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News in Brief

Alabama: WBMA in Birmingham reported that a former probation officer in Fayette County was convicted of sexual misconduct on Dec. 8, 2022. The former officer, Michael Steven Painter, 51, was found guilty on charges of using his office for personal gain and custodial sexual misconduct — the trial lasted just four days. Painter was originally accused in May 2020 of having sexual contact with a woman within his supervision and attempting to coerce her into sharing explicit photos and videos of herself with him. An investigation into the allegations of misconduct was initiated that May, and later that month Painter was terminated and arrested.

California: On Nov. 9, 2022, Law & Order reported that Sheriff’s Deputy Remin Pineda was charged with firing at David Ordaz Jr., 34, in eastern Los Angeles after the man had already been shot. Pineda was handed the charges, including a count of assault under color of law and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, on his 38th birthday. The alleged incident occurred on March 14, 2021, outside of Ordaz’s home when officers responded to a call from Ordaz’s sister, who claimed that Ordaz was suicidal and armed with a knife. The officers allegedly confronted Ordaz on the front step, shooting him several times when he moved toward them with the knife. Pineda allegedly continued firing at Ordaz after he’d hit the ground and dropped the knife. Ordaz died as a result of his injuries. According to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Pineda was stripped of his duty without firing on July 30, 2021, pending the outcome of the case.

California: KGO-TV in San Francisco reported that the former Sheriff of Santa Clara County was found guilty on Nov. 3, 2022, of civil charges of misconduct and corruption. The former Sheriff, Laurie Smith, resigned her position on Oct. 31, 2022, after being accused in 2021 of using her position to trade favors. Smith was convicted of issuing concealed carry permits to individuals who provided favors and made donations. Smith had been with the Sheriff’s Office for almost 50 years and served as Sheriff herself for over 20. Despite the conviction, Smith was regarded with respect for her service and her support of women running for public office. She was not the only member of the Sheriff’s Office to be accused of bribery, and she could also face criminal charges after the civil conviction. The San Jose Spotlight later reported that she was still eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement and healthcare benefits, partly taxpayer funded, because the case was not yet criminal, a locally controversial fact.

Connecticut: On Dec. 14, 2022, a police officer in Old Saybrook was charged with abusing his position to track down potential romantic interests. CT Insider reported that the officer, Joshua Zarbo, 30, was suspended after the charges were filed. The alleged incident took place on Nov. 25, 2022, when Zarbo was on duty at the local Walmart. He allegedly texted a dispatcher seeking to obtain a woman’s personal information from her license plate number. When the dispatcher responded that he would have to radio the request, Zarbo allegedly messaged back, “[b]ro, I’m gaming right now,” which the subsequent investigators understood to mean that he was looking to get the woman’s information for non-professional purposes. Specifically, they claim that Zarbo was looking to secure a date. His scheme allegedly fell apart after he was eventually overheard making the request over the radio. The alleged victim reported to investigators that she had hardly interacted with the police while shopping and was shocked that her license plate had been scanned. Zarbo was suspended and charged with computer crime in the third-degree.

Florida: On Dec. 9, 2022, a former Center Hill police chief was arrested for sexual battery of a minor. WKMG in Orlando reported that former Police Chief William Ray Pruitt, 56, was taken into custody in Live Oak after being accused of committing an act of sexual battery against a 14-year-old girl. The incident allegedly also involved a deadly weapon. Pruitt served as Center Hill Police Chief from March 1998 to Sep. 1999. The arrest reportedly came after deputies in Sumter County were alerted to accusations by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies reviewed the alleged evidence.

Georgia: A police officer in Butts County was charged in late 2022 with harassing and stalking his ex-girlfriend, WAGA in Atlanta reported. The officer, Marlin Moultrie, 55, a resident of Flovilla, was accused of stalking his girlfriend through three different counties in the state. The arrest came after the Pike County Sheriff’s Office asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of stalking committed by Moultrie. The alleged victim was reportedly a resident of Pike County at the time. After his arrest, Moultrie was booked into jails in Pike, Spalding, and Upson counties. He was charged with three counts of harassing communications, a misdemeanor, and three counts of stalking, also a misdemeanor.

