Cicero, Ill.'s Top Cop Suspended
CICERO, Ill. (AP) - David Niebur rode into the town intent on rooting out corruption in the police department. Five months later, the police superintendent is riding out, suspended from the force and fearing for his life.
``In my career, I have had people shoot at me, and I have killed people. But I have never been so scared as I am this week here,'' said Niebur, who was hired from Joplin, Mo., in December. ``This is big-time crime. This is big-time corruption.''
Cicero, population 67,400, has had the stigma of corruption ever since Al Capone set up his headquarters here, running his empire of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution from the Hawthorne Arms Hotel.
Niebur and Deputy Superintendent Philip Bue, who were brought in by the town to stop corruption in its police department, said they were suspended from the force Friday because of what they uncovered.
The pair said they found officers were making thousands of dollars a month by shaking down undocumented immigrants and making false arrests to elicit bribes. They also said some officers have extensive criminal records, and cases involving solvable killings languish for years without arrests.
Town officials acknowledge reform of its police department is needed but said the men were suspended with pay for refusing to cooperate with the town's own investigation into its contract with a towing company, Ram Recovery Inc.
Niebur said residents complained to him that the city was towing cars for no apparent reason and forcing them to pay hundreds of dollars to get the vehicles back. Ram was towing about 45,000 vehicles a year, which Niebur thought was an unusually large number for the town's population. Chicago tows about twice as many cars but has 40 times more people.
Town officials said that Neibur and Bue did not cooperate with its investigation of the matter. But the men said they were acting on the advice of the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI.
Town President Betty Loren-Maltese said the towing company investigation was just one of the sources of conflict with Niebur. She said he broke up an anti-gang unit and failed to put enough officers on the street. Residents calling 911 could wait up to three hours for a response from police, she said.
Jury in Reed trial may be finalized today
Tuesday, May 5, 1998
By Thomas L. Flannery Intelligencer Journal Staff
ROBERT S. REED
Former police officer to sit for second trial on molestation charges Intelligencer Journal
Jury selection for a suspended East Lampeter Township police officer accused of sexual molestation of a minor moved at a tedious pace Monday, with no jurors being picked. This is the second trial for Robert S. Reed, 38, of East Petersburg, on charges of attempted statutory rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual behavior, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure and corruption of minors.
On March 20, after 12 hours of deliberation over three days, a single juror deadlocked a panel of 11 men and one woman.
Lancaster County Judge James P. Cullen declared a mistrial, and District Attorney Joseph C. Madenspacher subsequently refiled charges against Reed.
Prosecutors allege that Reed began molesting a young girl who was under his care when she was 8, and continued to do so over a four-year period, ending in 1996.
Reed has said, under oath, that the alleged events never occurred, and that the girl fabricated the story at her mother's request to block his attempt to gain custody of his son.
A 16-year veteran of the East Lampeter department, Reed testified in his first trial that his wife had threatened to ruin his career and have him thrown into jail during a bitter custody battle in 1997, a few weeks before the state Attorney General filed charges against him that March.
Reed, dressed in a green, summer-weight suit, white shirt and tie, smiled congenially as court officers led a jury panel of 50 men and women into the courtroom.
Cullen then posed 19 questions to the panel, ranging from anyone knowing Reed, to their ability to sit through a trial that is expected to last four more days.
When the panel was asked if anyone had heard of Reed, or had read or heard anything about his previous trial, 26 said yes, but none said they had made a decision as to Reed's innocence or guilt.
Several others said they, or someone they knew, were victims of a crime, and four said they, or someone they knew, were subjected to sexual abuse.
Because of the sensitive nature of the questioning, Cullen, the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Tony Georgelis, Reed, and his attorney, Robert Reese, retired to the jury deliberation room to interview 33 of these jurors.
The individual, private interviews continued for the duration of the day, with actual jury selection expected to be concluded this morning.
