he was criminally charged in September 2020 for the incident, which happened the previous May, when –
despite a history of abusing his badge to harrass women dating back to at least 2009 – the policeman was assigned to transport a 14-year-old girl to a hospital for a rape kit. Instead, Vicknair allegedly began “grooming” her for a sexual assault that followed several months later. In her lawsuit, plaintiff Rayne Upton, on behalf of her minor daughter “G.H.,” seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Maryland: The former police chief of Laurel, Maryland, was arrested in March 2021 and accused of being a “serial arsonist” between May 2011 and November 2020, according to a report by NPR. Authorities allege that after 69-year-old David Crawford retired in 2010, he began setting fire to the property of enemies in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., torching at least 11 houses, garages or cars between 2011 and 2020 in arsons that investigators linked him to, plus a twelfth of which he is also suspected. Because the fires were set at night when many of the victims were at home, Crawford faces a dozen counts of first-degree attempted murder. Investigators found a “hit list” of intended victims on his cellphone, in addition to those already targeted. They include other current and former employees of the Laurel Police Department and the City of Laurel, one of Crawford’s neighbors and his former doctor, as well as relatives such as his stepson, with whom he had a “strained” relationship.

Maryland: Convictions of 25 members of a Baltimore drug gang were put in jeopardy in February 2021 when the cop who wrote search warrants that led to their 2016 arrests was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for lying to FBI agents about his role in the theft of drugs seized in an earlier bust. According to a report by the Washington Post, Ivo Louvado and two other Baltimore Police Department (BPD) detectives stole three of 40 kilograms of cocaine confiscated in 2009 and then lied about it during a 2018 investigation into BDO’s now-disbanded Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), which conducted the seizure. At the time it was considered a record. Victor Rivera, one of Louvado’s accomplices in the drug theft, also received a 14-month federal prison sentence in January 2021. The other officer involved, Keith Gladstone, has not been sentenced. Louvado was not a GTTF agent, but he was one of 100 officers who worked years with federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to score the convictions of 25 members of the Murdaland Mafia Piru, an offshoot of the California Bloods gang that controled drug traffic and commited five murders in northwest Baltimore.

Missouri: A former Missouri police officer caught in a sting trying to have sex with a minor was sentenced to an eight-year federal prison term on February 8, 2021. According to a report by Jefferson City TV station KRCG, 42-year-old Clint Patrick Baer was an officer with the Centralia Police Department in March 2019 when he made contact on a fetish website with an undercover FBI agent he thought was the mother of a 14-year-old girl. Baer, a former U.S. Marine, used the online handle “General XXX” as, over the next seven months, the two exchanged messages in which Baer said he wished to have sex with the girl and her mother, KRCG reports. In October 2019, he traveled to the St. Louis suburb of Wentzville and met the undercover agent pretending to be the mother at a bar. She then took him to a nearby motel, allegedly to meet the girl, where other FBI agents instead were waiting to arrest him.

Nebraska: A Nebraska sheriff was convicted of official misconduct on March 4, 2021, after he got upset with a Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) officer he thought was invading his turf and refused to accept a prisoner from him. According to a report by the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey had a contract to provide law enforcement services to the city of Crawford, where a woman reported in July 2019 that she had been raped by her boyfriend in a motel. The woman filed her report with police in the city of Chadron, and they contacted NSP. When Sheriff Dailey found out state troopers were involved in a case in Crawford, he threw a profanity-laced tantrum that was captured on his body camera. He also told the NSP officer who was going to arrest the woman’s boyfriend that he would not accept the man in his jail. For that, a judge found him guilty of official misconduct, noting that state law requires a sheriff to receive all those who are “lawfully committed” to him.

New York: A Long Island man plans to sue Suffolk County, New York, and its police department, as well as nearly a dozen officers involved in a violent confrontation with him in February 2021. According to a report by New York City TV station WABC, Christopher Cruz was arrested in Mount Sinai after allegedly leading police on a chase with a stolen Jeep that he then crashed into two police vehicles. Police body camera footage captured the aftermath, when the 30-year-old was repeatedly kicked by officers who claimed he kicked and spit on them. But his attorney, Fred Brewington, insisted his client “surrendered with his hands up.” Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and County Executive Steve Bellone announced that two officers involved had been suspended without pay and four others placed on “modified duty” while the district attorney investigates. None of the officers involved has yet been named.

Ohio: Saying he was “deeply ashamed,” a former police officer in Warren, Ohio, told a judge in February 2021 that he had been suffering a “mental breakdown” when he lied that he’d been shot at by an unidentified Black man just over a year earlier. According to a report by Youngstown TV station WKBN, the false report by Noah Linnen in January 2020 sent 60 other officers on a frantic search for the nonexistent culprit, resulting in several traffic stops and one apartment building stake-out. Linnen was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay his former department $10,000 in restitution for the man-hours wasted tracking down the phantom suspect.

Oklahoma: A sheriff’s deputy in suburban Oklahoma City was arrested on February 21, 2021, and charged with selling guns he stole from the safe of another deputy who had been killed in the line of duty. According to a report by local TV station KFOR, agents from the state Bureau of Investigation found a notorized bill of sale proving that Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy David Wade had transferred ownership of his guns to his mother before he was killed while serving a warrant in 2017. But the day after he died, his roommate, Jason Tauer, sold some of the guns to a local pawn shop. Now a 45-year-old deputy sheriff himself, Tauer is being held on one charge of felony embezzlement and 11 counts of misdemeanor false pawn. He joined the sheriff’s office after the death of his friend Wade, whose mother owned the house in which she let the two men live and where, after her son died, she left Tauer to watch over the family’s safe full of guns.

Pennsylvania: The prosecutor of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, was arrested on February 3, 2021, and charged with sexual assault and other crimes against female clients he allegedly preyed upon before his 2019 election, while he was still in private practice as a defense attorney. According to a report by the New York Times, Chad M. Salsman, 44, a Republican who is married with children, is charged with crimes against five women. He had been under investigation since before assuming office in January 2020, according to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), who called the assaults “disturbing.” Many allegedly took place in Salsman’s law office, where he extorted sex from women struggling to pay their legal fees. Once he became aware of the investigation against him, he allegedly tried to pressure the women and members of his staff not to cooperate with state investigators, Shapiro added. Salsman has denied that the sex was nonconsensual and plans to fight the charges. He also said he would not be stepping down from office in the rural area northwest of Scranton, though he has transferred his caseload to an assistant.

Tennessee: According to a report by Memphis TV station WHBQ, sheriff’s deputies responding to a domestic disturbance call on March 6, 2021, in Tipton County, Tennessee, ended up arresting one of their own. Deputy Marshall Cates, 31, chased a woman from the house they share in Staton, twice blocking her escape from the property with his vehicle. He was charged with domestic assault. The county sheriff’s office suspended him without pay while the incident is investigated. 

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