Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Women Testifies to Sexual Assault by a Former RPD Offficer

"It's an insult really."

---Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos about being accidentally referred to as the city manager by a city resident during the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee's exercise on showing just why it shouldn't handle complaints.

"This is the very reason that we have consistently recommended to the City Council that an outside body be used to review complaints.Ethics is about perception and it's about behavior and how we conduct business."

--- Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely, chairwoman of the Group who probably wasn't surprised at the decision by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee, which rejected its second straight ethics complaint filed.

Another day of testimony in the ongoing trial of former Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman who is being tried in connection with three felony charges stemming from allegations made by three different women that he sexually assaulted them while onduty. Internal Affairs Sgt. John Capen sat in the audience along with Sgt. Jaybee Brennan who serves as the adjutant to Chief Russ Leach while the testimony unfolded.

Det. Linda Byerly from the sexual assault and child abuse unit continued testifying, this time about surveillance video taken at the Robert Presley Detention Center when Forman and Officer William Zackowski arrive to book a female occupant of the apartment where the alleged victim lived that had been arrested. The video footage which began at about 6:49:12 in the morning shows them entering and interacting with corrections personnel and doing paperwork. After a few minutes they leave, with Forman looking at the female inmate one last time and Zackowski walking straight past her with his head forward as they exit the female inmate intake area of the jail on their way out of the building.

Next on the stand, was Jeffrey Chaney who said he bought a car from the victim and hung out with her some times. He had been convicted of auto theft twice and was dressed out in a bright orange county jail jumpsuit and had walked in with chains and with another deputy stationed behind him while he testified. Presiding Judge John Molloy explained to the jury what this all meant, in that it was a security based decision made by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department not the courts.

Cheney had two auto theft convictions and told the jury that he didn't want to testify because it "aint my problem". He was asked by prosecutor, Elan Zekster if he had said in an earlier interview that he was worried about retribution by the police.

In April 2008, he had visited the victim's apartment between 7-8 a.m. and found it "destroyed" as if it had been raided by police. She told them that it had been done by police and there were two other African-American gentlemen in the apartment with her at the time Chaney had arrived. While he was there, he heard a knock on the front door and heard someone say the words, "Riverside Police Department". He testified that the victim had been startled and didn't seem eager to answer the door. She told him to answer the door for her so he did. Standing there was a male police officer who he identified to the jury in court as Forman. Pointing at where he sat between two members of his defense team until the judge told him to articulate his response in words and so he did in a soft tone.

He said that the officer had asked him who he was and he gave his first name as Jeffrey because he didn't want to give his last name.

"I don't like cops," Jeffrey said in court.

When asked to leave by the officer, Jeffrey left as did the other two men after him and he got into his car and drove down several streets, coming around back to Mission where he parked with the apartment in his sights. He said that about 15-20 minutes after Forman had arrived, he left, holding onto his gun belt in a nonchalant manner. He then watched the officer get inside his squad car and drive away. He then went upstairs back to the apartment where the victim was and said she appeared disgusted with herself. The manager was up there yelling at her about something but she didn't seem to be paying attention to him, according to Chaney.

He asked her if she wanted to go with him and get donuts and coffee and she seemed anxious to get out of the apartment. He said she was crying and said to him, if I tell you something, you promise not to tell.

What is it, he said he asked.

"The cop just made me suck his dick," she said.

She asked them if that made her a whore, a slut or a bitch and he told her you are what you are. She told him her tongue felt swollen and she had the officer's semen in her teeth. He laughed at her at some point.

The actual act hadn't lasted long, he said she told him.

While being questioned by the different attorneys, he said he had been interviewed by detectives and the defense investigator although he had been confused about his identity of the latter individual. Defense attorney Mark Johnson asked him why since he had been on probation, he hadn't given the officer his full name and he said that he didn't like the police and worried about being arrested. He said that she had told him she was worried about the drug paraphernalia that had been found in the house, which had been about 40 hypodermic needles.

Johnson asked him why he had said when shown a six pack of photos which included Forman's last year, he had been less sure of which officer it had been.

"The picture doesn't look the same as he does now," Cheney said.

Sgt. Phil Neglia was on the stand next and Sgt. Julian Hutzler was designated the investigator on the case. While he had been a detective, he had worked on the case.