Cullen said that in addition to the 12 regular jurors, he may elect to pick more than the standard two alternate jurors, who fill in should one of the regular jurors be unable to continue.
Georgelis headed the county's Child Abuse Prosecution Unit when he prosecuted Reed in March. He entered private practice as a personal injury attorney for the McIntyre Law Firm, 240 N. Duke St., but stayed on with the district attorney's office on a part-time basis to handle the retrial.
This isn't Reed's first run-in with the law over sexual matters.
In 1995, he was suspended and demoted from corporal to patrolman for making a sexually explicit videotape with two former township secretaries.
Also, Reed is one of eight county law enforcement officers under federal investigation for alleged professional misconduct in the Lisa Michelle Lambert murder investigation and subsequent prosecution.
If convicted, Reed faces 55 years in prison. He remains free on $100,000 bail, and has been on suspension without pay since May 1997.
Turning the Tide POB 1055 Culver City CA 90232 310-288-5003 killercops http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/4801
June 19, 1998, NYTimes
Officer Accused in 1994 Death Was Labeled Violent in '91
By BENJAMIN WEISER
NEW YORK -- Three years before a New York City police officer, Francis Livoti, was accused in the choking death of Anthony Baez during a 1994 arrest in the Bronx, his commanding officer recommended that he be transferred because of the number of police brutality complaints against him.
The department did not follow the recommendation of Deputy Chief William Casey, then commander of the 46th Precinct in the Bronx, who described his concerns about Livoti in a recent deposition in a pending civil lawsuit against the Police Department by the Baez family.
In the deposition, Casey testified that he also changed Livoti's shift, gave him a new partner, talked with him and recommended to him that he undergo psychological counseling.
Livoti is currently on trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on a charge of depriving Baez of his civil rights. In October 1996, he was acquitted of state charges of criminally negligent homicide in Baez's death. The acquittal ignited street protests in the Bronx and focused more attention on the issue of police brutality. In February 1997, after a separate administrative trial, the Police Department dismissed Livoti from the force after finding that he had used an illegal and deadly choke hold on Baez.
The lawyer for Livoti, Stuart London, who has said that his client denies all wrongdoing in the Baez case as well as in other civilian complaints, did not return calls to his pager last night.
But the testimony by Casey shows that, as early as 1991, high-level police officials were aware of the concerns about Livoti and did not take action.
Thursday, the government continued to present its civil rights case against Livoti; the trial has included testimony from members of Baez's family that they saw Livoti grab Baez around the neck. In the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 1994, Baez, 29, was tossing a football with his three brothers near their childhood home in the University Heights section of the Bronx, where Baez was visiting from his home in Florida. When the brothers' football hit a patrol car repeatedly, Livoti got out of his car and confronted the brothers in an incident that ultimately led to the struggle in which prosecutors say Livoti choked Baez. Baez died shortly thereafter
Prosecutors have not said publicly whether Casey will testify at the trial. But prosecutors may have been alluding to his concerns when they told the jury Thursday -- in a statement agreed to by the defense -- that before Baez's death in 1994, Livoti had been "individually warned by the commander of the 46th Precinct to refrain from using excessive force and to avoid unnecessary civilian confrontations." A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan would not discuss whether Casey would testify.
Casey's testimony in the deposition also points to the influence that the police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has in disciplinary matters. Casey testified that his case for Livoti's transfer had to be even stronger because the officer was the precinct's union delegate.
"There is a different criteria in the transferring of a PBA delegate than a normal officer," Casey testified in response to a question from state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon. He said that in order to get a union delegate transferred, the officer's behavior had "to be more egregious than normal police officers."
Parts of the chief's deposition remain sealed under an order from Justice McKeon. A lawyer for the Baez family, Susan Karten, declined to make a copy available or to discuss it, citing the judge's order.
Casey, who is assigned to the Department's organized-crime control bureau, referred a request for comment to a Department spokeswoman, who declined to comment.