Indiana: WXIN in Indianapolis reported that a former police officer in Elkhart was sentenced on Dec. 9, 2022, for physically assaulting a detainee. The former officer, Cory Newland, and another officer, Joshua Titus, were caught on camera in Jan. 2018 beating a handcuffed man, Mario Ledesma, in the Elkhart police station after Ledesma spit on them. Newland resigned from the Elkhart PD in Aug. 2022, after both officers were indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2019, on a charge that they had used excessive force and deprived Ledesma of his civil rights. Newland and Titus were placed on unpaid leave after the indictment. Newland, who could be seen in the surveillance video punching Ledesma, pleaded guilty to deprivation of civil rights and aiding and abetting. He received 15 months in prison, while Titus was still awaiting trial as of the Dec. 14, 2022, report. [See: CLN, Nov. 2022, p.50.]

Iowa: USA Today and the DOJ reported that the chief of police in Adair was charged with lying to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to acquire machine guns for the three-man Adair PD. In the indictment, announced on Dec. 14, 2022, Police Chief Bradley Wendt was accused of issuing numerous false statements to the Bureau in order to justify obtaining ten machine guns for the department. A department which, at no point over the four years the scheme allegedly took place, exceeded a membership of three officers, and serves a town with a population of less than 800. Wendt was also accused of reselling at least six of the machine guns. The alleged reselling reportedly took place either at a store he owned or at the store of a friend, who was also set to face charges. On top of that, Wendt allegedly secured at least 23 more firearms — more than half by claiming that they were to be used as demonstration models for possible purchase by the department in the future. Wendt and the friend also allegedly held public shooting events where they charged people to shoot the machine guns. The indictment described the weapons as fully automatic and not legally available to the public. The scheme allegedly took place between July 2018 and Aug. 2022.

Louisiana: On Dec. 15, 2022, five members of the Louisiana State Police were indicted on charges relating to the death of a Black man in their custody on May 10, 2019. The New York Times reported that the officers were accused of contributing to the alleged homicide of Ronald Greene, 49, who died in custody near Shreveport, in an incident reportedly caught on body camera footage released by The Associated Press. In the video, Greene could reportedly be heard calling out “I’m scared!” as officers beat him and tasered him during a traffic stop. Two of the officers were put on administrative leave as a result of the indictment, including Kory York, who received ten counts of malfeasance in office and one count of negligent homicide. The other officers received counts of malfeasance and obstruction of justice. One of those officers, Dakota DeMoss, had already been arrested and charged in another case involving a different group of officers. A sixth trooper at the scene had already died in a car crash in 2020, just hours after being fired for his role in Greene’s death. [See: CLN, Jan. 2022, p.50; March 2022, p.39.]

Massachusetts: WCVB in Boston reported that a police officer in Natick pleaded guilty on Dec. 12, 2022, to sexually assaulting a coworker. Officer James Quilty admitted in court to repeatedly sexually assaulting the woman, 28, who worked as a dispatcher for the Natick PD, at a social gathering in a parking lot after work on April 12, 2020. Prosecutors contended, and Quilty acknowledged, that while at the event, he reached into the victim’s car, kissed her, and repeatedly put his hands on her without permission and despite physical and verbal attempts from the victim to get him to stop. He was initially charged in Dec. 2021. The judge ordered Quilty to have no contact with the victim or members of her family, to complete evaluations for substance abuse and mental health, and to register as a sex offender, including completing sex offender treatment. Quilty was also sentenced to three years of probation. WBUR in Boston reported on Dec. 16, 2022, that shortly before the town board was set to discuss his employment status with the department, Quilty resigned.

Michigan: On Oct. 20, 2022, a former police officer in Detroit pleaded guilty to his role in a tow truck industry corruption scheme, the DOJ reported. The former officer, Daniel Vickers, 54, admitted in court to entering into a conspiracy with another officer, John F. Kennedy, to make referrals to a tow company in a manner that violated department policy and a city ordinance. Kennedy, a supervisor at the time and leader of the Public Integrity Unit, used his authority to coerce other officers into making towing referrals in exchange for bribes. The towing company providing Kennedy and Vickers with the bribes was not on the department’s towing rotation, and so the two violated policy and ordinance in making referrals to the unsanctioned company. The pair also provided the company with inside information about a department investigation into the company in exchange for car parts, new carpeting for Vickers’ home, and cash. The two received thousands of dollars over several months. The scheme ran from Feb. 2018 to June 2018, and Kennedy pleaded guilty to his role in Aug. 2022. For his role, Vickers could face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

Tennessee: A former Overton County Sheriff’s Department School Resource Officer was arrested on the morning of Dec. 3, 2022. WJLE in Smithville reported that former officer Dustin James Farris, 39, was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, soliciting a minor electronically, and sexual contact with an underage person by an authority figure. Farris had been employed for several years as an officer with Sheriff’s Offices in DeKalb, Cannon, Putnam, and White counties, and he had once been a “School Resource Officer” for the Sheriff’s Department in Overton County. The charges included accusations that Farris exposed a minor to explicit material, solicited a minor, and engaged in sexual acts with a minor between May 31 and July 24, 2022, using his position of authority to do so.