Neglia testified that he had spent 26 years in the police department and that on June 29, 2008 he had rolled out to a traffic stop for a suspected carjacking on University at about noon. He saw a woman sitting on the curb who was handcuffed and assumed she might be a suspect. Curious about why she was sitting separately, he went to talk to the onscene officers.

He talked with Officer Jeffrey Acosta who knew the woman and determined that the woman was not considered a suspect at that time. While talking with Neglia, the woman told him there was a "dirty cop" in the department. She told him that she had given an Officer Fillmore a blow job and he had given her $50 and some speed. Neglia questioned her for an overview to make sure she wasn't talking about UCR police officers or ones from RCCD who had similar colored uniforms but she was certain it was a Riverside Police Department officer.

Neglia gave her a six pack of names including Freeman, Fraiser, Jackson, Smith and Forman. She had answered no at first, then when he reached Forman, her response changed.

"That's him," she had said.

She also told Neglia she had pulled hair out of her head and put it in the officer's squad car. Neglia notified the watch commander on duty who sent out some detectives to talk to her.

She had given a physical description of a man with spiky hair, who was built similar to Neglia but taller and stockier. She had told Neglia she didn't want to get anyone in trouble. He didn't ask her any detailed questions because he felt that should be done by detectives in a controlled environment.

This woman, the second woman to be testifying about allegations made against Forman testified in court after the lunch recess period. She appeared dressed in a blue jumpsuit but had her chains removed upon order of the court after some debate on the issue between the legal parties. The woman testified that she thought Forman was "different" from other cops. She had crossed paths with him several times in the months before the alleged incident. In April 2008, she had parked in a truck with a friend near the Circle 1 store on University Avenue and had been getting high. Her friend had taken off walking even though she had told her it was okay. She stayed because she said she hadn't been worried about going to jail. Forman got out of the police car and asked her, what's up. He handed her a yellow clear baggie possibly out of his sock with crystal meth inside and she took it, putting it in her pocket. He didn't tell her it would be in exchange for sex.

She got into the rear of his squad car after he told her too, not thinking about it. Then she smoked the speed in the rear of the squad car while he drove for several minutes. She didn't pay any attention to anything but her drugs and he never said a word while driving. The car stopped and she looked around and saw trees, like a forest. They were at a park and she became nervous, even scared because she didn't know what was going on. Forman got out of the car and approached the side of the car where she was sitting, opening the door.

"How about some head," he said.

She was high, she said and didn't want to do it. She was nervous because she had no idea what was coming next.

"He's a cop," she said.

And what are you," said Zekster.

"I was a drug addict."

Forman stood on the side of the car door and she said he pulled out his penis. While his hands were resting on the top of the car roof, she performed oral sex. When asked how long it took, she said not long at all. Afterward, she said she felt like she was in shock.

"This is not happening. This is not happening," she said, "It didn't...It just seemed so unreal."

He didn't say anything afterward, she said, and she spit the semen out of the car. Forman got back in the car.

"He drove," she said, "He didn't say a word to me."

She was shocked and scared, she told jurors. She said she pulled out some hair, a few strands, from her head so that someone would know she had been inside the police car. When she saw lights and familiar sights, she started to feel less frightened. Forman stopped his car in an alley behind the Circle 1, she said and let her out. He told her not to say anything to anyone about it. She saw her friend and some other officers, including an Asian-American officer she knew named Henry Park. He knew her but she didn't tell him what had just happened. She just wanted to get high, she said.

About 20 minutes later, Forman gave her $50 and told her not to say anything then drove away. She said she brought up the incident in the park a couple of times with officers while getting arrested or drunk.

Under cross-examination, the woman admitted she had an extensive criminal record of stealing cars, theft and armed robbery. She said that Forman had never threatened her with arrest, detention or deportation during the incident. She said she had several encounters with him that day before the incident in the park and once after.

She said that Forman appeared to be high on that occasion but she wasn't sure and hadn't believed he was on prior encounters.

Johnson talked about a prostitution sting during one of his cross-examinations that she had gotten caught up in and seemed to ask what was the difference between that incident and the one with Forman and one with someone who paid her $40 for a blow job as a sex worker.

It's interesting that Johnson a retired police lieutenant doesn't know the difference between the two scenarios until you remember that Johnson is doing what defense attorneys do to protect their clients on trial which is to try the victim of the crime especially in sexual assault cases.

