Around the Nation
CONNECTICUT Federal District Judge Alfred V. Covello on Sept. 25 dismissed a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought against the Town of Avon, a Hartford suburb, by a former police officer who claimed that minority motorists were targeted for traffic stops. Alvin D. Schwapp Jr., who had been hired as Avon’s first black police officer in 1992 and resigned less than two years later, had sued for $15 million, alleging that he was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment. Covello also threw out a separate civil rights lawsuit by three Avon police sergeants who had investigated the charge that Avon officers targeted minority motorists.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA District Police Chief Larry Soulsby in late September grounded the department’s helicopter unit in an effort to save nearly $1 million. The budget for fiscal year 1997, which began Oct. 1, does not include any money for the unit. Members of the unit believe closing it is a mistake, pointing out that the most effective use of the aircraft is in high-speed chases where a suspect will often slow down when a helicopter is above him. Once the helicopters are sold, one unit officer said, the department will never have the money again to replace them.
MARYLAND Law enforcement officials in Baltimore say that some drug dealers are now accepting meat as currency in exchange for narcotics. While there are no statistics on how widespread the trend is, grocers, community activists and drug users are all said to be aware of it. Drug users say they typically shoplift meat from supermarkets and then give it to low-level dealers in exchange for drugs. Police reportedly have been unable to determine what the dealers then do with the meat, although some speculate that the goods are being resold to smaller groceries and local residents.
Beginning Oct. 1, residents who wish to sell a gun privately are required to comply with the rules that govern sales by licensed dealers, including a seven-day waiting period and a criminal background check.
Two Prince George’s County police officers may face disciplinary charges for handcuffing a suspect to a telephone pole with a note that read, “I’m wanted.”
Only 4,200 marijuana plants were seized by Frederick authorities as of late September, compared with 5,092 last year. A rainy summer is said to have decreased the size of the crop.
MASSACHUSETTS State Public Secretary Kathleen O’Toole has said that convicted sex offenders who failed to register with the state by Oct. 3 will be hunted down and jailed for up to 2½ years.
For the first time ever, a Federal court in Massachusetts may allow the admission of DNA evidence, in a rape case involving a 26-year-old woman who was carjacked in Boston last December and then driven to New Hampshire and attacked. Prosecutors say DNA testing on the suspect, Paul E. Lowe, shows him to be the one who raped the woman and spit on the car window. The admissibility of the evidence was due to be ruled on in a pretrial hearing last month.
NEW JERSEY Lambertville police have been using a mannequin posed in a police car to get speeders to slow down. Referred to as “Officer Matthews,” the dummy has been stationed at various sites since early August. The decoy works because the following day, an actual officer is sent to the same locations. Drivers never know whether a mannequin or a real officer is in the car. Police Director Albert Varga said there is even one officer who sits the same way in the car as the decoy, fooling even the locals.
Police say an Andover couple, Paul and Bonnie Stiller, were slightly injured when they tried to throw a lit stick of dynamite out their car without opening the window first. The couple had been drinking, police said.
Following a $1.2-million Federal judgment earlier this year in a sexual harassment suit filed by Newark police Sgt. Donna Hurley, at least seven more similar suits have been filed statewide, according to The Newark Star-Ledger.
NEW YORK Angel Diaz, the suspect in the murder of New York City Police Officer Kevin Gillespie during a shootout in the Bronx last March, was found hanged in his Rikers Island cell Sept. 5. Diaz, 27, apparently killed himself by wrapping one end of a belt around his neck, the other around the bars of the cell, and then sitting on his bunk. Authorities said he left a five-page suicide note complaining of family problems.
Prompted by the deaths each year of some 200 victims of domestic abuse, Gov. George Pataki signed an executive order Oct. 1 creating a 14-member panel to look into ways to improve the response of agencies that deal with domestic violence. Under the executive order, the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence will assist in deciding which cases go through the review process. The new committee, which will be chaired by Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, must make a written report to Pataki recommending ways to improve the system by July 1, 1997.
Federal District Judge Denny Chin has barred the state from distributing the names of sex offenders who were convicted before New York’s version of “Megan’s Law” took effect last Jan. 21. Chin ruled Sept. 25 that disseminating those names would violate constitutional protections against imposing extra punishment. Legal provisions requiring all sex offenders to register with local police, even those convicted before the effective date, were upheld.
