NJ Police Officer Charged with Use of Excessive force during Arrest

Police Officer Domenico Lillo, 44, of Bayonne, New Jersey, was arrested by federal agents Friday morning and after a federal grand jury in Newark returned an indictment charging him with the deprivation of civil rights under color of law and falsification of records. Lillo had his initial appearance and arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III in Newark federal court. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On the early evening of Dec. 27, 2013, Lillo and other police officers from the Bayonne Police Department went to an address in Bayonne to execute a Sussex County arrest warrant. Lillo allegedly struck the subject of the warrant with a flashlight while the individual was handcuffed and not resisting arrest, which resulted in bodily injury. Lillo allegedly falsified a Bayonne Police Department Use of Force Report related to the arrest with the intent to impede an investigation into the case.

The use of excessive force count with which Lillo is charged carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The charge of falsifying records carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the continuing investigation leading to today’s arrest.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A veteran cop gets caught with his hands in the cookie jar, jail guards go wild, and two different ex-cops go to prison for growing marijuana. Let’s get to it:

In Prescott Valley, Arizona, a Prescott Valley police commander resigned last Friday as he was being investigated for stealing prescription drugs that had been turned in by the public. Commander Arthur Askew is accused of stealing pills from the drug storage fault in the evidence room, and police had video of him doing it. The department has asked local prosecutors to conduct a criminal review of the case.

In East Madison, Maine, a Somerset County Jail guard was arrested last Friday after an investigation into contraband at the jail. Alexender Jordon, 21, went down after a search warrant executed at his home turned up evidence he had supplied Suboxone strips to one inmate and tobacco products to two others. He is charged with trafficking Suboxone, a felony, and trafficking tobacco, a misdemeanor. At last report, Jordon was residing at his former place of employment.

In Michigan City, Indiana, an Indiana state prison guard was arrested last Saturday after he aroused suspicions during a routine shakedown as he arrived at work. Officer Gordon Dennis’s car was then searched, and investigators found two cell phones, a cell phone watch, and a substance that appeared to be synthetic marijuana. He is charged with attempting to traffic with an offender. At last report, he was in the LaPorte County Jail.

In Lutz, Florida, a former Florida state prison guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he allowed inmates on outside work crews to drink, use drugs, and have “conjugal visits in the woods” with prostitutes. Henry Blackwelder went down after one of his favored inmates escaped. Blackwelder didn’t report the escape for three hours, but investigators still found empty cans of margarita drinks and malt liquor and empty packages of synthetic marijuana, as well as a blanket used for hook-ups. Blackwelder resigned after the escape, but it later emerged that he was using his work crews and a pair of strippers to smuggle the contraband into the prison. He now faces charges of official misconduct, unlawful compensation for official behavior and smuggling contraband into a state correctional facility. He was released on bail Wednesday.

In Buffalo, New York, a former Buffalo police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to five years in federal prison for running a marijuana-growing operation while he was an officer. Jorge Melendez oversaw a pot-growing operation of more than a thousand plants and sometimes visited it while in uniform. Prosecutors said he made about $80,000 in the two years the grow was in operation, and he agreed to forfeit a Chevy Suburban, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a speedboat, and seven firearms. He had copped to one count of conspiracy to grow more than 99 marijuana plants.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former Guam police officer was sentenced last Thursday to eight years in prison for growing marijuana while employed as a cop. Roy Pablo had been arrested as part of an investigation into a grow ring in November 2013 and was convicted on cultivation charges in October

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Fake Facebook page costs US taxpayer $134,000

Fake FacebookA screenshot taken by AP indicates that the fake page had at least 11 “friends” before it was removed (images blurred by BBC)

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The US Justice Department is to pay a woman $134,000 (£88,640) after making a fake Facebook page that contained a photograph of her half-clothed.

Sondra Arquiett had sued the government after it had suggested she had “implicitly consented” to the creation of a page using her identity since she had previously granted officers access to her mobile phone

The DoJ has now settled the dispute, but has not admitted wrongdoing.

