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


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trial began for former RPD officer accused of sexual assault under the color of authority

The People of the State of California
Officer Robert Forman Trial:

Day Four

The trial of ex-Riverside Police Department officer, Robert Forman began in downtown Riverside Tuesday on three felony counts of both oral copulation under the color of authority and sexual battery stemming from allegations raised by three women between February and April 2008. The alleged incidents took place in February and April 2008 and were investigated beginning in May 2008 by the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division. Forman was arrested on the felony counts on Oct. 14, 2008 and fired by Chief Russ Leach approximately one month later.

His case went to its preliminary hearing in Corona within several months of charges being filed, moved there at the last minute and the presiding judge after hearing testimony mandated that the case progress to trial which started earlier this week in downtown Riverside. Testimony started Oct. 10 and the courthouse was closed for business on Veterans Day.

Riverside County Superior Court Presiding Judge John Molloy was assigned to hear the case after one of the parties papered Judge J. Thompson Hanks (who though retired is like other retired judges hearing cases to relieve the backlog) which has been going on several days now after selecting 12 jurors and two alternates. The trial is following a crunch schedule given that it's taking place in the civil courthouse and that calendar has to be completed by 10:00am before the trial can begin its daily proceedings.

The prosecutor is a young guy named Elan Zekster, with Mark Johnson representing Forman. Each side has their own investigator sitting at the table. And Forman of course sits with the defense.

The Concerned Friend?

Maribel Manzo testified on Thursday morning about dropping in on her friend who was one of Forman's alleged victims. Manzo who was convicted in 2008 of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell knew this woman and said that she went to her apartment in the downtown area because she was concerned that she hadn't returned her phone calls. Manzo said she knocked on the door and no one answered although she could hear someone moving around inside the apartment. When she knocked again, the door opened this time and her friend came out and hugged her immediately. Manzo said she was shaking and crying, and appeared frightened.

"She was literally shaking," Manzo recalled.

Manzo said she asked if she were okay and the woman immediately started crying for several minutes. Manzo asked why she was crying and sat her friend down on the couch. The woman said that the police came to her apartment and her boyfriend was taken to jail after several syringes were found. One male officer had told her that she would go down for all of that because it was her apartment but then he told her, there was a way out. Manzo said the woman started crying again when she said that the officer had said he would come back later.

"She said he made me suck his dick," Manzo said.

Her friend then grabbed her hand and took her to her bedroom before she pointed at the bed and said he was there.

"She told me she felt very dirty," Manzo said.

Johnson cross-examined Manzo and said that be believed that the two women weren't friends but that Manzo had gone over to the woman's house to sell her drugs, knowing that she used drugs and said they had gotten high together. Manzo responded to his questioning by saying that she didn't sell the woman drugs. They kept in touch by talking on the phone 2-3 times weekly and that she had been worried about her not returning calls because that was something she often did about people she knew.

The Reporting Police Officer

Police officer, Justin Mann testified on the witness stand next and testified that the woman had told him that "something serious had happened". She eventually told Mann that she was scared of Forman.

Mann had been responding to a PC 242 battery case and that it was a mutual argument with no clarification regarding an aggressor. When Mann came to her door, she was too scared to open it, she told him because she was scared of the RPD. She told him why and seemed at a loss at what to do next.

"She told me she did not know what to do," Mann said.

Mann had testified the previous day but was subject to recall. On Thursday, he was on and off the stand in about 20 minutes but could be called back to testify again.

The Drug Counselor

Steven Wells who owns a substance abuse clinic and works as a counselor said that the woman had been one of his clients. He said she had told him about a "non consensual contact" and he seemed to believe it was psychological, rather than physical. He said that he had been interviewed when he reported it to the police department by Det. Rick Wheeler. He also testified that the woman had been hesitant to report it to police because she didn't think they would believe her because of her history.

The Trainee

Next up, was former Riverside Police Department Officer Megan Meyers who went under the surname of Edwards while working with the department. She started patrol in early 2008 but was separated from the department on Aug. 20, 2008 before the end of her probation and at the time or after her seventh phase of training. The judge and attorneys fretted over confidentiality issues pertaining to police officers when it came to exactly why Meyers left the RPD with Johnson whipping out the need for a Pitchess Motion but Molloy rebuked back saying that Pitchess and the confidentiality laws in the evidence and penal codes referred only to officers' records not the officers themselves in terms to what they could testify about their own employment. With that settled, the trial moved onward and Meyers testified as a former trainee of Forman's during the time period when his conduct had been called into question and ultimately investigated by the department. She started out fairly calm, got more irritated as the trial went on and near the end of the session, broke down on the stand.