Anthony Rivers, the Bronx man whose domestic dispute with his girlfriend led to the death of a New York City police officer, is back in jail after having been released in September on $10,000 bail. Rivers bail was revoked by the bondsman after it was disclosed that Rivers jumped bail six times in the past. The officer, Vincent Guidice, bled to death following a struggle with Rivers, after he was pushed on to a six-foot shard of broken mirror that severed an artery. Rivers was charged with second-degree assault and criminally negligent homicide, and could serve as little as two years if convicted. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki said they were outraged over the low amount of Rivers’ bail.
Former New York City police officer Blake Struller, 31, was sentenced to five years in prison for dealing drugs, evading taxes, and breaking into property without a search warrant. Struller, who was part of the “Dirty 30” scandal, had sought leniency by cooperating with prosecutors. However, Federal Judge Deborah A. Batts said Struller’s crimes were so severe that she imposed what would be the third longest sentence so far in the corruption case.
New York City police have found three bodies in the past 15 months that have been disemboweled by dealers searching for heroin that had been packed in condoms and swallowed by couriers. Officials at the Chief Medical Examiner’s office say the “swallowers” fly in from Colombia and often die of massive overdoses when the condoms break. Dealers are then slitting open the bodies to remove as many of the unbroken condoms as they can.
Acting on an anonymous tip, internal affairs investigators from the New York City Police Department began an inquiry in September into charges that female officers were secretly being watched by male officers through a two-inch hole in the women’s locker room at a Manhattan police station.
Gov. George Pataki signed legislation Sept. 5 that will do away with the “Bolden rule,” a legal loophole whereby fugitives can claim that the length of time it took to capture them robbed them of their right to a speedy trial. Another bill signed by Pataki would create a mandatory 15-year sentence for attacks on police officers, firefighters, and paramedics performing their duties.
An off-duty New York City police officer, Richard Diguglielmo Jr., shot and killed a man Oct. 10 in a dispute over a parking spot. The incident began when Diguglielmo’s father tried to stop Charles Campbell from parking in front of his Dobbs Ferry deli. As the dispute escalated, Diguglielmo emerged from the deli and tangled with Campbell, who retrieved a baseball bat from his car trunk in what may have been self-defense. News reports say Diguglielmo then drew his weapon and shot Campbell three times.
PENNSYLVANIA A 19-year-old Altoona man, Wesley Burggraf, shot himself in the head Sept. 23 after wounding Officer Jesse Winter II. Burggraf, awaiting trial on a burglary charge, was wanted for a parole violation.
ARKANSAS Four Hope police officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a state police investigation of a February drug bust. The probe was recently widened to include the disappearance of 17 rocks of crack cocaine from an evidence envelope.
Little Rock police arrested two teen-agers who stole the car of an off-duty Cammack Village police officer who also happens to be the village police chief’s son. Officer J.W. Plouch, 23, was robbed Sept. 15 by two armed assailants who took his wallet, police badge, and his 1996 Chevrolet Suburban. Brett Hurvey, 15, and an unidentified 14-year-old accomplice were caught as they tried to flee on foot after wrecking Plouch’s car.
Seventy-five state troopers will be hired with a $5.6-million Justice Department grant, but the state will have to spend $2.7 million over three years on their benefits and pay all costs after 2000. A lawsuit filed by 80 troopers over compensatory time had held up money earmarked to hire 60 troopers in 1995.
FLORIDA Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Danny Dansby was named Deputy Sheriff of the Year in September by the Florida Sheriffs Association. Dansby, 37, was cited for saving the life of fellow deputy Terri Slapp during a hostage incident, shooting and killing the hostage-taker.
GEORGIA Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller has decided not to prosecute two College Park officers in the fatal shooting of two fleeing Atlanta teen-agers, saying they acted in self-defense. Norman Bernard Stewart and Thomas Jefferson Tolbert, both 17, were shot March 8 after aiming the stolen car they were driving at Officers Ronald Fears and Bill Hester and accelerating toward them.
U.S. Customs agents are investigating Atlanta police Sgt. Preston Chambers in connection with a child-pornography sting operation. According to a search-warrant affidavit, kiddie-porn videos posted for sale on the Internet by investigators were traced to a private mail box belonging to Chambers, a 27-year police veteran. Chambers’ home was searched, but he has yet to be charged.