The case had raised privacy concerns.

Although the US government has not ruled out using similar tactics in the future, it has acknowledged the criticism it faced.

“[A] review is ongoing, but Department of Justice leadership has already met with law enforcement agencies to make clear the necessity of protecting the privacy and safety of third-parties in every aspect of our criminal investigations,” said a spokesman.

A lawyer for Ms Arquiett said she believed officials now recognised the use of the fake page had been “totally inappropriate”.

Drugs probe

The case dates back to July 2010, when Ms Arquiett, a restaurant waitress, was arrested and accused of being involved in a drugs ring.

She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and was later sentenced to six months of weekend incarceration.

The US government did not notify Ms Arquiett about posting her picture online before doing so (image blurred by BBC)

At the time of her arrest, Ms Arquiett surrendered her mobile phone and consented to officers accessing its data to help them with related criminal investigations.

This included an investigation into her boyfriend, who was suspected of co-ordinating drug sales. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Ms Arquiett said she was not, however, notified that this operation would involve the creation of a “publicly available” Facebook page in the name of Sondra Prince, an alias she had used.

It included photographs of her posing on a BMW car, a picture of her wearing only a bra and underwear, as well as images of her son and niece.

The fake page was used to send a “friend” request to help catch the boyfriend. The US government denied it had been made “publicly available” in a wider sense. However, the Buzzfeed news site and the Associated Press news agency were both able to access the page before it was taken offline.

Ms Arquiett sued the government in 2013 saying she had suffered fear and emotional distress because the page indicated she had wilfully co-operated with the drugs ring investigation.

Her case was supported by digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“If I’m co-operating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’ – my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime, not that they will take things off my phone and use it in another context,” said Nate Cardozo, a lawyer at the organisation.

Facebook itself had also voiced its displeasure, noting that it explicitly bans fake profiles on its site.

“Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies,” the firm’s chief security officer Joe Sullivanwrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration last year, which was responsible for the page’s creation.

“We regard the conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies, and the account created by the agent in the Arquiett matter has been disabled.

“Accordingly, Facebook asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies.”

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Jury Acquits Murder Defendant Whose Arrest Caused Tulsa School Lockdowns

Photo of Chauncey Thomas after his arrest on November 7, 2013.

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TULSA, Oklahoma -A jury acquitted a murder defendant whose arrest in 2013 caused three Tulsa schools to be put on lockdown.

Chauncey Jodonis Thomas and Joshua Qauyshaun Rogers were both charged with murdering Monte Foreman on October 27, 2013. Police had arrested Rogers shortly after the murder when they responded to a burglary call in east Tulsa on November 7, 2013.

10/28/2013: Related Story: Tulsa Police Make Arrest In Murder In Motel Parking Lot

The call was in the 11,000 block of East 15th Place and police quickly realized one of the two burglary suspects in that case was Thomas. The search caused three schools in the area to go on lockdown until officers could arrest the two suspects.

11/7/2013: Related Story: Murder Suspect Arrested After Police Respond To Burglary Call In East Tulsa

On January 16, 2015, a jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Thomas not guilty of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

Thomas and the man who was arrested with him in the burglary call, Kendall Keywon Wallace, both pleaded guilty last year to burglary and resisting an officer. Wallace also pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property.

A judge sentenced Thomas to six years in prison in the burglary case and Wallace to four years.
 

The murder and robbery case against Rogers is still pending.

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Man cleared in home invasion, as he was in Disney World at the time

From Disney World to Baltimore jail after being wrongfully charged in a home invasion.
Mementos from family trip to Disney World helped prove alibi, secure release from jail.

Shawn Oliver Jr. closed 2014 with a family trip to Walt Disney World, but the New Year was not so magical for the 21-year-old Baltimore man.

Shortly after returning from Florida, Oliver found himself locked up at the Baltimore City Detention Center. It was a case of mistaken identity that took police and prosecutors five days to sort out while Oliver was stuck behind bars.

