Our great AG, Kathy Jennings, does the right thing again. 🙂
Excerpts from the Article:
A former Dewey Beach police officer was convicted of assaulting an injured person on the job and was permanently stripped of his badge and gun Wednesday.
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced in a news release that the Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust indicted and reached a conviction for Gregory Lynch for assaulting an innocent, injured person and then lying to the court to have the victim incarcerated.
“Abuse of authority, brutality and dishonesty are cardinal sins for any law enforcement officer,” Jennings said in a statement.
“The defendant’s violent acts harmed his victim and made it harder for his honorable colleagues to do their important work,” she said. “Today the defendant becomes a felon who will never carry a badge or a gun again. Our thoughts are with his victim, and our thanks are with the EMTs and fellow police who did the right thing by stepping forward to blow the whistle on his actions.”
During the August 2019 incident, police and EMTs were called to Bellevue Street to assist a 26-year-old man who had lost consciousness and injured the back of his head, according to the earlier indictment. The indictment detailed that the man didn’t want to go to the hospital and was sitting on a stretcher with one foot on the ground as first responders and witnesses tried to convince him to lie down. That was when Lynch grabbed his leg and put it on the stretcher, according to previous reporting by Delaware Online.
Lynch then climbed onto a stretcher and repeatedly punched an injured, unaggressive victim in the face, according to the Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust.
Other officers present told investigators that the punches were powerful enough to spray blood from the victim’s face onto their uniforms, according to the DOJ. Lynch then handcuffed the victim to the stretcher and pulled him into an ambulance by his head.
The victim was later diagnosed with a concussion, a broken nose, multiple hematomas and lacerations to his face.
Lynch later falsely stated in a sworn affidavit that the victim had committed strangulation and two counts of offensive touching of a law enforcement officer, but witness statements contradicted those claims, according to the DOJ.
Lynch’s lies were discovered days later when EMTs and fellow police came forward.
Lynch pleaded guilty on Wednesday to perjury second degree (a felony) and assault third degree (a misdemeanor).
Under the victim-supported plea, Lynch will serve one year of Level 3, or intensive supervision, probation and sacrifice his Council on Police Training certification – permanently banning him from serving as a police officer again.
Because of the felony conviction, Lynch will also be prohibited from buying or possessing a firearm.
But this incident was not the first time that Lynch was accused of excessive force. In 2014, a 65-year-old man sued Dewey Beach police saying that Lynch and another officer used excessive force when they arrested him in 2011.
He claimed that a Dewey police vehicle, with its lights activated, swerved in front of him as he was riding his bicycle from The Cove Restaurant and Bar at about 12:30 a.m.
The plaintiff said Lynch and the other officer threw him off of his bicycle and onto the pavement, causing some injuries, including to his shoulder and ribs. The lawsuit also claimed Lynch placed his foot on the side of the plaintiff’s face and ground the man’s head and face into the pavement and gravel.
The department settled the federal lawsuit for $175,00.
Good for the U S DOJ! All such outrageous conduct by police should be investigated. But another culprit here is the local prosecutor! Local prosecutors should have prosecuted the police! I was a prosecutor for 5 years, and it was clear to me from day one that my job was not “to back the police at any cost”; my job was to be FAIR, and that is the job of every prosecutor!
Excerpts from the Article:
A Louisiana State Police trooper was captured on video repeatedly beating a Black motorist with a flashlight more than two years ago, according to body camera footage of the incident obtained by CNN — the latest footage linked to a state police division that is under investigation for possible systemic abuses against Black motorists.
Seven minutes of footage from the officer’s body-worn camera from the May 2019 incident was recently turned over to attorneys for the motorist, Aaron Larry Bowman, pursuant to a court order last week. CNN obtained a copy of that video Wednesday from Bowman’s attorneys.
The trooper in the video, Jacob Brown, was charged in December with aggravated second-degree battery and malfeasance in office. He has not entered a plea. State prosecutors said that case remains on hold as federal investigators are conducting their own investigation into Brown’s actions.
The Department of Justice said this case is the subject of a criminal investigation being handled by the FBI, “along with career prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.”
The body-worn camera footage shows Brown swinging what appears to be a flashlight and repeatedly striking Bowman while he’s facedown on the ground with his hands behind his head for part of the beating as he tells them, “I’m not resisting.”
“Fighting us ain’t gonna help you bud,” an officer says. “I’m not fighting you,” Bowman responds.
He can later be heard moaning and saying, “They hit me in the head with a flashlight. I’m on dialysis, man, it hurt me. It hurt me. I don’t have nothing.”
As part of the probe, investigators are working to determine whether there’s a history of abuse in interactions between troopers in Troop F and Black people, two sources familiar with the process previously confirmed to CNN.
The video was first obtained by The Associated Press. What’s known of the cases involving this unit within the Louisiana State Police is largely the result of reporting by the AP, which has exposed various issues with the conduct and covering up of that conduct by state troopers.
According to court records, as a result of the beating, “(Bowman) sustained multiple lacerations,” that include “a cut to the top of his head, a fractured arm, and broken ribs amongst other ailments.”
Ron Haley, one of Bowman’s attorneys, said Brown beat his client with an 8-inch aluminum flashlight. Brown hit him within seconds of initial contact and hit Bowman at least 18 times in 24 seconds, Haley said. CNN affiliate WBRZ reported that an arrest affidavit says Brown went on to strike Bowman 18 times in the span of about 24 seconds.
It wasn’t immediately clear to Bowman’s attorneys or prosecutors that body-worn camera footage of the beating existed.