LOUISIANA Concerned that Jefferson Parish will lose $3.9 million a year if video poker is outlawed in a November referendum, Sheriff Harry Lee has said he will spend $100,000 in public money to promote the game.
NORTH CAROLINA Fayetteville lawmen searched in September for John Delvin Brooks, 21, accused of driving off in a deputy’s car after handcuffing the officer and blinding him with pepper spray. The attack occurred when Deputy Charles Parker tried to arrest Brooks for failing to show up for trial on an armed robbery charge. Brooks now faces charges of kidnapping, felony assault on an officer, and theft of county property.
SOUTH CAROLINA The head of the state Highway Patrol, Col. James Caulder, said in September he would look into newspaper reports that troopers rarely give traffic tickets to other law enforcement officers when they are involved in accidents, even when the officers are clearly at fault. Of the 320 accidents involving law enforcement officers, only five received tickets, The Greenville News reported. Citing patrol figures from 1994, the newspaper said that while tickets for accidents were written for 58 percent of the general public, law enforcement officers were ticketed just 1 percent of the time when they were at fault.
Jefferson Police Officer James Jackson, 33, was charged Sept. 26 with the murder of 28-year-old Jeffrey Miller. Police Chief James Beckham declined to elaborate on what happened during the incident, but witnesses told the media that Jackson had stopped Miller outside an apartment complex. After a brief argument, they said, Miller ran and Jackson fired several times.
TENNESSEE As of Oct. 1, state residents over the age of 21 can carry a concealed handgun after taking a safety course and paying $100 at a driver’s license station. Drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill are still barred from carrying concealed weapons.
A 17-year-old Kingsport girl was convicted Sept. 23 on three counts of rape by defraud and criminal impersonation. The girl posed as a boy, then raped another woman using a device, according to prosecutors.
VIRGINIA Officials said Sept. 22 that the number of DWI arrests has declined 12.1 percent and alcohol-related fatalities are down by 9.3 percent since 1994, when the state lowered the blood-alcohol threshold for driving while intoxicated from .10 percent to .08 percent.
ILLINOIS An 11-year-old boy was declared delinquent in Peoria for restraining and sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl. Two brothers, 9 and 13, were also charged.
Investigators declared Oct. 1 that arson was the cause of a fire inside a former topless nightclub in Centreville that had belonged to convicted racketeer Thomas Venezia. The seized building was due to be auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service. Venezia is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.
KENTUCKY Customers with licenses to carry concealed weapons will be allowed on the premises of the 90 Kroger grocery stores in the state. SuperAmerica stores have banned weapons on their premises.
MICHIGAN The Detroit Free Press reported Sept. 23 that despite hundreds of arrests and streamlined prosecutions, dog fights seem to be on the rise. In Wayne County, 18 men face felony animal-cruelty charges in one case.
Detroit Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon says he will take disciplinary action, including firing, against on-duty officers who were seen at the movies, or dining out in suburbia.
A Detroit man, Gene Jamison, charged with gluing shut the eyes of his 5-year-old daughter with Krazy Glue, was sentenced to two years in prison in September. Jamison will serve only about one year of his sentence, however, since he was credited by the judge with already serving 381 days since being arrested in 1995.
One Coldwater police officer has quit and another may be disciplined after admitting to rummaging through a Dumpster behind a Frito-Lay warehouse searching for unopened bags of potato chips. While the act was not illegal, it was deemed unbecoming an officer.
OHIO Cincinnati City Councilmen Dwight Tillery and Charles Winburn proposed Sept. 13 that the city adopt anti-gang laws similar to those in California, whereby gang members are banned from such activities as carrying beepers, climbing trees, and using foul or threatening language by court order.
Investigators say they have found no evidence of wrongdoing by at least two Cincinnati police officers implicated in an ongoing probe of sexual misconduct. The investigation stems from the indictment and firing in August of Officer Patrick Knight, who allegedly solicited sex from women in exchange for not jailing them.
WISCONSIN About 700 state prisoners are being shipped out to jails in Texas to ease overcrowding. About 80 inmates were due to be transferred by Oct. 15.
Heroin arrests are expected to stabilize this year after a dramatic increase in 1991, according to law enforcement officials.