“I was hurt. You’re guilty until proven innocent,” said Oliver, after returning to his parents’ Cockeysville apartment last week.

He was charged with a home invasion that occurred in Baltimore on Dec. 30, while he was in Florida. He was arrested on Jan. 2 after a witness mistakenly identified him as the suspect during a photo array, a method that the family’s lawyer said is often unreliable.

A police spokeswoman, Lt. Sarah Connolly, said police began vetting Oliver’s alibi after his attorney told them he was in Florida at the time of the crime. After checking with multiple sources, she said, a detective “went the extra mile” to go to the state’s attorney’s office to have the 16 charges related to the home invasion dropped.

But Oliver and his father, Michael Harrod, said the process took too long. Harrod said police wouldn’t listen to his son, and that it was only after attorney Ivan J. Bates urged prosecutors to check out the alibi that he was released.

Prosecutors received the information at Oliver’s first bail review hearing on Jan. 5, “and immediately began to investigate to authenticate the evidence,” said Tammy Brown, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office.

Bates showed a judge and prosecutor the itinerary of the family’s trip, and a surveillance video that showed Oliver outside the hotel where the family stayed. Bates also brought a souvenir photo of Oliver standing with his parents after his first helicopter ride, with a date stamp of “Dec. 30, 2014 11:41 a.m.,” two hours after the home invasion in Baltimore.

The judge postponed the hearing until Jan. 9, to allow prosecutors to investigate, but Oliver was released the day before, after prosecutors dropped the charges.

Bates applauded the prosecutor and detective who called different agencies in Florida to verify Oliver’s story.

But Bates expressed concern that a single witness identification could be used to make an arrest because often, a witness can be wrong. Under the previous state’s attorney, he said, additional evidence, such as cellphone GPS data linking a suspect to the scene of a crime, would be provided to corroborate a witness identification.

“That’s very scary, especially when you look and see how many people are misidentified,” Bates said. “Unless that person [the witness] knows them [the suspect] very, very well, they could have made a mistake.”

Connolly said the officers followed proper policies and procedures during the photo array.

In 2013, Baltimore police implemented new procedures in which they conduct photo arrays, adopting a “double-blind sequential” method, which studies have shown has reduced cases of mistaken identity by showing witnesses pictures one at a time. The test is also conducted by a person who does not know which picture is of the suspect.

Before his family trip, Oliver had been arrested on Dec. 23 and charged with drug possession with intent to distribute and related charges. A hearing on that case is scheduled for the end of this month.

According to charging documents in that case, the same officer who responded to the home invasion arrested Oliver on Dec. 23 after he allegedly saw Oliver sell drugs in an alley near Carey Street and Riggs Avenue. The officer said he saw Oliver run into a nearby house where police later found several hundred gel caps with suspected heroin, divided into plastic bags stuffed into a pair of socks, and marijuana stuffed into the wall of an upstairs bedroom. A second man was also arrested in that case.

Oliver was released on Christmas Eve, after his father bailed him out on $250,000 by using a friend’s property to come up with the 10 percent needed. That allowed Oliver to make the trip to Florida.

The family took a chartered bus and arrived in Orlando on Dec. 27, enjoying two days at Disney World.

Meanwhile, back in Baltimore, a man walking to his Stricker Street home noticed he was being followed by two men wearing masks. One pointed a handgun at the victim, according to court documents.

The man ran, getting inside his home. He tried to close the door but his dogs were in the way, the document said, so the victim continued to the back of the house and the suspects followed.

At this point, the suspect who was yelling was no longer wearing a mask, another victim inside the house later told police. She was asked during an interview with a detective to look at a double-blind photo array, and matched Oliver’s mug shot to the armed man who appeared in her home, the document said.

Two days after Oliver returned to Baltimore, he went to the police station to retrieve his driver’s license, which he said was taken after his Dec. 23 arrest. The officer who arrested him 10 days earlier on the drug charges, and who also responded to the home invasion, placed him under arrest.