A statement from Louisiana State Police said the agency found the footage after Bowman’s attorneys filed a lawsuit, adding that after investigators located the footage, they began administrative and criminal investigations. State police have said at the time of Brown’s arrest “detectives learned that Brown engaged in excessive and unjustifiable actions during the incident and failed to report the use of force to his supervisors.”
The result of the criminal investigation was turned over to the district attorney’s office, and Brown was charged in December. Robert Tew, the district attorney in Monroe, said it is being continued until the US Department of Justice decides whether to charge him with federal crimes.
Bowman fought with at least one of those deputies, according to an affidavit filed in the case against Bowman. According to the affidavit filed by a Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy, Bowman “began swinging his arms at me and screaming he did not do anything wrong. (Bowman) then struck me on top of the head with a closed fist.”
Bowman disputed the police version of events in his civil suit. He “asserts that the published police report is fabricated, and aspects of Deputy (Donovan) Ginn’s narrative is untrue.”
Just disgraceful! A gross injustice due to one lazy and/or incompetent cop; the officer should be sued by Mr. Spriestersbach inasmuch as it seems he has suffered permanent trauma!
Excerpts from the Article:
A homeless man was wrongly arrested by Hawaii officials in 2017 in a case of mistaken identity and was institutionalized in a state hospital for over two years when he repeatedly insisted he was not the person they said he was before quietly being released, the Hawaii Innocence Project said in a court document.
The Hawaii Innocence Project filed a petition Monday night asking a judge to vacate the arrest and correct the records of Joshua Spriestersbach. Spriestersbach was arrested in 2017 after falling asleep on a sidewalk waiting for food at a Honolulu shelter, the Associated Press reported.
When he woke up, Spriestersbach believed he was being arrested for the city’s ban on sitting or laying down on public sidewalks. But the officer mistook him for a man named Thomas Castleberry, who was wanted for violating probation in a 2006 drug case.
Authorities admitted Spriestersbach to a state hospital for denying he was Castleberry and was forced to take psychiatric drugs for two years and eight months before the mistake was corrected, releasing Spriestersbach with only 50 cents to his name.
It’s unclear how this happened as Spriestersbach and Castleberry had never met. Spriestersbach somehow ended up with Castleberry as his alias, even though Spriestersbach never claimed to be Castleberry, according to the Hawaii Innocence Project.
Spriestersbach’s attorneys argue it all could have been cleared up if police simply compared the two men’s photographs and fingerprints.
Instead, against Spriestersbach’s protests that he wasn’t Castleberry, he was eventually committed to the Hawaii State Hospital.
“Yet, the more Mr. Spriestersbach vocalized his innocence by asserting that he is not Mr. Castleberry, the more he was declared delusional and psychotic by the H.S.H. staff and doctors and heavily medicated,” the petition said.
“It was understandable that Mr. Spriestersbach was in an agitated state when he was being wrongfully incarcerated for Mr. Castleberry’s crime and despite his continual denial of being Mr. Castleberry and providing all of his relevant identification and places where he was located during Mr. Castleberry’s court appearances, no one would believe him or take any meaningful steps to verify his identity and determine that what Mr. Spriestersbach was telling the truth—he was not Mr. Castleberry.”
No one believed him—not even his various public defenders—until a hospital psychiatrist finally listened. All it took were simple Google searches and a few phone calls to verify that Spriestersbach was on another island when Castleberry was initially arrested, according to the court document.
A detective, who was asked by the psychiatrist to come to the hospital, verified fingerprints and photographs to determine that the wrong man had been arrested and that Spriestersbach spent two years and eight months institutionalized, the petition said, noting that it wasn’t hard to determine that the real Castleberry has been incarcerated in an Alaska prison since 2016.
According to records, a 49-year-old man named Thomas R. Castleberry is in the Spring Creek Correctional Facility in Seward, Alaska. His relatives couldn’t be reached for comment. The Alaska public defender listed for him declined to comment Tuesday.
The Hawaii Innocence Project document also claims Spriestersbach had ineffective counsel: the Hawaii public defender’s office.
Police, the state public defender’s office, the state attorney general and the hospital “share in the blame for this gross miscarriage of justice,” the petition said.
Hawaii public defender James Tabe and spokespersons for the state attorney general’s and health department didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Once the fingerprints and photographs were finalized, officials moved quickly, but secretly, to release Spriestersbach in January of 2020, the petition said. “A secret meeting was held with all of the parties, except Mr. Spriestersbach, present. There is no court record of this meeting or no public court record of this meeting. No entry or order reflects this miscarriage of justice that occurred or a finding that Mr. Spriestersbach is not Thomas Castleberry,” the court document said.
His lawyers think officials didn’t think anyone would believe Spriestersbach or no one would care about the homeless man who fell asleep waiting for food, only to wake up to a living nightmare. Spriestersbach, 50, who lives with his sister in Vermont, declined to comment for this story.
His sister, Vedanta Griffith, spent nearly 16 years looking for him. He moved to Hawaii with Griffith when her husband was stationed on Oahu with the Army in 2003. He moved to the Big Island and then disappeared, while suffering mental health issues, she said.
“Part of what they used against him was his own argument: ‘I’m not Thomas Castleberry. I didn’t commit these crimes….This isn’t me,'” she told AP. “So they used that as saying he was delusional, as justification for keeping him.”
After his release, he ended up at a homeless shelter, which contacted his family.
“And then when light is shown on it, what do they do? They don’t even put it on the record. They don’t make it part of the case,” Griffith said. “And then they don’t come to him and say, ‘We are so sorry’ or how about even ‘Gee, this wasn’t you. You were right all along.'”
