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News in Brief

Alabama: A former Alabama cop convicted of murdering a mentally ill and suicidal man in his own home reported to a state prison in Montgomery on September 6, 2021, to begin serving a 25-year sentence he received for the crime, according to Huntsville TV station WAFF. As previously reported by CLN, former Huntsville Police Department (HPD) Officer William Ben Darby, 28, was convicted in May 2021 of fatally shooting 49-year-old Jeffrey Parker while the mentally ill man held a gun to his own head. Two other HPD officers who have also since resigned, Gina Pegues and Justin Beckles, were already on the scene and trying to defuse the situation in April 2018 when Darby arrived and brushed past them, shouting at Parker to lower his gun. Darby had been inside the home just ten seconds before he shot and killed Parker. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R) and HPD Chief Mark McMurray argued for Darby’s innocence, saying they believed he was trying to protect Pegues, but a jury disagreed.

Alabama: Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith announced that one of his officers was arrested on September 8, 2021, on charges he drugged and raped a woman he met on a dating website. According to a report by the New York Post, Officer Matthew Wilcox resigned the following day. A nine-year veteran, the 37-year-old Wilcox faces charges of first-degree rape and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. A second woman has also told investigators she was raped by him. Neither incident is alleged to have occurred while he was on duty. A search of his home turned up illegal narcotics and several guns, as well as drug paraphernalia.

California: For at least seven years, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Office (SDCSO) deputy displayed an informal award plaque signed and presented by colleagues to commemorate his use-of-force incidents involving a Taser. Someone snapped a photo of the plaque and sent it to the San Diego Union-Tribune, prompting the paper’s report on August 22, 2021. That identified the deputy as Shawn Silva, who displayed the award that noted he had discharged his Taser for 25 stuns in his first five years as a deputy. The plaque was dated 2012, and the photo was taken in 2019. SDCSO records indicate Silva actually discharged his Taser only 14 times before 2013, but even that number would be high in a department that recorded an average of just 165 total Taser uses in the last two years by over 4,000 sworn deputies. SDCSO Lt. Amber Baggs said the plaque was no longer displayed by Silva, a 14-year veteran who earns $143,000 annually.

Colorado: Just 35 of the 744 officers in the Aurora Police Department (APD)—less than five percent—accounted for 40 percent of all misconduct cases between 2017 and 2020 in the Colorado city of 369,000, according to an internal report released on August 13, 2021. A copy of the highly anticipated report obtained by local TV station KDCO lists 99 ways that APD can improve following a disastrous 2020 in which officers killed an unarmed young Black man, Elijah McClain, and fist-bumped one another after dislocating the shoulder of an elderly dementia patient, Karen Garner. As a result, the department’s use-of-force policies came under fire for being inadequate. But so did its under-use of Crisis Intervention Teams and failure to involve citizens in community policing efforts. Other recommendations touched on training, management and use of technology.

Georgia: The district attorney for Chattahootchee County, Georgia, was arrested on September 7, 2021, after a grand jury in Columbus indicted him on nine felony charges of attempting to bribe prosecutors on his staff and suborn their perjury in order to make cases appear stronger than they were. According to a report by Law & Crime, the indictment also accuses D.A. Mark Preston Jones of asking a police officer to lie and say that a defendant, Elijah Farral, believed his girlfriend, Sara Holtrop, was cheating on him when he fatally shot her, in order to upgrade his charges from manslaughter to murder. Jones is further accused of intimidating the victim of another crime, Chris Bailey, leading him to decide not to read a victim impact statement. It is the second time that Jones been criminally charged since taking office in January 2021. An earlier indictment accused him of causing $306,000 in damage to the Columbus Civic Center parking lot during an unpermitted filming of a campaign video in July 2020, which featured cars making “donuts” around the then-candidate. State Attorney General Chris Carr, who is a Republican, thanked the Muscogee County grand jury for bringing the charges against Jones, a Democrat.