Texas: A police officer in Fort Worth was fired on Nov. 8, 2022, for allegedly abusing his wife. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that former officer Mark Force, 40, had been charged with assault in June 2022 after reportedly being arrested on May 25, after, police allege, he choked his wife. Force, who was with the department for eight years before the firing, had been part of the department’s crisis intervention team before the arrest. Force had been on restricted duty as an officer between the arrest and the firing. A department spokesperson who claimed to be in contact with Force’s wife said that she was disappointed that Force had been charged. But after reviewing an internal investigation, Police Chief Neil Noakes decided that Force had violated policy, and he was fired as a result.

Texas: After deliberating on Dec. 14 and 15, 2022, a former Fort Worth police officer was found guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, on Oct. 12, 2019. The Texas Tribune reported that the former officer, Aaron Dean, 38, a white man, was found guilty of killing Jefferson, a Black woman, as she was playing video games with her then-eight-year-old nephew in her mother’s house late that night. Dean and another officer had responded to a wellness check at the home after a neighbor reported that the door to the house was open, which seemed unusual to him. Dean’s body camera footage showed him pointing his gun at a window and telling Jefferson to put her hands up. He then opened fire on her; he later claimed that he thought she was armed. While testifying, Jefferson’s nephew described how he wondered if he was dreaming when he saw that his aunt had been shot. The jury rejected the more serious charge of murder which prosecutors had argued in favor of. Dean resigned shortly after the shooting. He faces a sentence of between two and 20 years in prison. [See: CLN, Dec. 2019, p.42; Oct. 2021, p.50.]

Utah: On Nov. 28, 2022, KSL in Salt Lake City reported that a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse. The officer, Bryan Bruce Adams, 45, pleaded guilty to three second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse as part of a plea in abeyance that allows the plea to possibly be suspended in the future. He had been accused of exposing himself to three minors and touching two of them inappropriately. Adams was put on leave on March 13, 2022, before being originally charged in April on counts of lewdness with a child, forcible sexual abuse, and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. He reportedly resigned on April 11, 2022. Amended charges were filed on the day that he submitted his plea. Adams was sentenced to 30 months of probation, and if he complies with the plea terms, the convictions will be downgraded to a class A misdemeanor of sexual battery.

Virginia: WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina, reported that a Pentagon police officer was arrested on Oct. 28, 2022, after police allegedly caught him buying cocaine. The officer, Eric Welch, 33, had reportedly been under investigation on suspicion of drug trafficking for some time before his arrest. The investigation was initiated after an alleged tip. Police reported that they had witnessed Welch buying illicit substances with the intent to distribute. A gun was later found at the same location where the purchase took place. Police also claimed to have found more guns and drugs during a search of his home in Alexandria. Welch, who had been with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency since Feb. 2015, was later charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute while armed. The investigation was ongoing at the time of the Nov. 1, 2022, report.

Washington: On Nov. 14, 2022, a SWAT team arrested a former officer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. The News Tribune reported that the former officer, Robert Glen Carpenter, 52, was seized on suspicion of committing domestic assault. Carpenter, who had pleaded guilty on Oct. 27, 2022, to a separate incident of assault from 2018, was accused of domestic assault by his girlfriend, who had called the police early in the morning on the day of the arrest. He was arrested on suspicion of charges including unlawful imprisonment, felony harassment/threats, interfering with the reporting of a domestic violence incident, second-degree assault, and fourth-degree assault. Carpenter had been fired from the department after the assault-related charges were initially filed in Dec. 2018. He had been with the department for 25 years. In that case, he was accused of stabbing a man in the hands while off-duty in Oct. 2018. He claimed the act was in self-defense. The spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department reported that Carpenter was taken into custody by the SWAT team given his past behavior, and that he did not resist. 

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