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News in Brief

Connecticut: On Apr. 15, 2022, a Norwalk police officer of 10 years was arrested of assaulting a family member. WVIT, a news channel serving New Britain, reports that officer Jermaine Nash, 44, was arrested after a call was made to police in the mid-afternoon of the 15th. It alleged that Nash had assaulted a family member and left the scene. When authorities caught up to the officer, he was cooperative and turned himself into police headquarters. He was subsequently placed on administrative leave, and relieved of his badge and duty weapon according to the Norwalk Police Department. Nash has been charged with assault and strangulation, and investigation is under way to determine if more charges are necessary. The State Attorney has been called in to help with the investigation.

Indiana: CRWE World reports that former Chief of Police in Addyston, Ohio, and two-gun dealers in Indiana pleaded guilty in mid-April 2022 to gun trafficking. The officer, Dorian LaCourse, 66, entered the guilty plea to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in connection with his work with federally licensed gun dealers Christopher Petty, 58, and Johnathan Marcum, 34, who also pleaded guilty. The trio were found to have trafficked around 200 fully automatic guns, using LaCourse’s police position and an exception to the federal ban on transferring automatic machine guns. LaCourse, the only full-time police officer in Addyston, a town of about 1,000, was found to have sent letters to the dealers requesting demonstrations of automatic weapons for possible purchase by the town, so that they could make requests to the federal government to obtain the guns. LaCourse is facing up to 15 years in federal prison, while the two gun dealers a looking at five years each.

Iowa: An Estherville police officer and former police officer were charged in mid-April 2022 in connection with numerous crimes including stalking, tax evasion, and misconduct reports KTIV, a new channel serving Sioux City. The pair are Tyler VanRoekel of the Estherville PD and Benjamin Scheevel, formerly of the same department. VanRoekel is facing at least 12 charges of ongoing criminal conduct, unauthorized access and dissemination of criminal history data, and non-felonious misconduct. He pleaded not guilty on April 14, 2022. Scheevel, who was a member of the department from 2016 to 2019, is facing as many as 84 separate charges including, deploying a taser at a party, assault, stalking, tax evasion, unauthorized access and dissemination of criminal history data, theft, and ongoing criminal misconduct. The incident involving the taser is said to have taken place on April 2, 2022, and it is alleged that after the deployment Scheevel obtained money from partygoers to replace the darts in the device.

Michigan: Click On Detroit reports that a 20-year veteran police officer in Detroit was charged with two counts of sexually assaulting a minor. The officer, Michael Carson, was put on administrative leave on March 30, 2022, when the West Bloomfield police alerted the Professional Standards Bureau that there was an open investigation pending into potential sexual assault of a minor by Carson. After his arrest he was placed on bond for $750,000.

Michigan: A police officer in DeWitt was charged by the State Attorney General’s Office with three counts in connection with a 2021 incident. The Atlanta Black Star reports that officer Chad Vorce was arraigned on April 7, 2022, in connection with charges leveled against him for pulling a gun on a teenager while off duty. Vorce was accused of pulling the gun out, without reasonable cause, on Alexander Hamilton, 19, who was on a newspaper delivery run. Vorce was initially fired after the incident. After the department “showed he has learned his lesson,” he was reinstated. But now, with charges from the State Attorney General pending and a civil rights case levied by Hamilton, Vorce’s status is question. The counts from the AG are felony possession of a firearm, felonious assault with a dangerous weapon, and misconduct in office.

Mississippi: A former police officer in Picayune was sentenced in early April 2022 in connection with child pornography. The Picayune Item reports that former officer Joshua Christopher Stockstill, 29, was found on July 14, 2021, to have produced a video on his phone of a minor engaging in sexual acts. He was found to have gotten the victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct and filmed the act on his cellphone in Nov. 2018. He pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2022 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with a lifetime of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the victim. [See: CLN, Sep. 2021, p. 50.]

Nevada: A police officer in Las Vegas was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 22, 2022, on charges of robbing three casinos while armed, according to the Review Journal. The then off-duty officer, Caleb Rogers is accused of robbing the Red Rock Casino Resort on Nov. 12, 2021, the Aliente Casino on Jan. 6, 2022, and the Rio Hotel and Casino on Feb. 27, 2022. He is alleged to have stolen nearly $174,000 altogether and did so while wielding a gun and threatening employees of the establishments. He was finally caught while attempting to flee the Rio Hotel and Casino. Employees had managed to successful pull the alarm, alerting police, who captured Rogers. The gun he had used to menace employees and police was determined to have been the property of the Las Vegas MPD. The maximum sentence he faces could land him 20 years on each count of commerce interference by robbery, and life in prison for brandishing his weapon in connection to the crime.

New York: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York reported that a former police officer in New York City was sentenced to 10 years in prison on April 12, 2022, in connection with drug trafficking. The former officer, John Cicero, pleaded guilty on Oct. 13, 2021, to distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), or “date rape drug,” in both NYC and Westchester County. He was found to have spent his time from 2017 to Feb. 2020 working with accomplices to import the methamphetamine from Mexico and the GBL from China, storing it in stockpiles around the city, distributing it in communities, and brokering large drug transactions, all while using a fake identity. He was a leader in the conspiracy, with direct links to the suppliers of the narcotics. Cicero was finally arrest on Feb. 19, 2020. [See: CLN, Jan. 2022, p. 50]

New York: A former New York City police officer was sentenced in connection with drug trafficking and bribery charges on April 20, 2022. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York reported that officer Robert Smith called himself “one of the most corrupt cops in the 105th precinct.” He had pleaded guilty in October 2021 to using interstate facilities to smuggle heroin and distribute bribes. His NYPD co-defendants Heather Busch and Robert Hassett also pleaded guilty in August and October 2021 respectively. Busch was given six months in February 2022 and Hassett is awaiting his sentencing. Smith was found to have delt in bribes while serving in the NYPD and worked as a drug trafficker once he retired from the force, engaging in illegal behavior from September 2016 to at least July 2020. He was handed 97 months in prison for those offenses.