Spriestersbach now refuses to leave his sister’s 10-acre property. “He’s so afraid that they’re going to take him again,” Griffith said.
Another cop out of control, and another case demonstrating the importance of vastly improving our mental health care systems. This lawsuit will be won or settled for many thousands of dollars … YOUR tax money again being wasted; the whole thing could have been prevented.
Excerpts from the Article:
Kelly Rooks called Delaware State Police for help, but the officer who responded shot and killed her and broke her elderly mother’s hip, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
The 51-year-old Rooks was bipolar and had been experiencing severe paranoia the week before she died, calling Troop 5 in Bridgeville multiple times, the complaint says.
Most of the officers who responded “were nice and approached her carefully, understanding she had a mental illness,” and one even spoke to her psychiatrist, court documents say.
One trooper, however, “was hostile and aggressive” toward Kelly, according to the complaint, and he was one who responded March 25 after Kelly called because she thought she’d been poisoned.
A short time later, she was dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Wilmington law firm Jacobs & Crumplar filed the lawsuit against a yet-to-be-named Delaware State Police trooper on July 12 on counts of excessive force, assault and battery, gross negligence and wrongful death. The suit is seeking punitive damages as well as funeral expenses.
The trooper is not known to the Rooks family because police records are protected in Delaware until an investigation into the use of force is completed. Instead, the lawsuit refers to him as John Doe.
Kelly’s brother, Raymond Rooks, is representing her estate in the lawsuit. Her mother is listed as a separate plaintiff.
Delaware State Police spokesman Gary Fournier said the trooper is still employed and on active duty but declined to otherwise comment on the lawsuit.
In the days following the shooting, Delaware State Police said they were dispatched to the scene to “assist medical personnel,” who were already at the residence when the woman “armed herself with a firearm” and “threatened” the troopers and medical professionals.
Rooks’ bipolar disorder surfaced about the time she was injured in a car accident, around 2015. The mental illness “substantially limited her in the performance of major life activities,” according to the complaint.
She appears to have lived a full life in spite of it. She worked for many years as a phlebotomist. Her longtime boyfriend, Robert Krause, lived at the Danny Drive residence with her. To her mother, Kelly Rooks was “beloved,” the complaint states.
“As a human being, she deserved better,” the Rooks family wrote in a statement issued shortly after the shooting.
Krause, who used a wheelchair, was at the home at the time of the shooting, along with Rooks’ mother, Geraldine Rooks.
When the trooper and medics arrived at about 7:30 p.m. March 25, a neighbor asked if Kelly had done anything wrong. The trooper, seeming “agitated or tired,” responded, “You tell me, I’ve got multiple calls from this address,” according to the complaint.
After the trooper entered the Rooks’ home without a warrant or announcing his presence, Kelly came out of her bedroom, court documents say, “rubbing her stomach and saying she needed to go to the hospital. She did not have a weapon.”
The situation escalated within two minutes of the trooper’s arrival, according to the complaint.
The trooper “was acting angry, hostile and aggressive. He was screaming, ‘What have we got here?’ Kelly asked him if Geraldine could go with her to the hospital. The angry, hostile … (trooper) aggressively screamed, ‘No!’
“Kelly and Geraldine felt they were not free to leave and that they were unable to decline (the trooper’s) requests or otherwise terminate the encounter. Geraldine walked toward her daughter to comfort her as she was obviously in mental distress that increased when (the trooper) screamed at her. … She was not disobeying any lawful command (the trooper) had given.”
That’s when the trooper shoved the 78-year-old Geraldine Rooks to the ground, breaking her hip, the complaint says, and Kelly Rooks ran to her room and grabbed a shotgun.
Both Krause and Geraldine Rooks were removed from the home before shots were fired, according to the complaint, and Geraldine Rooks was in the front yard when she saw the trooper point his gun at her daughter’s bedroom door and fire multiple times.
Three shots were fired through the door, which, based on the angle of the bullet holes, was closing or closed, the complaint says.
The complaint asserts that knowing Kelly was emotionally disturbed, the trooper should have proceeded slowly and with caution, using a calm voice. He failed to de-escalate the situation despite being trained to do so, and instead escalated it when he “provoked an otherwise static situation by his reckless tactical response,” the complaint says.
“The standard of care required a police officer, upon seeing Kelly retrieve a gun, (is) to get to a covered position, which was within (the trooper’s) ability,” the complaint states. “The situation was not so fluid or time dependent that Kelly could not have been talked down by a properly trained professional. A Crisis Intervention Team officer or negotiator specially trained in negotiation should have been employed.”
After shots were fired, backup arrived, parking along Danny Drive and the adjacent Airport Road. Two tanklike vehicles responded to the scene and a helicopter hovered above, according to the complaint. Neighbors were evacuated and police searched the woods surrounding Danny Drive.
Police cut a hole in the bottom of the home and ran a camera inside, presumably to see if Kelly was dead, the complaint says.
The activity lasted until after midnight.
Kelly died from her wounds at 9:47 p.m.
This is a good move; we need transparency and video records sometimes of what the cops are doing.
Excerpts from the Article:
Requiring all police officers in the state to wear body cameras was part of the Delaware Black Caucus’ Justice for All agenda, unveiled last year following protests over the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd.
On Wednesday morning, members of the caucus joined other lawmakers at State Police Troop 2 in Glasgow as Gov. John Carney signed the legislation making the statewide program official.
“While we were trying to address a global pandemic and all of the racial unrest in our country, we were able to galvanize together, work together to present something to the citizens of Delaware to address the uncertainty that so many of them felt,” said State Sen. Darius Brown.