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Crooked narco cops: 10 outrageous ways police have enriched themselves on the drug trade

The drug trade is a great place to make tons of money fast. In 2003, the UN estimated the total worth of the global drug trade at $320 billion, a figure that has certainly grown in the last 12 years.

So it’s not surprising that some police officers, who interact frequently with the narco-world, decide to go crooked. But what makes these cases particularly egregious is that officers used the state’s monopoly on violence to enrich themselves while persecuting others for the same crimes. Here are some recent examples.

1. San Antonio

Just last week, Officer Konrad Chatys in San Antonio was picked up by police for stealing guns, marijuana and money from a couple’s car while investigating a domestic violence call. Chatys didn’t think the couple would report his theft to the police, but they did. Their complaint launched an investigation culminating in Chatys’ arrest and placement on administrative leave. It’s worth noting that the only thing Chatys did that was illegal was keeping the contraband for himself. If he’d turned it into his precinct, they could have kept it under civil asset forfeiture policy.

2. Hidalgo County, Texas

In a recent feature in Rolling Stone, Josh Eells reported on a special police drug task force located on the Texas-Mexico border known as the Panama Unit, whose members became rich ripping off local drug gangs. The 11-person SWAT-trained unit was headed by Jonathon Trevino, the flunky son of the county sheriff, which made it easier for the team to rob drug dealers without detection. While the team did seize a lot of dope—Hidalgo is located within one of the hottest drug corridors in the country—Trevino himself estimates that they put as much as a fourth of what they recovered back onto the street through dirty deals.

As the Panama Unit’s rips grew more brazen, members began taking gambling trips to New Orleans and Las Vegas and dropping tens of thousands of dollars at local strip clubs. They eventually got sloppy and had to turn themselves in to the feds. After they went down, agents began to examine Trevino’s father, Lupe Trevino, for ties to drug money. They uncovered campaign contributions to Lupe from a well-known local trafficker, leading to the sheriff’s arrest. In the end, all members of the Panama Unit were sentenced to prison (Jonathon Trevino got 17 years), and Sheriff Lupe Trevino, who had previously been a powerful political figure in the area, was sentenced to five years in prison.

3. Baltimore

In 2005, Baltimore police officers William King and Antonio Murray were indicted for 33 counts related to “conspiring to rob and extort cocaine, heroin and marijuana—as well as drug-related proceeds— from suspects they met on city streets.” They also shook down addicts for money in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Baltimore, where people already had few avenues for recourse against vicious policing. The two former officers were sentenced to a total of 454 years in prison. More recently from Baltimore, rookie officer Ashley Roane was booked on similar drug conspiracy charges. Roane agreed to steal people’s information so that a tax preparer—whom she believed was just a heroin dealer but was also an FBI informant—could file false returns. Another time, Roane provided security in full uniform as the informant executed a heroin deal. In total she was only going to receive $6,000 for the two jobs, but instead is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

4. Chicago

In early 2013, three officers from Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago, seized tens of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana, heroin and cocaine while serving a search warrant and then proceeded to sell the drugs. After they were arrested in a federal sting, the court found that the former cops “ran a freelance drug ring over a six-month period, forcing a drug dealer to sell narcotics that the officers confiscated in the line of duty, and then splitting money from the sales.” Their sentences were stiff: One is serving a 24-year sentence, another is serving 26 years, and the third could face as much as 36 years behind bars.

5. New York City

Two NYPD officers were nabbed for drug conspiracy last month. First, officer Philip LeRoy was arrested for allegedly buying 10 ounces of cocaine with two other men in the Florida city of Sunrise. The story made headlines because LeRoy had been awarded “Cop of the Year” by his Queens precinct two years earlier for racking up a high number of arrests “for things like robbery and gun possession,” reports the New York Post. Since LeRoy had his off-duty weapon when he was arrested, he also caught a felony weapons possession charge.

