My First “Crooked Cop” Case Was a “Real Doozy”

“Court Case Friday”

Some Cops Turn to Crime

Throughout my legal career I encountered several crooked police officers. I seem to be a magnet for those cases.

Outstanding Huntington Beach Police

Police officers, especially detectives, are the finest group of people I have ever worked with. 

However, EVERY profession has “bad apples.” Police officers are no exception. 

There is nothing worse for the reputation of law enforcement than a “dirty cop.” I have personally been involved with cases of police officers charged with:

  • rape
  • armed robbery
  • solicitation of prostitution
  • grand theft
  • misappropriation of public funds
  • bribery
  • destruction of evidence
  • falsification of evidence
  • planting evidence
  • perjury
  • possession of narcotics
  • sales of narcotics
  • felony assault and battery
  • federal violation of civil rights
  • possession of child pornography
  • attempted child molestation
  • driving under the influence

This may seem like a lot, but it is a very tiny percentage of the thousands of law enforcement officers in Orange County.

There are three main “temptations” for corruption:

  • alcohol/drugs
  • money
  • sex

Importantly, everyone of these cases was investigated, solved, filed, and prosecuted by law enforcement officers. It was the honorable police who caught the corrupt ones.

My First Major “Crooked Cop” Case

My first encounter with a “crooked cop” was during my first felony preliminary as a new prosecutor.  It was a very rude awakening. 

Outstanding Irvine Police

My Case

The basic facts of my case were: an undercover L.A. sheriff bought drugs from the defendant at his home in Fountain Valley. The sheriff gave the information to the Fountain Valley Police Department (FVPD) to obtain a search warrant. In a floor safe under the carpet in the house, FVPD found a lot of drugs, cash, and ledgers of drug sales.  

It seemed like a straight forward case.  In court, I estimated that the hearing would take a half hour. The A-team defense attorneys estimated it would take two weeks.  I was gob smacked!  How could this simple case take so long?   

The Defense Case 

Outstanding Fountain Valley Police

After my short presentation, the defense attorneys raised an affirmative defense, and called a dozen witnesses.

They testified that they were having a party at the defendant’s house at the time of the alleged hand-to-hand sale, and no stranger ever came to the door. The LA sheriff fabricated the sale as a pretext for FVPD to get a search warrant. This violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the evidence should be suppressed and the case must be dismissed.

My Counter Strategy and the “Thrill of Victory

I aggressively cross-examined the defense witnesses.  I ran record checks, and I was able to impeach most of them with their prior criminal convictions.

Outstanding Orange County Sheriffs

I also introduced the officer’s personal diary to corroborate his testimony. Moreover, I called a civilian friend of the deputy who was sitting in his car in front of the house at the time of the drug buy. 

Outstanding Garden Grove Police

After two weeks, I prevailed. It was the thrill of a hard-won victory. 

My Case Implodes and the “Agony of Defeat”

Weeks later, the deputy’s friend came forward and confessed that he lied under oath during my hearing.  He was never at the scene. He lied because his sheriff friend convinced him it was essential for “national security.”

Federal Investigation and Prosecution of the Deputy Sheriff

I turned the case over to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ultimately, “my” drug dealer went free, and “my” officer was sentenced to two twenty-year terms in federal prison

Outstanding Newport Beach Police

The sheriff deputy was convicted of federal civil rights violations based on my case.  The deputy was also convicted of interstate transportation and sales of narcotics.  The sheriff was also convicted of witness intimidation for threatening to kill the federal grand jury witnesses. 

The investigation revealed that the deputy confiscated drugs during busts, sometimes without booking the drugs into evidence.  He then either used the drugs, sold the drugs, or planted the drugs on someone he wanted to frame. It doesn’t get worse than that.

Civil Law Suit

The drug dealer later sued the deputy sheriff, L.A. Sheriffs Department, the FVPD and its officers for violating of his civil rights. At the end of the trial, the civil jury ruled against the deputy sheriff and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, and in favor of FVPD and its officers, who were unwitting “accomplices.”

However, since the drugs, cash, and ledgers discovered in the floor safe of the defendant’s house proved he was a major drug dealer, the jury awarded him $1.00.

Conclusion

This case was a real eye-opener. I learned at the beginning of my career to watch out for dishonest and corrupt officers.

But this, and my other “crooked cop” cases, has not changed my opinion that police officers are the finest group of people I have ever worked with.

 (www.londonedition.net)

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