Indiana: An Indiana Sheriff’s deputy awaiting trial for murder has asked for a transfer to another lockup after allegedly being beaten and threatened by fellow prisoners at the Jay County Jail. According to a report by the Muncie Star Press, the attorney for Roger L. Boyd, Jr., presented photos showing his client with a black eye and facial abrasions sustained in the purported altercation. Boyd, 35, is accused of fatally shooting a man in his garage and then hiding the dead man’s girlfriend in his basement while police investigated the shooting scene. Boyd said he shot James P. Miller with a semiautomatic handgun after finding the 49-year-old hiding in his garage with a weapon. Police, however, said they found Miller’s corpse unarmed. Meanwhile Boyd had discovered Miller’s girlfriend outside the garage and ordered her into his basement. Boyd’s girlfriend, 29-year-old Brittany Shewmake, is charged with aiding him in confining the unnamed woman.

Louisiana: An assistant district attorney is facing multiple charges in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, after piloting a motorboat that ran over three children on an inflatable tube on the False River on August 8, 2021. According to a report by Law & Crime, two of the kids had to be taken to a local hospital, and one of them had not recovered from his injuries nine days after the incident. But why did it take eight days to arrest 64-year-old Chris Richard—especially when he fled the scene without rendering aid to the injured children? That question left eyewitness Jeff Guidry scratching his head and saying, “It blows my mind.” Parish District Attorney Don Landry has refused to answer media questions about whether he will continue Richard’s employment. If convicted on all charges—hit and run, careless operation of a vessel and negligent injury—Richard faces up to ten years in prison and a fine approaching $6,000.

Maryland: A trio of Prince Georges County Police Department (PGCPD) officers was indicted on August 18, 2021, accused of helping three other officers with different law enforcement agencies in Maryland run an insurance scam. According to a report by the Washington Post, the other three—52-year-old Maryland National Capital Park Police Officer Conrad Darwin D’Haiti, 37-year-old Fairmount Heights Police Department Officer Philip James Dupree and 27-year-old Anne Arundel County Police Department Officer Jaron Earl Taylor—were also indicted in the scheme. Investigators say they worked with PGCPD Officers Michael Owen, Jr., 33, Mark Ross Johnson, Jr., 33, and Candace Danielle Tyler, 34, in 2019 and 2020 to file false reports of stolen vehicles and stolen cash that they actually withdrew from ATMs using their own debit cards. All were suspended with pay except Owen, who was already jailed on a murder charge for fatally shooting a handcuffed suspect in the back of a police cruiser in January 2020.

Massachusetts: Sanctions were recommended on August 28, 2021, for three former assistants to the Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) who withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in thousands of criminal drug cases that were later vacated after a chemist at a state-run lab was found consuming test samples. According to a report by Boston TV station WBUR, the drug-using chemist, Sonja Farak, was convicted of the crime in 2014 and served 18 months in prison. Lawyers for the former assistant AGs—Kris Foster, Anne Kaczmarek and John Verner—recommended short-term suspension of their law licenses. But Assistant Bar Counsel Joseph Makalusky of the state Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) asked instead for longer-term suspensions for Foster and Verner, and he recommended disbarment for Kaczmarek, saying she purposefully misled her fellow prosecutors by failing to disclose evidence that Farak’s crime had persisted longer than originally thought. Lawyers for Kaczmarek countered that the omission was merely an oversight, suggesting that others higher up in the AG’s office were at fault because “sh** flows downhill, but responsibility lies at the top.” The recommendations now go to the full BBO for a final determination.

Minnesota: A former Sheriff’s deputy in Minnesota was sentenced on August 4, 2021, to a 14-year prison term for sexually assaulting a teenage student at a school where he served as a resource officer. According to a report by Rochester radio station KROC, 34-year-old Neal Dolan pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim aged 13 to 15. When he committed the crime against a 15-year-old boy on the last day of school in 2017, he was a deputy with the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office working at Bagley High School. For a second assault of another ninth-grader at the school, he received a 119-month sentence that will be served concurrently. Dolan appeared at a virtual Zoom hearing from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud, where he is serving a two-year term for another third-degree charge of attempted criminal sexual conduct in Becker County.