Lawyers defending New York City in the Baez family's civil suit have sought to keep Casey's testimony out of the public record, requesting the confidentiality order and objecting in a hearing April 7 before McKeon when one of the family's lawyers referred briefly to the transfer recommendation.
"Casey said, 'Get Livoti out of the 46th and give him a less stressful job,"' said the family lawyer, S. Alan LeBlang, leading to the city's objection, a transcript showed.
In his deposition, Casey said that Livoti was the first officer he had ever tried to transfer, and that he had done a full analysis of Livoti's civilian complaint record. Although details of that record were not available Tuesday, federal prosecutors, in court papers, have described one incident -- which the jury will not hear about in court -- that predates the chief's June 1991 recommendation to transfer Livoti.
In that September 1990 incident, according to the court papers, Livoti was arresting a man, Ivan Cruz, and twisting his arm behind his back when a second man, Manuel Bordoy, approached and told Livoti that he was being unnecessarily rough. The two men were returning home to the Bronx from a nightclub in Manhattan.
According to the government's account -- which Livoti denies -- he then punched Bordoy twice in the face, breaking his jaw in three places.
Prosecutors also wrote to Judge Shira Scheindlin that "there are numerous other incidents in which Livoti was alleged to have used excessive force in connection with his work as a police officer."
Casey said in the deposition that in 1991 he did not recommend a specific assignment for Livoti; it could have been a clerical assignment, he suggested, or merely a move to a precinct with a lower crime rate and less violence. "Almost every place is less stressful than the 46th," Casey said.
June 20, 1998, NYTimes
U.S. Rests Case in 1994 Choke-Hold Death
By BENJAMIN WEISER
The Government rested its case Friday in the trial of Francis X. Livoti, the former New York City police officer accused in the 1994 choking death of Anthony Baez.
It did so without calling a single police officer to the stand, despite the presence of several officers at the scene that night in the Bronx when, prosecutors contend, Livoti used an illegal choke hold to subdue Baez during an arrest, and caused his death.
There have long been questions about whether a code of silence among fellow officers has operated to protect Livoti in the investigation of Baez's death. In 1996, a State Supreme Court justice acquitted Livoti of charges of criminally negligent homicide but said that he was concerned about a "nest of perjury" among officers. The acquittal ignited street protests in the Bronx and made the Baez death a bitter symbol in the debate over police brutality in New York.
Then, last year, in a Police Department disciplinary proceeding that led to Livoti's dismissal from the force, the hearing officer said that some police testimony seemed to be "suspiciously tailored" in the case.
On Tuesday, a Federal prosecutor, Mark F. Pomerantz, told the jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan that some police testimony in the Federal trial, in which Livoti faces a charge of violating Baez's civil rights, "may be truthful, some of it may not be truthful."
"Some of it may come to you from police officers who either did not see what happened," Pomerantz said, "or who covered up what happened on Cameron Place on Dec. 22 in order to protect a fellow officer and in order to protect themselves."
Yesterday, Livoti's lawyer, Stuart London, opened the defense by calling Sgt. William Monahan, who rode with Officer Livoti in the patrol car the night Baez died.
The sergeant testified that he did not see Officer Livoti grab Baez.
"Did Officer Livoti have his arms around Anthony Baez's neck?"
"No," Sergeant Monahan replied.
Sergeant Monahan also testified that Baez, a 29-year-old Floridian visiting his family in the Bronx, was resisting arrest that night.
In his questioning of witnesses through the trial, London has sought to discredit the Government's contention that Baez's death was caused by a choke hold, or that family members even saw the former officer grab Baez around the neck. The defense contends that Baez died of a severe asthma attack, and that any force used against Baez was accidental and inadvertent.
But earlier in the day, the Government's final witness, Charles S. Hirsch, Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, testified that the primary cause of death was "asphyxia, due to compression of his neck and chest," and that asthma was a lesser factor.
Citing the internal injuries to Baez's neck, Dr. Hirsch said, "It is my opinion that Baez's injuries resulted from a choke hold."