Carney said while some departments in the state have already been using body cameras, it was important to make it a statewide effort.
“It’s more about the trust that something like this is creating between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve — particularly communities of color — that is so critically important for law enforcement to do their jobs and for our communities to be safe,” Carney said.
Lawmakers voted unanimously last month to approve the body camera legislation. State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker sponsored the bill, which she says will help protect citizens and police. “Body-worn cameras create transparency and accountability, not just for the officers but for the community as well. I don’t want officers having stories being told about them that aren’t true,” she said.
Evidence on the effectiveness of body-worn cameras is mixed, with some studies showing they have limited effect on police use of force.
State lawmakers included more than $5 million in one-time funding in a supplemental spending bill last month to help fund the first year of the program.
Over the next six months, a committee will work to develop protocols and guidelines for how the video captured by these cameras will be used.
“We are not done,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings. “We need to equip our police with both the technology and an updated policy, I think by January 2022.”
Historically, police and prosecutors have not been very forthcoming about sharing footage from officers who’ve been wearing cameras in the state.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer took a rare step earlier this year when he released the footage captured by officers’ body cameras in the fatal shooting of Lymond Moses, a Black man killed by officers in January. The footage shows two white officers asking Moses to get out of his car, claiming they saw marijuana. Moses drove off and, after making a U-turn at a dead-end, the footage shows multiple officers shooting at the moving car, even after it appeared to swerve around them.
The police union objected to Meyer’s move, saying it “taints the investigative process.” Others, including the ACLU of Delaware, applauded Meyer’s decision as an important way to rebuild trust.
God Bless lawyers like Mr. Igwe. Come on, Delaware State Police, you can do much better than this bullshit!
When cops act like the rude idiots in this case, they just further undermine respect for police. This is another good reason to eliminate the Delaware police Bill of Rights law!
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware State Police are facing a lawsuit after four plainclothes officers in unmarked vehicles blockaded a woman in her car and held her at gunpoint, before realizing she was not the suspect they were searching for.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday night in U.S. District Court, seeks damages for “extreme emotional pain and suffering,” citing claims of excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery, and negligence.
Martiayna Watson, 20, was leaving the BP Gas station at 201 S. Heald St. in Wilmington’s Southbridge neighborhood at 5:25 p.m. on June 24 when, according to the suit, she noticed a car driving slowly behind her. The car followed her to the 1000 block of Church St. when the car suddenly swerved in front of Watson to cut her off, stopped and reversed into her car. At the same time, a second car hit Watson from behind.
A third and fourth car then pulled up on either side of her car, blocking her in. All four cars were unmarked Delaware State Police vehicles driven by plainclothes officers.
“I thought I was about to be kidnapped,” Watson said Thursday during a press conference outside the gas station.
The four plainclothes officers got out of their cars with guns drawn and pointed at Watson through her rolled-down windows, according to the suit.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Stop talking and shut the —- up,” an officer said, the suit says.
One of the officers broke the driver’s side rear window of Watson’s car, according to the suit, and another officer opened the door of her car and forcefully pulled out Watson.
When Watson started to cry and ask what was going on, according to the lawsuit, an officer put a stun gun to her neck and said, “I’m going to —- you up.”
“I think we have the wrong person,” an officer eventually said, according to the suit.
The officers had been searching for a Black man and woman driving a dark gray Nissan Maxima, suspects of a pawn shop robbery earlier that day, said Emeka Igwe, one of the lawyers representing Watson. Watson, a Black woman, was driving a light gray Nissan Altima.
When they realized they had the wrong person, the officers drove away, leaving Watson in the street with her damaged car, the lawsuit said.
Richard Smith, president of the Delaware NAACP, happened to be driving by when he saw the officers pull Watson out of her car. He intervened when he heard her crying out for help.
“What do we do as Black people in the city of Wilmington? Just lay down and die?” Smith said at the press conference. “When is enough enough?”
Watson, standing at 4 feet, 10 inches, said the 10-minute incident left her traumatized. “I can’t even drive without thinking something is going to happen to me,” Watson said. “I’m so scared, and I did nothing wrong.”
Watson said she was not offered victim support like counseling in the aftermath. Instead, a state police sergeant and lieutenant apologized and offered money to help fix her car, Igwe said.
Delaware State Police did not respond to questions about any support Watson received.
Igwe also said none of the four officers was wearing a body camera.
Delaware State Police did not respond to questions asking if unmarked police cars have dash cameras.
Watson and her lawyers have not been able to learn the names of the four officers involved. Her requests for badge numbers that day went ignored. The Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights has made it difficult for her to learn any information about the officers involved and whether they are being disciplined.
The Officer’s Bill of Rights bars the public from accessing police disciplinary and personnel records. Delaware is one of only 15 states to have these kinds of laws, which keep citizens largely uninformed about police shootings and instances of misconduct.
Under the law, internal investigations into complaints against police are kept secret.
State police did not respond to questions asking if an internal investigation was underway. Watson’s attorneys have also not been able to confirm if the incident is being investigated by state police. The only way records can be disclosed is through civil proceedings, like Watson’s lawsuit.
In the past year, Delaware activists and lawmakers have pushed to reform the law. Attempts at change stalled this year in the Legislature after police raised concerns about what it would mean for law enforcement.
“They can get away with anything they want to get away with,” Smith said.
“Qualified immunity” is a horrible doctrine, causing much injustice. The current Supreme Court is not likely to fix it, but this is another good reason to “pack the Court”!