Soon after news of LeRoy’s arrest broke, eight-year veteran officer Merlin Alston was indicted for driving a heroin dealer around town, “offer[ing] to arrange a heroin sale,” and warning a separate cocaine trafficker about police presence, according to the Washington Post. In a separate suit, Alston is also accused of police brutality while on the beat: Bronx resident Juan Padovani is currently suing Alston for beating him up earlier in 2014. In total Alston was named in six separate lawsuits dating back to 2009.

6. Atlanta

When federal agents asked an informant to put out a call in Atlanta for officers willing to watch over his drug deals for a cut, “he got a lot of takers from police officers all across town,” according to one US attorney. More than 10 officers from various divisions were indicted on drug conspiracy charges in 2013, including two who weren’t even on the force anymore but had somehow kept their badges. Some were particularly brazen; one cop suggested an informant “shoot another drug purchaser if the deal went awry,” and another “suggested that future drug deals be conducted in the parking lot of a local high school so they could exchange backpacks there,” according to CBS 46.

7. Philadelphia

From 2006 to at least 2012, six members of Philadelphia’s narcotics unit stole $500,000 worth of cash, property and drugs from suspected local drug dealers. They were indicted on 26 incidents in total, including robbing suspects’ homes (sometimes while the suspects were in jail), stopping suspects on the road and beating them, dangling them from balconies, and even kidnapping them. Officers filed false reports to cover up their abuses. And they’re not getting off easy: according toTime, “Five of the officers could face life sentences if found guilty, while Officer Speiser could serve a maximum of 40 years.” The police commissioner declared after the indictments that the “malignancy” within the police department had been removed, yet just a few months later, another Philadelphia officer, Christopher Saravello, was arrested for “conspir[ing] with others to rob the dealers and buyers of cash and Oxycontin as well as other controlled substances,” according to CBS Philly.

8. Miami

Cocaine has made many rich in Miami (whether they kept the money or lived to spend it is a different story), but one cop was willing to go down for only $1,900 last October. Miami police officer Jose Maldonado-Dick kept watch over drug deals at a local McDonalds for an informant, while his partner sat right next to him in his squad car. He was arrested after acting as a lookout on two separate occasions, and if he’s convicted of all the counts against him, he could face a life sentence.

9. Houston

Like Maldonado-Dick, Marcos E. Carrion of Houston was busted for agreeing to provide cover to drug dealers moving loads of cocaine. According to Houston’s Local 2 Investigates, “Carrion agreed to watch for police and run license plate numbers of other people in the area while the drug deal was taking place,” receiving $5,000 from an informant for his work. If convicted of his charges, he will face 10 years to life in prison and up to a $10 million fine.

10. Bloomington

Officer Robert M. Easterday Jr. tried cutting out the middleman and going into drug dealing himself, but was arrested for dealing crack cocaine and trying to sell psilocybin mushrooms. Easterday had been suspended a few months earlier after he reported his gun missing and then weirdly said he found it a day later—with the serial number filed off—in the possession of his neighbor. This neighbor also happened to be the person Easterday approached to find someone “interested in buying mushrooms.”

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Former Savannah-Chatham Police Officer Indicted on Drug Conspiracy Charge

SAVANNAH, GA—Derrick Andre Fullmer, 27, of Pooler, Georgia, was indicted this week by a federal grand jury sitting in Savannah on charges related to a conspiracy involving the illegal possession and distribution of the controlled substance MDMA, more commonly known as “ecstasy” or “molly.” Fullmer was charged with conspiring to distribute molly as well as aiding and abetting other conspirators. During much of the time of the charged conspiracy, Fullmer was an officer with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD).

Fullmer was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith today. The charge against Fullmer carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence. U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver emphasized that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Indictment: Southern New Jersey police officer let canine partner bite female suspect

TOMS RIVER, New Jersey — A suspended southern New Jersey police officer who allegedly allowed his canine partner to bite a woman during an arrest has been indicted on numerous counts, including aggravated assault.

Ocean County prosecutors say Tuckerton officer Justin Cherry also faces two counts of official misconduct false swearing, tampering with public records and hindering his own apprehension in the indictment handed up Tuesday by a county grand jury. It was made public Wednesday.