IOWA A state intermediate appeals court ruled Sept. 30 that Wal-Mart cannot be sued by the estate of Chad Scheicher, 20, who killed himself with ammunition he bought at the store. The cause of injury, said the court, was not the sale of ammunition.
A Keokuk woman, Kimmi Hardy, was charged Sept. 27 with luring a new mother to her home, shooting her in the head, and then stealing her six-week-old baby boy and passing him off as her own. Police said Hardy had pretended to be pregnant, even wearing maternity clothes for five months. Hardy’s husband, Robert, told prosecutors that his wife killed Theresa Lund, 34, and hid her body in a crawl space. Lund and her son were reported missing on the same day that Hardy told friends and family she had given birth to a son.
MISSOURI Prison workers at the Central Missouri Correctional Center were livid in September after the facility allowed drug-sniffing dogs to investigate their cars, leaving deep scratches in hoods and roofs. The state has refused to reimburse the nearly 20 employees for the damage. While prison officials at first claimed the dogs were released as part of a training program, they later acknowledge the dogs were sent to investigate employees’ cars for drugs.
MONTANA Officials are considering whether to set up a computer system whereby crime victims would be notified if their assailant escapes or is due to be paroled or released. Since 1993 when Kentucky started the system, about 12 states have followed suit.
NEBRASKA The Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, which was created last year to handle death-penalty cases, opened for business in September. The state agency will also help financially strapped counties deal with costly trials in serious felony cases.
Due to state laws requiring that youthful offenders be kept separate from adults, sheriffs have resorted to keeping juveniles in hotel rooms or their own offices.
ARIZONA Attorney General Janet Reno will decide whether a 20-year-old Shonto man accused of killing a Navajo police officer should face the death penalty if convicted. The victim, Officer Hoskie Gene, 35, who was also an officer with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, was choked and struck with a flashlight by the suspect, Vincent Cling, and a 17-year-old teen-ager. Cling’s lawyer, however, claims Gene was not acting as a Federal official when he was killed. Cling’s trial was due to begin this month.
COLORADO Greeley police fatally shot a gunman who had executed his three roommates, then drove to a former girlfriend’s dormitory room and held the girl and other students hostage. The gunman, Joseph Gallegos, was released from prison just two weeks before the incident. He was paroled after serving a two-year sentence for beating a man. Gallegos shot 18-year-old Heidi Hocker in the foot, but another female hostage was unharmed.
A Fremont County deputy sheriff critically wounded a gunman in September who allegedly walked away from a work-release program, said a sheriff’s office spokesman. Deputy Dean Richardson had stopped the pickup truck of Steven Garrett, 21, whom he recognized as a walkaway from the Jefferson County work-release program. According to eyewitnesses, Garrett got out of his pickup and fired two shots at Richardson. Richardson, who was hospitalized in fair condition, was able to fire back at Garrett, hitting him at least five times, authorities said.
NEW MEXICO Some $4.56 million in back pay will be divided among 234 current and former state police officers in settlement of their lawsuit against the Department of Public Safety. Officers said they were not paid while on call during meals or after normal shifts.
OKLAHOMA Alcohol-related crashes have risen 6 percent since last year, records show, despite a 19-percent increase in drunken driving arrests by the Highway Patrol.
Ottawa County Sheriff James Ed Walker’s trial on charges of gambling, extortion, and obstruction of justice was postponed by a Federal judge in September after Walker said he was dissatisfied with his lawyer.
TEXAS One hundred patrol and narcotics officers were dispatched last month to Eagle Pass by the state Department of Public Safety to slow illegal drug trafficking across the border.
A microwave, calculator and VCR were stolen in September from the Dallas County criminal warrants office. While no legal papers appeared to be taken, officials continued checking and are completing an inventory of documents.
Two former Dallas police officers, Jerry Dean Kastler and his wife, Samantha, were sentenced to five years’ deferred adjudication in September for falsifying drunken-driving arrests in 1993 and 1994. The couple and another officer, Murrill Baxley, included each other’s names on reports for arrests they did not participate in so they could claim overtime pay by appearing in court.
The City of Harlingen has been ordered by the U.S. Labor Department to pay 78 officers $11,300 in overtime for court appearances they are required to attend. The officers were apparently paid regular wages instead of overtime. This is the third time since 1993 that the Harlingen Police Officers Association has brought a claim against the city, said association president Joe Rubio.