That's what defense attorneys do as part of their legal strategy just like misstating testimony (or changing the order of a sequence of events) back to witnesses to test their veracity on the stand and making comments, like did you enjoy getting high which somehow seem a bit extraneous to the line of questioning about the crimes in question. Just like prosecutors do in other circumstances, sometimes with the same individuals who become victims in crimes themselves including those committed by police officers. This is a case where the roles are switched, with the police officer on trial by the prosecutor and being represented by the defense attorney in a way that's not often seen because relatively few of the individuals prosecuted are law enforcement officers.

What's ironic is that the alleged victims and some of the witnesses in these cases have most likely been defendants in others and have relationships with police departments and prosecutory agencies including in Riverside that were more adversarial in those circumstances. Then they become involved in a situation where the roles have changed. This might be something to remember when people ask why individuals who are victims of these crimes take so long to tell the authorities if they do so at all. And whether or not they are able to trust the agencies that may have arrested them, investigated them and prosecuted them in the past or future with the handling of the crimes that they may have experienced. That's one reason why when police departments are investigating potentially rogue officers they might have difficulty with other victims of these officers coming forward.

Can Sex Workers Be Raped?

Johnson in his line of questioning appeared to bring up the issue of whether there's any difference between performing a sexual act for money or being coerced into performing a sexual act and then being given money a period of time later. He asked that of the second alleged victim to testify in the Forman trial while she was on the witness stand. It's not been established whether or not she was actually a sex worker though testimony indicated that might be the case and Johnson seemed to give her that label in his line of questioning towards the end of her time on the stand.

Whether or not the allegations by the victim occurred in relation to the relevant penal code is a decision that will be left to the jury, but it's the parallel itself raised by Johnson that seemed problematic but one that arises frequently in cases like this one. Whether or not she was a sex worker is an issue that the defense might be occupied with revealing to the jury to try and help its case, but there's a general issue involved with this line of questioning and supposition that feeds into an ancient and sexist stereotype about rape and women. Johnson seemed to be implying or even stating that only certain women can be sexually assaulted even under the color of authority or perhaps at all. He didn't exactly provide a list of women who can be raped as opposed to those who can't, but he appeared to put prostitutes or sex workers in the latter group. It's interesting to see a former law enforcement officer play that role given that they know the reality involving rape and sex workers or at least they should know.

He appeared to be using the myth that claims that prostitutes can't be raped by anyone including police officers through his line of questioning. Well, neither could wives by their husbands or anyone who wore skirts above the knee and "suggestive" clothing or women who had sex before marriage and so forth. until just recently in the history of the definition and prosecution of rape and other sexual assault offenses.

As the investigation and prosecution of rape and other sexual assault crimes has evolved, the labeling of victims as being real victims or not based on these characteristics appears to have lessened. Until you are looking at sexual assaults alleged to have been done by law enforcement officers when the handling of alleged victims seems to have gone retrograde and the old stereotypes that were thought to be at least weakened reemerge as if they hadn't left. But it's particularly ironic to see this in the case of sex workers who probably as an occupational group experience the highest incidence of rape including by law enforcement officers. Not to mention that the majority of sex workers were raped or molested by family members or other individuals before they became sex workers.

Some position papers written on the subject include the following.

Rape, Prostitution and Consent

Sex workers, Women and the Politics of Rape Law Reform

The reality is, that the vast majority of women who alleged that they have been sexually assaulted or forced to perform a sexual act by a law enforcement officer have criminal records most particularly involving drug use and/or prostitution. Most of the women that police officers cross paths with while on the job also have criminal records. There are cases where women don't have criminal records but get sexually assaulted through traffic stops, 911 calls for service or in one case in New York State are forced to strip and walk home (after DUI stops) while the officer drives behind them. And in Wallkill, New York, there was driving while female which led to only the second time a state attorney general's office had ever imposed a consent decree in a law enforcement agency which happened there in 2001, just several weeks after Riverside became the first.

Those police officers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties as well as Wallkill were written up as having particularly egregious forms of gender profiling within their ranks by media outlets. But in all three cases, most of the women who were targeted where White, middle class and quite a few without serious criminal records. In those cases, the officers involved were arrested and many were prosecuted. Some may have served time in prison for their offenses. Law enforcement officers who target these groups are often the ones who get arrested relatively quickly whereas it's much slower and a process that might stall for women who have less than stellar records.