Later, London suggested in cross-examination that it was not possible to determine from the autopsy whether Baez's injuries were intentionally inflicted or not.
But Dr. Hirsch disagreed. "It is my opinion that Anthony Baez was placed in a choke hold and his neck was squeezed," he said. "That's an intentional act."
London refused to comment after court, except to say that he believed that there had been a rush to judgment about his client. "It's more newsworthy to bash Livoti than to give him a fair trial, which is all we're looking for," London said.
June 26, 1998
Jury Convicts Ex-Cop for Choking
Filed at 7:48 p.m. EDT
By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- A former police officer was convicted Friday of violating the civil rights of a man he choked to death after becoming enraged when a football hit a squad car.
Francis Livoti had been found innocent in 1996 in state court of criminally negligent homicide, a verdict that angered the Hispanic community.
Relatives of the victim, 29-year-old Anthony Baez, were elated by Friday's conviction.
``This is justice! A murderer is going to be behind bars,'' Baez's mother, Iris, said outside court.
Prosecutors said Baez was playing football in the Bronx with friends in December 1994 when two footballs landed on patrol cars, enraging Livoti. They said Livoti placed Baez in a choke hold, killing him.
Defense lawyers said Livoti used reasonable force, arguing that the bruises that a medical examiner attributed to a chokehold were actually caused by a struggle between police and Baez.
The defense said Baez died because he was obese and had asthma.
Prosecutors contended other officers lied to help Livoti, but the defense claimed the family lied to support $48 million in civil lawsuits filed against the police department and the city.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said the verdict ``shows that police officers who commit acts of brutality can be prosecuted and convicted even ... when other officers fabricate testimony or cover up the truth.''
Livoti, who will be sentenced in September, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
June 29, 1998, NYTimes, Editorial
Lessons of the Livoti Case
Should they need fresh evidence of the New York Police Department's tendency to protect or ignore rogues within its ranks, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir can study the career of Francis X. Livoti. Evidence from two sources -- the Federal trial of former Officer Livoti, who on Friday was found guilty of depriving Anthony Baez of his civil rights, and the Baez family lawsuit -- amounts to a primer on the force's inability to thoroughly investigate or adequately punish police misconduct.
These sources depict three debilitating problems woven into the force's culture: a reluctance to curb abusive officers, the failure to punish officers who lie in cover-ups and a custom of going easy on those with ties to the police union or chain of command. As we said after the assault on Abner Louima in a Brooklyn station house last summer, an independent agency is needed to monitor the department. It would work with, not supplant, existing internal investigative and disciplinary structures.
In 1991, three years before Mr. Livoti was accused of choking Anthony Baez to death, his precinct commander reviewed civilian complaints of excessive force, counseled him and recommended a transfer. The department rejected that advice. Mr. Livoti was acquitted of a homicide charge in 1996 and fired in 1997 after a departmental trial for using the choke hold. Trial evidence and civil-suit depositions showed that his role as a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate and his relations with the chain of command helped keep him on patrol after 1991.
Evidence from the Livoti trial also offered a clear picture of how fellow officers exploited a rule allowing them to avoid talking to investigators for 48 hours after an incident to coordinate their versions of events. When the police contract is renegotiated, this rule needs to be eliminated. Mr. Livoti's conviction is another sad reminder of a good department's difficulty in changing a culture that too often hides volatile officers instead of exposing them.