Excerpts from the Article:
After police followed an unarmed robbery suspect into Amy Corbitt’s Georgia yard, they ordered four young children – at gunpoint – to lie face down on the ground. When a deputy sheriff spotted a pet dog, which Corbitt said “posed no threat,” he shot at the dog twice and missed. The second shot hit Corbitt’s 10-year-old son lying less than 2 feet from the deputy, causing a serious leg injury.
Corbitt sued to hold the deputy liable for excessive force that violated her son’s constitutional rights, but she ran into a hurdle so high that it has stopped thousands of people from holding police accountable for unconstitutional acts.
A federal appeals panel threw out Corbitt’s case, with a majority granting the deputy “qualified immunity.” Why? Because Corbitt failed to find a prior case with the same facts where a court ruled an officer violated the law by accidentally shooting a bystander. Thus, there was no “clearly established” law against the deputy’s actions.
A dissenting judge had a more sensible take on the events of July 10, 2014: “Facing no apparent threat (the officer) chose to fire his lethal weapon in the direction of these children. No reasonable officer would engage in such recklessness” or “think such recklessness was lawful.”
The Supreme Court declined to review the case last year, shutting Corbitt out of court. And no officer will be deterred from such reckless conduct in the future.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year and protests over police brutality, this once-obscure legal doctrine has turned into a rallying cry in the drive against excessive force.
Created by the Supreme Court in a series of rulings starting in 1967, qualified immunity means if a victim wants to sue police – or any government official – she must find a case from the Supreme Court or in her federal circuit (the United States is divided into 12 circuits) where a court ruled that the exact same situation violated constitutional rights. If she can’t, those rights are not considered clearly established and the courtroom door is barred.
Knowing many probation officers, I sure believe the allegations of misconduct in the lawsuit!
Excerpts from the Article:
In August 2017, a judge weighed sending Kisha Reilly to prison for years, but opted for mercy and a probation sentence that would be one more chance for Reilly to put longtime substance abuse problems behind her.
A year later to that day, Reilly died from a drug overdose.
In that year, her family claims she was coerced into a sexual relationship by one of her probation officers as he turned a blind eye to failed drug tests and helped fund both her drug use and court-ordered rehabilitation, according to a lawsuit filed by her son and widower.
The lawsuit was filed without the representation of an attorney in August 2020. It makes claims of wrongful death and negligence against the probation officer, Dave Turko, as well as the Department of Correction and its probation section. The defendants were only recently served, and, earlier this week, an attorney was appointed to represent Turko, so they have not responded to the allegations of the lawsuit in court.
Because Kisha Reilly is dead and irrefutable text-message evidence is not available, we can’t know the exact nature of Reilly’s relationship with Turko.
But their undeniably unprofessional connection — evidenced by things like hundreds of phone calls back and forth between the two each month — raises questions about the Delaware Department of Correction’s willingness to police its own employees. It also exposes a gap in state law that fails to clearly place consequences on officers who abuse their authority over those getting out of prison or on court-ordered probation.
Armed with phone records, receipts and other evidence pulled from Kisha Reilly’s bedroom months after she died, her family demanded an investigation from the Department of Correction, the state entity that runs probation.
Department policy forbids relationships between probation officers and probationers. Most other states criminally prosecute probation officers for sexual relationships with probationers, regardless of consent. The common thinking is that consent is impossible when a probation officer can instantly strip a person of their freedom.
And while it is a felony in Delaware for a police or correctional officer to have sex with a person in their custody, regardless of consent, neither state prosecutors nor state correction officials say the law applies to such contact between a probationer and their supervising officer.
And so, demands for investigation only led to Turko resigning his job before he could be interviewed by correction’s internal affairs unit, and his oversight of Reilly was never considered by prosecutors.
Turko now works for the Red Clay Consolidated School District at John Dickinson High School in Milltown, according to a school district spokeswoman who would not disclose Turko’s job title. Turko did not return numerous phone calls and attempts to reach him through his ex-wife and the school district. The attorney representing him in the lawsuit filed by Reilly’s family declined to comment on his behalf.
The situation appears to be a failure in accountability.
“It is an interesting question about Delaware law: whether they are reading it right or choosing not to read it to not draw attention,” said Martin Horn, a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation and a retired professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The situation leaves her family, particularly her 19-year-old son and her husband, who remains imprisoned for his part in the pawn shop racket that saw Reilly sentenced to probation, grasping for answers and what they see as accountability.
Reilly pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation, theft and drug charges tied to a shoplifting racket run out of the Gold Fever pawn shop she operated with her husband in Middletown. She also pleaded to a DUI she had while out on bail for charges tied to the racket. At her sentencing, prosecutors pointed out her previous 27 arrests in three different states and 14 subsequent violations of probations as reason to lock her up. Her defense attorney pointed out recent efforts and improvement fighting longstanding substance abuse problems.
Evidence seized as part of the investigation into the Gold Fever pawn shop run by Shaun and Kisha Reilly. In court, prosecutors accused the Reillys of participating in a scheme to recruit individuals suffering from drug addiction to shoplift items that would later be sold at the pawn shop. At her sentencing hearing, the judge decided that she was not going to “incarcerate” the “very poor judgement” out of Reilly, “this time, anyway.” She made clear that anything other than “strict compliance” by Reilly with her probation terms would land her in prison.
Her house arrest terms included “zero tolerance” for nonprescribed drugs and alcohol and gave her probation officer the power to arrest her without a warrant, according to the court document.
“You are going to be the best probationer your probation officer has ever met,” said Judge Andrea Rocanelli at the sentencing.