Another case in Southern California involved a woman who called 911 and an officer responded who she alleged raped her in her house. She never reported it but one day received a phone call from a law enforcement agency doing a customer satisfaction survey. She reported the assault to that individual and that department upon investigating her allegation discovered the officer worked for a neighboring agency and forwarded the complaint. That officer was eventually arrested and prosecuted for rape. But this outcome is more typical in the relatively few cases where women don't have criminal records and/or are in a group with frequent contacts with police.

In Riverside around 1999, sex workers wanted to come to the meetings being held to address allegations of police misconduct but were leery of coming public with allegations of sexual misconduct or offenses involving Riverside Police Department officers. When Chief Russ Leach came in to the job, it was said that there would be a zero tolerance on that type of bad and potentially illegal behavior. How much it remained an issue after that and today, remains unanswered because so much of what police officers do and as importantly, the allegations and investigations involving them is shrouded in confidentiality. This is a question that through that design really can't be answered easily. And this trial of one former police officer may or may not provide a partial answer but it probably won't produce a definitive one.

But Johnson when interviewing the witness had asked her if there was any difference between performing a sexual act for money and receiving money after allegedly being coerced to perform that act.

At any rate, the woman seemed adamant that there clearly was a difference in her mind even if Johnson didn't see it or want the jury to know that it was there. She provided her answer.

"I didn't want any of that to take place," she said.

Did him being a police officer have anything to do with complying, Zekster asked her.

"Of course it did," she said.

One of the statements which punctuated her testimony, before she left the stand subject to recall for the remainder of a trial which is in its own way every bit as much of hers as Forman's.

Testimony is scheduled to continue onward this week before the Thanksgiving holiday break. I did receive some comments about the lingerie incident that preceded the alleged crime against the victim who testified last week. On whether or not that constituted a hostile environment for the victim who probably saw the officers playing with her lingerie as well as the female trainee who was present in what for her was a working environment.

Ethics in Wonderland

[City residents and Community Police Review Commission Manager Kevin Rogan sit in on the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting.]

[The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting sits and takes public comment in the hearing of the ethics complaint during its first handling of this process in over two years. Before that, Priamos (r) served as the arbiter of all the ethics complaints received involving elected officials.]

About 15 people attended the hearing that the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee held on the ethics complaint filed against Community Police Review Commissioner Peter Hubbard, even though all of its members receive campaign contributions from the business he works for. Several people including myself spoke and were then questioned by council members which was kind of fun. Especially by Councilman Steve Adams, who had already made up his mind on the complaint before the meeting and expressed it to the Press Enterprise.

Favorite moments:

1) City Attorney Gregory Priamos' comments after one city resident mislabeled him as the city manager. Someone said something about that might mean he gets a pay raise. He simply said he considered it an insult. Not surprising considering if it's indeed true that Priamos wasn't the first choice for the City Manager Brad Hudson that is when he first arrived. Every once in a while, Priamos throws out an enigmatic comment or two of pithy pathos that has to do with Hudson or his office, which often leaves witnesses scratching their heads to make sense of it all but by then the meeting's usually moved on leaving that moment of ethereal confusion like a trail of dust. Why be insulted by what was an honest mistake of misidentification of his job label?

But Priamos definitely gets a gold star for figuring out that the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee is a venue for processing ethics complaints rather than himself.

2) Adams' defense of his comments in the PE by stating he merely provided "facts". This quote taken by him included in the article is a pretty good example.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"This is a political issue they're raising" rather than an ethics problem, he said.

That's actually an opinion that he's entitled to, not a fact and it's a judgment on a complaint before the deliberation and fact finding process have even been completed. What Adams is doing is performing an important public service and that's showing that the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee is ill prepared and simply unable to without bias (including waiting until the committee deliberation process to give an opinion) to handle complaints where it is experiencing a conflict of interest. And just as importantly, the perception of a conflict of interest. But that's something that the committee members had a lot of trouble grasping. Which isn't surprising considering that Priamos had and they don't seem to know how to do anything without having him tell them what to do, so that difficulty in cognitive dissonance permeated the meeting like a thick cloud as it often does when the city attorney's pretty much in charge of legislative tasks not legal ones.