Cherry faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted on all counts.

Prosecutors said Cherry and another Tuckerton officer were called to a borough home in January 2014 and were told the woman was an “unwelcomed guest.” The woman agreed to leave the residence, but the officers asked her to take a bus back to her Barnegat home instead of driving there after learning the woman’s driving privileges were suspended.

The woman agreed to the request, prosecutors said, but Cherry soon saw her driving her vehicle and tried to pull her over. However, the woman allegedly kept driving until she stopped at the Barnegat Township Municipal Complex, where two officers took her into custody.

Officials say Cherry also followed her to the scene and allowed his police dog to attack her “unjustifiably.” He then allegedly falsified reports to conceal what happened.

Cherry remains free on $15,000 bail. His attorney, Robert Rosenberg, was not available for comment Wednesday.

The woman initially was charged with driving with a suspended license and eluding, but the latter charge has since been dismissed.

Cherry was one of two Tuckerton officers who shot and killed a man wielding a meat cleaver during a domestic dispute in September 2011. He was cleared of wrongdoing following an investigation by the prosecutor’s office and the state Attorney General’s Office.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories!!

A Massachusetts prosecutor swaps info for pain pills, more jail guards get in trouble, a Georgia cop gets busted for slinging Ecstasy, a San Antonio cop get nailed for stealing cash and weed from a couple, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Americus, Georgia, a Sumter County jail guard was arrested January 2 for allegedly smuggling liquor, drugs, and weapons into the jail. Sgt. Anthony Bernard Walker, 49, is charged with violation of oath by public officer and giving inmates contraband without consent of the warden. He’s now on paid suspension.

In Savannah, Georgia, a former Savannah-Chatham police officer was arrested last Tuesday on charges he was involved in an Ecstasy distribution ring. Derrick Andre Fullmer pleaded not guilty in federal court to conspiracy to possess and distribute Ecstasy. He is accused of being active in the ring while an officer in the department. He resigned in April while under investigation. At last report, he was being held on $25,000 bond. He’s looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Boston, a Middlesex Assistant DA was arrested last Thursday on charges he gave confidential information from his office in return for oxycodone. Stephen Gilpatric, 35, is accused of leaking a probation report, police reports, a photograph, and other identifying information about a man in exchange for the pills. He is also accused of accepting a $1500 bribe to help a woman get her son’s commercial drivers’ license reinstated. He is charged with unlawfully communicating criminal offender record information, receiving unlawful compensation, and unlawful gratuity. Prosecutors said Gilpatric was spending hundreds of dollars a week on his pill habit at the time of the events in 2011.

In San Antonio, a San Antonio police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he stole marijuana, thousands of dollars, and a rifle from a couple during a disturbance call. Officer Konrad Chatys, 32, was dispatched to a reported disturbance involving a man and a woman on New Year’s Eve, and the couple reported that he took the cash, gun, and drugs before releasing them. A search of Chatys’ home resulted in an arrest warrant for him. He is now on administrative leave.

In Lexington, Kentucky, a Blackburn County jail guard was arrested Monday for allegedly bringing small amounts of marijuana into the Blackburn Correctional Complex. David Michael Bailey, 26, went down in a random search when officers found weed, cell phones, and two pieces of paper with phone numbers on them in his lunch box. He is charged with promoting contraband.

In Titusville, Florida, a former Titusville police officer was convicted Wednesday of taking a bribe to be a look-out for what he thought were drug traffickers. Richard Irizarry, 45, had been arrested in March after a DEA sting. He had befriended a man who turned out to be a DEA informant and had offered to go into business with him dealing drugs. He was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute more than one kilo of cocaine and using a cell phone to commit a drug trafficking offense. He’s looking at up to 40 years in federal prison.