Turko was assigned to oversee her house arrest during her first six months of probation. His job title was senior probation officer with the ability to approve or disapprove progress or violation reports and give “informal guidance” to junior officers, according to corrections officials.
The lawsuit filed by Shaun Reilly, Kisha Reilly’s husband of 16 years, claims that Turko “coerced” an “ongoing, continuous” sexual relationship with Kisha Reilly, enlisting “his authority” to overlook failed drug screens in return.
The lawsuit said this coercion started when he had direct supervision over her probation and continued after she was taken off house arrest and was under the direct supervision of a female officer until Reilly died. That officer did not return phone calls seeking comment.
To back up these claims, Shaun Reilly and his family lean on Kisha Reilly’s conversations with them before she died — conversations echo allegations in the lawsuit. But they also have hard evidence connecting the two: including phone records, receipts and canisters of “law enforcement unit” pepper spray, which they found in her room after she died.
Phone records retrieved by Kisha Reilly’s family after her death show the two began frequent communication in early November 2017, two months after she had been assigned to his authority. Through the end of that month, there were more than 130 calls or voice messages either from or to Turko’s personal phone in addition to a dozen or so involving his work number.
In most months until June, the last month for which the family has phone records, there are either close to or more than 200 phone calls or voicemails involving his work or personal line in addition to a smattering of calls from the Cherry Lane probation officers to Kisha Reilly’s phones.
Kisha Reilly’s family said they have not been able to access text message records.
Her son and her mother-in-law, who shared a home with Reilly, said Turko’s presence was noticed either in phone communication or Turko picking Reilly up to go to work or other places.
She was employed at a local gym as well as Hak’s Sports Bar, a strip club on Wilmington’s south side. The manager of the club – who was also in regular communication with Kisha Reilly, records indicate – declined to comment for this story.
Mason Reilly, Kisha Reilly’s son, said Turko befriended him; would bring food to their home; attended one of his wrestling matches; and communicated with him via text messages, which Delaware Online/The News Journal has reviewed. One time, he and his mother went to a massage and she called Turko to pay for it over the phone, her son said.
After Kisha Reilly died, her family found evidence of other purchases the lawsuit said he made on her behalf. Those included a receipt for a monthly recurring payment of about $80 for Reilly’s court-ordered Breathalyzer with payment information that includes a card bearing his name. They also found Turko’s name on a receipt for court-ordered counseling, a spa receipt and a receipt for a gift card for a clothing store in Bear.
In a series of conversations from Howard R. Young Correctional Institution where he is serving a nine-year sentence for the pawn shop racket and weapons charges, Shaun Reilly described details from his lawsuit, saying he confronted his wife about how much time she spent and communication she had with Turko.
He said she told him Turko was a “friend” giving her “safe passage” through her probationary period. He said she later told him that Turko covered for her “dirty urines.”
“As an addict, if you know there is no consequences to your actions, you just continue down your self-destructive path,” Shaun Reilly said. “With that knowledge, there was nothing more in place to stop her from using drugs.”
Denise Toy, Shaun Reilly’s mother who lived in the same home as Kisha Reilly, said she argued with her daughter-in-law over her closeness with Turko. One time, Kisha Reilly asked Toy if she would allow Turko to move into the home with them, she said.
Another time, Mason Reilly said, toward the end of her life, his mother told him she had to end her relationship with Turko. There was another time Toy received a text message, reviewed by Delaware Online/The News Journal, from Kisha Reilly that was apparently meant for Turko from two months before she died. It addresses him as Dave in the message and discusses sexual contact and what appears to be a fading, romantic relationship.
A separate fight with Toy prompted Kisha Reilly to explain to her that Turko cared about them and had covered for her dirty urines, Toy stated. Another family friend said Kisha Reilly told him the same thing.
Available court records indicate that Turko and the other officer that took over her supervision never reported any failed drug tests to the court. Correction officials said she had never failed a drug test administered by the Department of Correction, but declined to provide relevant records citing the pending litigation.
In Kisha Reilly’s room after her death, her family found personal notes reminding her to urinate a lot and drink lots of water on certain dates.
Her family also found records of four separate drug tests that indicate the presence of nonprescribed medications including Xanax, morphine and other prescription narcotics. The urinalysis screenings were ordered by Wilmington Doctor Pasquale Fucci of Brandywine Medical Associates. It appears they were not part of her court-ordered programming. Erica Mutter, an official for Brandywine, declined to comment on the specific documents.
Mason Reilly said Turko began texting him, asking if he had heard from her and later suggested someone kick down the door to her room. When a family member did later that afternoon, they found her dead. A medical examiner would conclude she died of an overdose involving cocaine, heroin and fentanyl. She was 37 years old.
After Delaware State Police combed the room, Denise Toy showed the text message she believes Kisha Reilly inadvertently sent to her instead of Turko. She told a detective that she believed they were in an inappropriate relationship.
She gave them a memory card from the camera facing their front door, hoping to substantiate their suspicion that Turko was there the night she died. State police also eventually took possession of one of Kisha Reilly’s cellphones, Toy said. The family believes state police still have that and the camera memory card.
State police Senior Cpl. Heather Pepper, a spokeswoman for the department, declined to say whether police took any action over Toy’s concern or the data they received. State police also declined a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records as to the existence of any investigation.
Delaware law gives police cover to hide all records detailing their investigatory work when someone is not arrested.
Toy said they never heard anything from state police about it and eventually she turned to the Department of Correction.
She has a cardboard box she carries to meetings with journalists, attorneys and private investigators. It contains items from Kisha Reilly’s room, phone records, receipts, drug screens, pepper spray and other letters she says are evidence of an inappropriate relationship.