10:43 PM ET 06/25/98
Retired New York cop sentenced in road-rage killing
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A retired New York City police officer convicted of murdering a man during a traffic dispute was given the minimum sentence, 15 years to life, by a judge Thursday who called the case an ``immense tragedy.'' Paul Ruine, 50, was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Perry Walker, Jr., 36, on Jan. 6, 1996 after the two got into a heated dispute on a midtown Manhattan street. Ruine apparently cut Walker off and yelled a racial epithet at him, which started the fight between the two men. ``The verdict was justified based on the evidence before the jury. But it is clear to me that Mr. Ruine is not a criminal. He is not a bad person,'' Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Herbert Altman said before giving him the minimum sentence. He had faced 25 years to life. The judge also said he had no objection to Ruine being considered for an early release program after serving the minimum sentence. Ruine, a 15-year veteran on the force, was accused of shooting five Walker five times with his licensed handgun. But Assistant District Attorney Thomas Schiels said ``the killing was the result of rage, fury ... and hatred for a black man.'' Ruine's lawyer, Mark Baker, said his client was ``a kind, generous and compassionate man. This is simply not a man who needs to be locked away.'' Ruine said he shot Walker in self-defense. ``He stalked us. He was going to kill me and my wife. I'm sorry I had to stop him this way. I'm sorry he's dead,'' he said. A box cutter was found in Walker's jacket after the shooting. Schiels said that Walker had an arrest record that included pleading guilty to attempted robbery in 1993. ``But the defendant did not have a right to take his life,'' he said. Ruine's lawyers said they plan ``a vigorous appeal,'' calling the case ``a gross miscarriage of justice.'' ^REUTERS@
Va. Prison Agency Under Investigation Because of Contracting Deal
Monday, June 29, 1998; Page D02, Washington Post
Contracting work done by Virginia prison inmates violated federal laws, and the Department of Corrections agency involved has been investigated by the state police and a federal grand jury, according to a report published yesterday in the Virginian-Pilot.
The deal in question was between Virginia Correctional Enterprises -- the agency within the state Department of Corrections designed to put prisoners to useful work -- and Massachusetts businessman Edward R. Dovner, according to the Norfolk newspaper.
Dovner hired Virginia Correctional Enterprises to produce pants, flight suits and vests for a 1996 movie, "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Under a 1979 federal law, prisoners can produce goods for interstate trade, but they must be paid minimum wage and clearance for the projects must be obtained from the attorney general and the governor.
The newspaper said that prisoners who worked on the items were paid 63 cents an hour and that the state still badly undercharged Dovner for the items. According to information provided by corrections officials and Dovner's attorney, it cost the prison agency $28.19 to make each pair of pants. The prison agency sold Dovner the pants for $2.50 each. It cost $59.93 to make each flight suit, but the suits were sold for $3 each. The promotional vests cost about $13 each but were sold to Dovner for $1.10 each.
The work on Dovner's vests stopped Jan. 10, 1997, when the state police raided the prison work sites, confiscated materials and shut the operation down. State police officials refuse to discuss the case, saying they are still investigating.
Police beat diabetic man mistaken for drunken driver
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - Sheriff's deputies beat and used a dog and pepper spray to subdue a man in diabetic shock whom they mistook for a drunken driver.
Frederick T. Moore IV, 33, of Centreville, Va., was hospitalized for four days with bruises and bites after the confrontation June 13. Doctors at the hospital told police that he was a diabetic who had gone into shock.
The sheriff's department acknowledged the traffic stop on Thursday after Moore and his wife went to a Washington, D.C., television station to complain.
Moore said his medic-alert tag was hanging from his rearview mirror when he was stopped. Police said they didn't see it.
Deputy Rick Winer forced Moore to pull over after spotting him drive his pickup truck the wrong way down U.S. 340.
Moore, who was alone in the truck, ignored Winer's repeated commands to turn off the ignition, and instead made a growling noise from between clenched teeth and grabbed at his gear shift lever as if he were trying to flee, Maj. Francis Tully said.
The deputy used his police baton to break the driver's side window in an attempt to turn off the engine, Tully said. He struck at Moore's upper arms several times and used pepper spray.
Moore was finally subdued by two state troopers, an additional deputy and a police dog, Tully said.
He was charged with fleeing and eluding police, reckless and negligent driving, hit and run with property damage, disobeying police and driving the wrong way.
Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said the charges will be dropped if an investigation confirms that Moore was suffering from diabetic shock.