But Adams' is really an interesting city official who's probably the most interesting to quote and to analyze what he's said or in one case, co-written in an op-ed piece in the daily newspaper on what else? The CPRC. It's not surprising he's decided to deny that City Hall has politicized the commission given that the one elected official who did so openly is no longer serving in his elected position as councilman. Just like he had to pull out that argument about how holding a public official accountable for their behavior is tantamount to persecuting them for going to a baseball game. Makes you hope those rumors that he's planning another run for state assembly aren't true. City Council is minor league, but in the state arena, it's all hardball. But Adams bristled at the idea that he would be involved in the micromanagement of an entity like the CPRC. However, those allegations aren't without precedent at least as far as his actions as an elected official are concerned.

And by the way, Adams is currently the focus of a lawsuit filed by two police lieutenants alleging he tried to influence or make it appear he was influence the promotional process of the police department. Meaning that he is alleged to have made statements to police officers that if they didn't support him or because they didn't, they wouldn't get promoted. I guess if that's true, that makes him Police Chief Adams, who actually was a police officer about a decade ago before taking a medical retirement over an alleged on the job injury.

3) The incredible restraint shown by the committee of not taking a vote before receiving public comment unlike actions taken by the entire city council as a body when they were undergoing the interview and selection process for the latest CPRC commissioner. A practice which was actually in violation of their own policies and procedures for meeting decorum. But when an elected body has already manhandled the city charter to micromanage the civilian oversight mechanism like the CPRC, not abiding by set meeting protocol is not a surprising development. But although I left early, it appears that the committee members didn't vote and then take public comment like the city council did last week. Not one council member spoke up at that meeting last week in defense of their own established policies and procedures for conducting public meetings and that's a shame.

4) That there's still anyone who doesn't realize that the emperor is completely buck naked when it comes to an ethics code in this city. The ethics code and complaint system simply is nothing if not like that beloved Hans Christian Anderson tale. Most of the city residents who follow the sad sojourn of this attempted introduction and enforcement of municipal ethics on Riverside's governmental body realize this as do many people at City Hall. The elected officials? Bah, give them an election cycle or two and they'll figure it out. Because even while City Hall twiddles with the charter mandated ethics code and complaint system (much as it does with the charter mandated CPRC), the true ethics determining body has successfully voted out three sitting council members and fell a scant dozen votes short of evicting another.

5) The CPRC has become the embarrassment of the NACOLE organization which umbrellas civilian oversight in this country. Since that's happened, what would really serve the city is to reinvent a slogan or design a logo highlighting this accomplishment because it only took Riverside four years to accomplish this feat. If they stack half the commission with law enforcement officers and the other half with de facto city employees, it won't push it further into that category of distinction that much quicker.

Alas, I had to leave to sit in on the Forman trial and to no one's surprise, the Committee voted to reject the conflict of interest case involving Hubbard. Next month, they will be hearing a complaint filed against CPRC Commissioner Chani Beeman by former chair, Sheri Corral for discourteous comments made by Beeman. Judging by some of the attempts by committee members to bring Beeman into the complaint against Hubbard, we'll have to wait several weeks to see the very different response that this complaint will get by the Committee. Will the committee listen to the hours of audio tape that shows that Beeman actually wasn't making rude comments?

That doesn't seem likely. After the complaint is heard against Beeman, there's apparently another complaint against yet another CPRC commissioner coming from some venue.

But in this case, the committee had no choice to void the conflict of interest situation involving Hubbard because it's own conflict of interest situation is so closely tied in with Hubbard and American Medical Response. If it addressed the situation it created when it appointed Hubbard, it would have to address its own unsuitability to hear the complaint of an employee of a company who pays money into their election campaigns.

What's truly disturbing about the committee's utter disregard of the perception of conflict of interest which is written into the code is that it's not difficult to guess that perhaps members of another nearby city government exercised the same disregard before they made that irrevocable decision to engage in actual conflict of interest at the expense of all their city's residents.

Stay tuned because this most likely is another ongoing saga in municipal history and politics in River City.

Riverside City Hall insists that the Renaissance won't be hampered by the recession (well, except for the downtown library, the museum...) but who will pay for those cashed out bonds? And what will happen, as one reader said, to the house that the city has carefully constructed out of cards?

How will Riverside County save money in its operational budget?

Jacinto-Gate Continues to Unfold

There is actually one member of the San Jacinto city government who didn't get indicted in the recent scandal. What he is doing now.

Meanwhile, the indicted mayor plans to keep working and fighting the corruption charges while the vice-mayor has been praised by city residents.

And court transcripts involving the people indicted in that scandal?

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older