She brought that box to meet with officials in the Department of Correction’s Internal Affairs unit in April 2019 following Kisha Reilly’s death. After laying out her concerns, she was told to give the investigators 30 days and then contact them.
Mason Reilly said before those 30 days were up, he got a message from a family friend that said Turko had resigned. Toy then called one of the investigators, who told her “we were calling him in for questioning, but he resigned,” she recalled.
She said she remembered thinking, “That’s it?”
“It’s not right,” she said. “A woman is dead.”
Correction officials defended their response to Toy’s complaint. They said they have no power to compel a former employee to conduct an interview. They said they investigated the report, even after he resigned, but found “no actionable criminal offense to report to an outside criminal agency.”
They declined to detail what investigative steps they took.
Corrections has a thorough policy for how sexual contact, regardless of consent, within its prisons and work-release facilities is to be investigated. That policy, based on provisions of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, states that if “an allegation indicates criminal behavior,” DOC will refer it to state police. And when the “quality of evidence appears to support criminal prosecution,” it states that DOC investigators shall force interviews after consulting with prosecutors to make sure such interviews won’t hinder a future criminal case. It also states that allegations of sex abuse will be investigated “thoroughly” until it is determined to be substantiated, unsubstantiated or unfounded and that determination will rest on whether there is a greater than 50% chance the allegation is true.
The policy states that it applies to all DOC “employees” and all offenders under the “custody or supervision” of DOC, but, in a written statement, Jason Miller, Correction Department spokesman, said it applies only to sexual contact involving people actually locked up in one of the state’s prisons or work release facilities.
So it’s unclear what steps they took or evidence they sought beyond Toy’s box.
Other Department of Correction written policies state that they may request investigatory backup from state police “when necessary.” Policy also states that for employees determined to have committed a crime, “resignation in lieu of prosecution shall not be permitted,” unless approved by the commissioner.
Based on the lawsuit, interviews with the family and emails exchanged with the Department of Correction, it appears corrections never enlisted investigatory help from state police despite the police already having potential cellphone evidence turned over by Kisha Reilly’s family when she died.
The Delaware Department of Justice, the state’s criminal prosecutors, said they’d never received a report of this situation from corrections.
Even if investigators put in the work to substantiate that there was, as the lawsuit claims, sexual contact between Kisha Reilly and Turko, corrections officials said they do not see it as a violation of Delaware’s criminal law.
Delaware law lists two separate crimes dealing with law enforcement officers having sex or sexual contact with those under their authority. That includes correctional officers working in local prisons.
While there is no question that probation officers are legally considered law enforcement officers, DOC officials don’t believe the law applies to probation officers. The law states that it is a felony for a “law enforcement officer” to engage in any sexual contact, regardless of consent, with any person in “custody.” The law defines “custody” as “restraint by a public servant pursuant to an arrest, detention or an order of a court.”
Effectively, aspects of a probationer’s life are restrained by the court order placing them on house arrest and probation, but Miller argued that the more appropriate way to legally describe the power a probation officer has over a probationer is “supervision,” not “custody” and thus the law does not apply.
The Delaware Department of Justice, which employs attorneys that interpret criminal law to prosecute crimes, neither agreed nor disagreed with that interpretation.
“Honestly, we can’t say one way or the other — we haven’t been able to find case law or precedent that addresses the question,” wrote Mat Marshall, spokesperson for the DOJ.
Horn, the New York probation official, said most states have criminal laws covering such conduct and questioned whether corrections officials’ interpretation of the law is self-serving. He added that there might have been scope to investigate potential official misconduct — the law that bars public officials from using their government power for personal gain.
“The question is why the state of Delaware does not want to take action,” Horn said.
Beyond potential criminal ramifications, if Turko were to apply to another probation-officer position elsewhere and asked Delaware corrections officials for a recommendation or job history, officials said they could not divulge any information regarding the allegations made by Reilly’s family.
Brian Lovins, incoming president of the American Probation and Parole Association, said there needs to be a more broad, national set of standards for probation officer conduct, something his organization is working on. Lovins noted laws criminalizing inappropriate relationships do not always work as a deterrent, but there needs to be some mechanism to ensure the officer engaged in such conduct can’t assume the same job in another jurisdiction.
“There should be laws, they should be applicable and they should set consequences,” Lovins said.
Toy’s last conversation with corrections internal affairs in April 2019 was the last time her family heard from any law enforcement source on the issue. They wrote letters to state government officials and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “If this isn’t enough evidence for someone to take a look at this thing, I don’t know what will do,” Shaun Reilly said.
They went to attorneys, who all wanted money to get involved, Toy said. “We don’t have money,” said Toy, whose family was also assessed a civil judgment for the pawn shop racket.
So as the two-year anniversary of Kisha Reilly’s death approached — along with the two-year statute of limitations for seeking civil court damages — Shaun Reilly filed his lawsuit.
“This was the only last and final effort and push I could make,” Shaun Reilly said. “I’m still her husband to this day. In death, it does not change. The love I have for her will not go away.” Through the litigation, the family hopes to compel other evidence proving the exact nature of the relationship.
Beyond the hard evidence they have showing an unprofessional connection, the lawsuit makes more broad allegations, specifically that he funded her drug habit. Shaun Reilly said that is based off hearsay in prison as well as speculation.
They hope to at some point be able to subpoena text messages and other evidence that may show more.
He dismissed the idea of him bringing the litigation as a jealous husband. He said he is “angry” and the idea that Kisha Reilly might have in some ways welcomed the relationship “does not make it right.” “If you take advantage of people, you need to be held to account,” Shaun Reilly said. “No matter if you are a public servant or a civilian.”