The Austin American-Statesman reported a 17-percent increase in traffic deaths since speed limits were raised last Dec. 8. About 36,000 people will die on state roads this year, the newspaper said, the highest total since 1985.
The state said in September that 98,148 Texans have been licensed to carry concealed weapons since the law went into effect last year. Eighty-one percent of the permit holders are men.
A state report found that 37 percent of the juveniles sentenced to the Texas Youth Commission last year were violent, an increase of 16 percent from 1990. Twenty-one percent used a firearm in their offense eight percent more than six years ago.
CALIFORNIA Under a new law signed by Gov. Pete Wilson, members of the clergy will be obligated to report suspected cases of child abuse to social workers. The same is required of doctors, psychologists, law enforcement officers, teachers and school administrators.
Former Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman was sentenced to three years probation and fined $200 recently after he pleaded guilty to perjuring himself during the O.J. Simpson trial when he testified that he had not used a racial slur in the past 10 years. Before entering his plea, he was served with a subpoena from Simpson’s lawyers ordering him to testify at the civil trial now in progress.
Federal District Judge John Davies refused in September to send former Los Angeles police officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell back to prison and also overturned a new move by prosecutors to impose fines on them. Koon and Powell were sentenced to 30 months each for violating motorist Rodney King’s civil rights during a 1991 beating incident.
A state appeals court on Oct. 2 upheld a new state law that allows prosecutors to seek post-sentence confinement for mentally ill sex offenders. The court ruled that the law’s aim is therapeutic, not punitive.
The 14-year-old stepdaughter of a doctor for the San Diego Chargers football team was injured Sept. 25 when a package delivered to their La Jolla home exploded, riddling her upper body with shrapnel. Neighbors said they do not know why Dr. Gary Losse, an orthopedic surgeon, or his family would be the target of an attack. The girl, Jennifer Hutslar, is expected to make a full recovery.
The state Judicial Council reported Sept. 30 that the state’s “three strikes and you’re out” law continues to increase the criminal court workload by 10 percent or more. [See related item, below.]
State Attorney General Dan Lungren last month tried unsuccessfully to have the state’s newspapers pull a “Doonesbury” cartoon that poked fun at him for ordering a raid on a San Francisco club that distributed marijuana to about 12,000 residents to ease the effects of AIDS and other illnesses. The Aug. 4 raid by drug agents from the state Department of Justice, which shut down the Cannabis Buyers’ Club, came as a campaign was heating up over a ballot referendum that would legalize medical uses of marijuana.
Increased air and ground surveillance has been ordered by the state Highway Patrol to stop a rash of attacks on Los Angeles-area freeways, in which cars’ rear windows have been smashed by mysterious projectiles. At least nine vehicles had their rear windows smashed in September. With no bullet fragments found, police believe the attackers hurled rocks or debris, possibly using slingshots.
William Cruz Ochoa was sentenced to 326 years in prison on Sept. 22 under the state’s “three strikes” law for welfare fraud. Ochoa, 53, who committed six residential burglaries from 1976 to 1985, was convicted in June of welfare fraud and perjury for trying to open 13 separate welfare cases at various Los Angeles residences.
HAWAII The sale of ephedrine to people under 21 was banned Sept. 26 by the Honolulu City Council. Federal officials say the chemical, which is used as an energy-booster in foods and pills, could cause illness or death.
IDAHO Officials are considering whether to hire a private company to build and run a prison, or scour the country in search of places to house a growing inmate population that has increased by 33 inmates a month for the past two years.
OREGON The Oregon State Bar Association has come out in opposition to Measure 40, a ballot initiative that would allow crime victims access to a defendant’s criminal record and also the right to demand a jury trial for adult defendants.
WASHINGTON The state’s Supreme Court has overturned a woman’s drug conviction because of what it called “outrageous” conduct by Walla Walla police and an informant. Amy Lively, 24, who was sentenced to 13 months in prison after selling cocaine to undercover officers, contended that she was induced to sell the drugs by a police informant who infiltrated her Narcotics Anonymous meeting. She and the informant, Kamlesh Desai, became sexually involved. In its Aug. 29 ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that Lively was emotionally vulnerable and that Desai had taken advantage of her. Four dissenting judges said, however, that no criminal conviction has ever been overturned based on “outrageous government conduct” because the burden of proof is too high.