North Carolina: In mid-April 2022, a rare event occurred: The Citizens Review Board of the Charlotte police voted in favor of a citizen who brought a complaint against the Charlotte police. As the Charlotte Observer reported, the motion will challenge the decision by Chief Johnny Jennings to not punish the officers who held a schoolteacher at gunpoint on June 15, 2021, mistaking her for a suspect in an alleged stabbing. The teacher, Jasmine Horne, believes that the officers should face disciplinary action for the way that they treated her. The officers in question mistook her via a name misspelling. They intended to find a woman named Jaselyn Horne, who was later correctly identified and charged with attempted first-degree murder. But before they found the right woman, the officers tracked Jasmine Horne’s car down and confronted her at gunpoint, holding her for 15 minutes. Horne says that though she was not physically injured during the incident, she feared for her life. The Review Board, which voted unanimously to take up Horne’s complaint, will decide whether the officers should be punished.

South Dakota: Politico reported that the State Attorney General of South Dakota was impeached by the State Senate on April 12, 2022. The impeachment of Att. Gen. Jason Ravensborg occurred over a fatal vehicle crash in 2020, which killed a man named Joseph Boever. Ravensborg initially told authorities that he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal. He later, in 2021, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in connection with the crash, including an illegal lane change. The night before the impeachment vote, Ravensborg contacted law makers to convince them to vote against the impeachment and accused Gov. Kristi Noem of targeting him for investigating her conduct. It was the first time the South Dakota legislature had considered an impeachment of an elected official, and Ravensborg lost the vote, being at least temporarily removed from office while the State Senate conducts a trial.

Texas: On March 24, 2022, a former chief of police in San Angelo was found guilty of mail fraud and bribery, including payments for his band to play gigs. According to KCBD, a news channel serving Lubbock, former chief Tim Vasquez was found guilty of taking illegal kickbacks totaling more than $175,000 from an electronics company called Dailey-Wells Communication. In the exchange, Vasquez used his connections as chief to secure a $5.7 million contract for the company and personally received $94,000 directly. The exchange also saw Vasquez receive money for his cover band “Funky Munky” to perform, receiving more than $84,000 across ten performances between 2006 and 2017, about four times their normal rate. For the scheme, Vasquez could face up to 70 years in federal prison. Sentencing is set for June 23. 2022.

Texas: Yahoo! News reported that a now former police deputy constable in Houston was arrested on April 15, 2022, for stealing from a local business while in uniform. The officer, Bobby Joe Espinosa, 39, is accused of stealing approx. $5,700 from four local Vietnamese businesses between September 2021 and March 2022. It is alleged that while in uniform he would have customers leave the establishment and subsequently force the employees to remove money from cash registers and tip jars for him to take. He is also accused of prying open game machines and unplugging surveillance cameras at other locations. Espinosa, a father of six, was brought before a judge on April 16, 2022, and posted bond the next day. He is prohibited from possessing a firearm and has a daily curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. as part of the conditions for his release.

United Kingdom: Gazette reported that a detective constable in Basingstoke was arrested in October 2021 for grooming a minor. The man is Francois Olwage, 52, and he was accused by authorities of attempting to have a sexual encounter with a girl he believed to be 13 years old. Though he didn’t know it, the young girl was in fact an undercover police officer posing as a girl named Caitlin with the username Smile Bear on Whatsapp. It is alleged that Olwage engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the believed minor in October 2021 and arranged to meet with her, carrying condoms, lubricant, and erection pills. He claimed in a statement that he never believed the person he was communicating with to be underaged, and thought she was an adult woman “living out a fantasy” of being a child. But authorities are not convinced. He was arrested in a fast-food restaurant on his way to the meeting and was found in possession of chocolates prosecutors suggest were a present for the supposed minor.

Washington: On April 4, 2022, a former judge in Asotin County pleaded guilty to charges sexual assault before his trial was set to begin. The judge, Scott Gallina, was accused, and has now admitted to sexually assaulting two court employees. He was charged and accepted a count of third-degree and a count of fourth-degree sexual assault. Gallina was initially arrested in 2019 after a female employee accused him of groping, biting, choking her, and touching her through her underwear. The women whose accusations led to the trial were not the only employees to claim he had assaulted them. They reported that they had instituted a buddy system in the office to ensure none of them entered his chambers alone. According to the Washington State Attorney General’s office, Gallina faces between 13 and 27 months in prison and will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years upon his release. Sentencing is set for June 16, 2022.

Wisconsin: On March 22, 2022, a police officer in Oconomowoc was charged with sexually assaulting a woman while on duty. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Scott Thomas Jr., 28, was charged with misconduct in office, misdemeanor, and fourth-degree sexual assault. He accused of assaulting a woman while on “courtesy check” on Jan. 9, 2022. He is alleged to have met the woman in a professional capacity before the encounter and was aware that she had a pending divorce. After she invited him into her house it is alleged that Thomas touched her in multiple spots on her body, hugged her, and kissed her neck before leaving. The victim alerted police to the incident. In response to the allegations Thomas has admitted to touching her but denied inappropriate touching. If found guilty of sexual assault Thomas could face up to nine months in prison with a $10,000 fine and if found guilty of misconduct could face up to three and a half years in prison with another $10,000 fine. 

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