In Buffalo, New York, a former Erie County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail for smuggling an ounce of weed and a cell phone into a county detention facility in August. Charles Hunt, Jr., 49, also admitted smuggling drugs into the jail on two other occasions in exchange for cash. A second former deputy, Eric Stevens, 33, was also arrested at the same time on the same charges. His case goes to court next month.

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$1M suit says Nevada police blew drug informant’s cover

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Facing new drug charges on top of an already long criminal history, James Corgan figured it would be best to cut a deal with authorities investigating drug-trafficking in northeast Nevada.

Corgan says state detectives assured him his identity would remain secret if he became a confidential informant, so he agreed in 2012 to lead them to a house in Elko where he routinely bought methamphetamine.

Days later, authorities raided the home, seized drugs and guns, and placed on the kitchen table a document that would turn Corgan’s life upside down: a search warrant affidavit that identified him as the snitch.

Corgan says he was severely beaten by other prisoners and almost died after his release from jail when he was shot in the stomach by a contract killer in January 2013.

He accuses sheriff deputies of participating in a conspiracy, at one point holding him at the same jail with the hit man who shot him, and at another locking him in the same cell block with the alleged drug dealer he fingered.

Corgan makes the accusations in a federal lawsuit recently filed in U.S. District Court in Reno seeking up to $1 million in actual and punitive damages from the state, Elko County and others.

The suit doesn’t suggest a motive for Corgan’s treatment. But it alleges authorities later tried to cover-up the wrongdoing, and that a deputy attempted to “buy off Corgan” by offering him a house and money “to keep him quiet.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Kelly Stuehling allegedly made the offer shortly after Corgan was shot “in hopes of eliminating and/or diminishing the liability” the defendants had subjected themselves to, said the lawsuit Elko lawyer Gregory Corn filed Dec. 31.

Elko County Deputy District Attorney Kristin McQueary said the county has no comment. Neither does the Nevada Attorney General’s office, which likely would defend the state in such a case, said Beatriz Aguirre, acting public information officer.

The drug bust netted nearly a pound of crystal meth worth more than $50,000 and at least five arrests. But two suspects skipped bail and remain at large.

Corgan, 31, has an extensive criminal background that includes dozens of arrests and three prison terms for drug and theft convictions. He told the Elko Daily Free Press in a jailhouse interview in July 2013 he started using meth when he was 13. He’s serving a three-year prison sentence at the Warm Springs Correctional Center in southern Nevada, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The lawsuit says he struck a deal with two Nevada Division of Investigation detectives in July 2012 to become an informant based on assurances his identity “would be held in strict confidence.”

Corgan told them he bought 4 ounces of meth at the residence on a daily basis for a year “never expecting that the confidentially promised him in front of his attorney…. would be so openly, notoriously and intentionally violated,” the suit said.

The accused drug dealer, Servando Munoz Cortez of California, was arrested Aug. 10, 2012 but disappeared before his arraignment in April 2013. So did the woman who lived at the raided home, Francisco Bautista Villano — whose daughter has two children fathered by Corgan’s brother, William, the suit said.

Villano doesn’t speak English so she telephoned William Corgan to help interpret the affidavit left behind. He told her it identified James Corgan as the informant, and she relayed that information to Cortez, according to the suit.

One detective acknowledged leaving a search warrant on the kitchen table after Cortez was arrested.

The lawsuit accuses Sheriff Jim Pitts, Undersheriff Clair Morris and Lt. Mike Silva of conspiring to place Cortez in the same cell block with “easy access to Corgan.”

Corgan was severely beaten by Cortez, who then hired Bryan Paige to kill Corgan, the suit said.

Paige, 28, was convicted in September 2013 of battery with a deadly weapon after initially being charged with attempted murder in the shooting that left Corgan disabled with a bullet lodged next to his spine.

After the shooting, Pitts “once again” placed Corgan in the same jail with Paige — “the very man who had … attempted to murder Corgan,” the suit said. Terrified, Corgan didn’t sleep for three days until his mother contacted his lawyer, who notified the district attorney, who immediately removed Corgan “from this dangerous circumstance.”

 

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