And while they don’t have hard records drawing a direct line between her death and Turko right now, Shaun Reilly said he believes if Turko had done his job honestly, his wife would still be alive.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, but Shaun Reilly said that is secondary. He wants what he sees as justice and said Turko deserves to be “in cuffs.” “If the line is not drawn, it will continue to happen.”
He got what he deserves. He will be lucky if an inmate does not kill him.
Excerpts from the Article:
A Minnesota judge on Friday sentenced Derek Chauvin to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose desperate gasps for air beneath the knee of the White officer captured on a viral video forever changed the American conversation on race and justice.
Chauvin, who was fired after the killing and convicted by a jury in April on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, had faced up to 40 years in prison.
In rendering his sentence, Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who oversaw Chauvin’s trial, offered brief remarks, saying it was not the time to be “profound or clever” from the bench. He said he had based the sentence on the facts of the case and not “public opinion.”
“The sentence is not based on his emotion or sympathy. But at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family, Cahill said. “You have our sympathies and I acknowledge and hear the pain that you’re feeling.”
The killing on May 25, 2020, captured on a gruesome Facebook video, shook the nation and forced a painful reckoning on issues of race and police brutality that continues to play out across a divided America. Chauvin’s conviction, a rarity in a country roiled by multiple high-profile cases of Black people being killed by police, was praised by Floyd’s family and activists as a historic moment of justice and a potential sign of change.
Before the sentencing, the court heard victim impact statements from four members of Floyd’s family, including the man’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, who in a small, singsong voice spoke of how her daddy used to help her brush her teeth and play with her. “I miss him,” she said.
In the courtroom, Chauvin, who sported a freshly shaved head and wore a light gray suit, appeared to watch the video, occasionally blinking but otherwise unemotional. As three other Floyd family members approached a podium inside the socially distanced courtroom, the former officer turned his head to listen to them speak but otherwise had no reaction.
“I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family,” Chauvin said, briefly glancing back toward Floyd’s siblings and nephew. “There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some some peace of mind.”
Meanwhile, Chauvin and his ex-wife, Kellie, are scheduled to appear before a state judge Wednesday on felony tax evasion charges. The couple are accused of failing to report nearly $500,000 in income — including payments Chauvin allegedly received while doing off-duty police security. The couple have not entered in a plea in that case, which was delayed because of Chauvin’s murder trial.
Sentences for police officers convicted of killing people while on duty vary widely, according to data tracked by Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Police are rarely charged for killing people on duty, and convictions are even less common. According to Stinson’s data, 11 officers — including Chauvin — have been convicted of murdering someone while on duty since 2005, with sentences ranging from more than six years in prison to a life sentence.
Md. public defenders: OC police need body cameras – HOW TO DEMAND THEM – BODY CAMERAS – FOR YOUR AREA
ALL police departments should have body cameras! If your local or state police do not have them, call for them with a rally. Here is exactly how to do it: READ Practical Tip – Instructions for how to cause “Good Trouble” – kra 6/8/21
Excerpts from the Article:
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender is calling on Ocean City to equip its police officers with body cameras after bystander videos of several violent arrests on the boardwalk went viral last week.
In a letter to Ocean City leaders, District Public Defender Chastity Simpson said the town should adopt body worn-cameras well ahead of the 2025 deadline state lawmakers set for Maryland police departments during the 2021 legislative session. ‘A swift effort to utilize (body-worn cameras) would promote Ocean City police-community relations and show the tourism industry that we prioritize the safety and dignity of our visitors, and will take meaningful action when it appears threatened,’ Simpson wrote.
‘There is no need for Ocean City to wait until 2025 to implement this urgently needed measure,’ the letter continues.
The letter follows widespread outcry over a series of viral videos that showed Ocean City police violently arresting several young Black men.
Leaders from across Maryland decried the videos and called for an investigation. The incidents came only months after lawmakers passed sweeping police reform laws that would change police disciplinary procedures and rules for the use of force.
Those laws, including one that will mandate body cameras in all Maryland police departments by 2025, have yet to go into effect.
The uproar over the videos happened only because bystanders took videos of the police interactions, Simpson wrote in the letter.
The boardwalk videos have ‘brought Ocean City into the center of the national debate about policing and race relations, and is bringing rightful scrutiny to how our law enforcement officers treat tourists and residents,’ Simpson wrote.
The videos show two separate incidents that took place a week apart.
In one video, an officer repeatedly kneed a 19-year-old man who was crouched on the ground on the boardwalk. Ocean City police later said officers had seen a large group of people vaping, in violation of the town’s smoking ordinance, and that the 19-year-old continued to vape and refused to provide identification when police approached him.
A crowd gathered around the officers as they tried to arrest the man and officers confronted several people, ultimately shocking one person with Taser and arresting four men, all from Harrisburg.
Another video shows the June 6 arrest of an 18-year-old Cecil County, Maryland, man who was also accused of vaping on the boardwalk. Police in the video are shown surrounding the man, who has his hands raised in the air.
When the man reached slightly toward his backpack strap, an officer immediately used a Taser him.
‘The sight of a young Black man being repeatedly kneed by the police officer for being uncooperative is an unacceptable excessive use of force,’ Smith said. ‘I am looking forward to the time that we won’t have to worry about our kids and family coming to Ocean City to have a good time.’
Ocean City could also face legal action related to the arrests.
Billy Murphy, a Maryland lawyer who represented Freddie Gray’s family when Gray died after suffering an injury in Baltimore police custody, said he had already been contacted by one of the young men involved in the Ocean City incident.