Missouri: The head of the Community Outreach Division of the St. Louis County Police Department (SLCPD) was accused of stalking and harassing her former boyfriend in a news report that aired on September 2, 2021, on local TV station KSDK. Lt. Arrethie Williams was also accused of harassing women who have since dated the man, former University City Police Officer Mike English. SLCPD has released “conflicting information on whether an internal investigation into Williams’ conduct is still ongoing,” the news station reported, noting that she was still being sent to represent the department at public events. English also provided the station door-camera video that showed Williams peering into his home at night and striking him when he stepped outside to confront her. He has moved three times in two years, he said. His new girlfriend, a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer, allegedly received death threats from Williams via text message. The Rev. Phillip Duvall, an anti-police brutality activist, helped English file an internal affairs complaint with SLCPD in June 2021. Four days later, Williams filed for a restraining order against him. He then filed for one against her. Duvall said Williams’ behavior has gone “beyond stalking” to “abuse and misconduct.”

New York: Eight years after a young biracial man died and his family filed a wrongful death suit against cops in Saratoga Springs, New York, a rally was held August 31, 2021, to demand justice, according to reports by local radio station WAMC and the Albany Times Union. Lexis Figuero, an organizer with Saratoga Springs Black Lives Matter, called the dead man, 22-year-old Darryl Mount, Jr., “our George Floyd.” Mount fell from scaffolding at a construction site where police had chased him on August 31, 2013, after he allegedly shoved his girlfriend against a wall. He went into a coma and died in May 2014. His family filed its suit in November of that year. The city has remained silent on the case, though its former police chief, Greg Veitch, testified in 2018 that he lied when he told a reporter there had been an internal investigation into the matter which cleared police of misconduct.

New York: Since 2003, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has paid over $140,000 to a Criminal Informant (CI) who also publishes neo-Nazi propaganda, according to a court motion filed on August 13, 2021. As reported by the New York Post, the motion outed the CI’s identity as that of Joshua Caleb Sutter. His South Carolina firm, Martinet Press, has published “occult, neo-Nazi” titles such as The Devil’s Quran, whose online description aims “for those who are willing to enter Hell and claim the Devil as their lord.” The information was gleaned by journalist Al Winston from an investigation of government filings in a criminal case against a Texas man, Kaleb Cole, who is an alleged member of neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division, founded in Virginia in 2015 by John Cameron Denton.

Texas: A policeman working as a school resource officer in suburban Dallas was arrested on August 13, 2021, two days after he was fired for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. According to a report by the Daily Mail, the Frisco Police Department (FPD) could not say whether its former officer, 35-year-old John Hoover, worked at the unnamed girl’s high school nor even which of the 11 high schools in the Frisco Independent School District she attended. FPD didn’t get wind of the crime until August 8, 2021, when the girl’s father turned over text messages he’d found the night before between his daughter and Hoover, whose number was stored on the girl’s phone under the name “annoying grandfather.” Her phone records indicated that the two had talked 38 times since July 19, 2021, when she was still 16. Hoover has denied all charges against him. He was booked into the Denton County Jail and released on $100,000 bond. FPD Chief David Denton promised that the former officer is “not reflective of the great men and women” of his department.

Texas: Over four months after a city Information Technology employee in Dallas accidentally deleted a cache of Dallas Police Department (DPD) files on March 31, 2021, the first criminal defendant walked free because prosecutors weren’t sure if they still had evidence against him. The Dallas News reported that murder suspect Jonathan Pitts was released with an ankle monitor on August 16, 2021, because prosecutors had just become aware of the data loss and needed time to determine whether it included files in Pitts’ case. The city and DPD didn’t initially advise prosecutors because they thought they could recover the lost data, estimated at 7.5 terabytes in size. But by July 2021, an audit revealed it was gone for good, along with another 15 terabytes. The unnamed IT employee was then fired, and prosecutors were finally told in mid-August 2021 that some of the missing 22.5 terabytes might include DPD evidence in pending criminal cases. The city Public Defender’s Office immediately called for audits of 18 pending murder cases. 

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