During her tenure with the police department, Meyers had worked with different field training officers including Forman during April and May of 2008. Before she trained with him, she knew of him. Of their relationship as FTO and trainee, she said they got along very well while they were stationed out of Lincoln Field Operations near Adams and Lincoln. Zekster asked her if she became so jovial with Forman that she forgot he was her training officer. She looked taken aback at the question and answered, no. But they were companionable and they often joked around and she had talked to him every once in a while including after she had been subpoenaed. And as it turned out, she had received subpoenas from both the prosecution and the defense.

They were working together the early morning hours of April 18, 2008 when at 3 a.m. they received a priority call of a home invasion robbery downtown. They and numerous other police officers responded.

"Pretty much everyone in that area went," Meyers recalled.

Officers that showed up at the scene included William Zackowski, Vivian Tate, Mike Dillion, Lonnie Battest and Sgt. Paul De Jong. Meyers said she was told to wait at the bottom of the stairs while other officers cleared the apartment upstairs. She waited with two women who lived in the apartment and then went upstairs. One of the women gave her permission to go in the apartment and gave officers permission to search it which they did. Meyers said that several officers showed her items they discovered in their searches including empty baggies used for holding drugs and a bag of 20-25 syringes. Some officers searched the place, Battest took photos but Meyers said she didn't remember what Forman was doing. She did see Forman talking with the woman, possibly more than once. When Zekster pressed her on Forman's activities, Meyers got a bit testy and said she wasn't there to babysit the other officers or watch what they were doing.

Tate and another female officer left the scene leaving Meyers and male police officers. They saw the underwear near the dartboard in the living room. Meyers recalled one of the officers asking the woman if the underwear were hers but Meyers didn't say who. Meyers said the woman who had two felony warrants asked her if she was going to be arrested and she told her no. Meyers said she was encharged with writing the police report and that it went to Forman before the sergeant.

Meyers wavered when asked whether the focus of the police action was on drugs or check fraud. The syringes weren't taken in for evidence, she said, but the computer equipment was by officers and was included on the property report. After about two hours, she, Forman and Zackowski were the last to leave. Forman said he forgot something and was going back to the apartment. Meyers told the jury he was gone for less than a minute and she didn't see him carrying anything visible.

Under cross-examination, Johnson asked Meyers if she was in charge of the scene and she said no, she was a trainee and that one woman had been arrested because the drug paraphernalia had been in her purse whereas they couldn't arrest the woman because it was in her bedroom closet and she shared the apartment with other people.

After that, Molloy admonished Meyers for saying that whatever was in the detective's report of her interview was what she had said, due to her inability after 18 months to recall every detail. The judge said she could look at the report and either it refreshed her memory or it didn't and then to say either way under questioning by the attorneys. About a couple of a minutes later, she burst into tears on the stand, turned to face the judge and said she couldn't remember "every fucking thing" after 18 months. At that, the judge adjourned the trial for the day and the week while someone helped Meyers from the witness box. She left before being instructed that she had to return the next court day so the prosecutor had to go find her to have her come back for the judge's instructions.

Molloy instructed each witness on how to testify and admonished the lawyers several times, seeming to be in control of his courtroom. He did at one point nearly resume the trial after a sidebar while juror #2 was in the bathroom. But the deputy remembered that he had authorized the juror to go to the bathroom and informed Molloy.

Testimony will resume on Monday, Nov. 16 with Meyers set to return to the stand to finish her testimony including cross-examination.

Elections Continued

Speaking of Riverside Police Department officers, a correction is in order in the previous blog posting on the Riverside Police Officers' Association election regarding the candidates. Sgt. Cliff Mason who is running for the top spot is now apparently Det. Cliff Mason and has been since earlier this year.

DHL Revisited?

Are the latest plans surrounding March Air Reserve Base offering up a bad case of deja vu?

One Response to the Neo Nazis in Riverside

This essay was written by three local religious leaders in response to the Neo Nazi rallies which have taken place in Riverside as of late, even as Riverside's political leaders discuss behind closed doors what to do with the latest Nazi threat.

Union Pacific Train at Standstill

The city of Riverside spent years being plagued by trains mostly belonging to Union Pacific Railways blocking intersections for up to six hours a day, largely due to train congestion coming as goods and other products were shipped from the ports in Southern California to the rest of the United States. This train was moving through Riverside's Magnolia and Brockton intersections at about 12:45 p.m. at normal speed until it slowed down to a crawl. About three minutes into its crossing, it stopped completely for roughly five minutes before finally making the creaking and grinding sounds which means that it's starting up again to continue moving through the intersection which it did for roughly two minutes. Traffic was backed up to Jurupa on the north side but no emergency vehicles were affected.

I called 311 to report it but it was on holiday so first it said to leave a message and then it directed me to a live person who took the report but told me to report it as a traffic emergency to police. But the Riverside Police Department has very little authority or jurisdiction over Union Pacific which is under federal guidelines as a mechanism of interstate commerce movement and has its own police department. This practice of parking trains by Union Pacific is very unsafe since it can hinder the movement of emergency vehicles in the city.

Councilman Mike Gardner responded to an email quickly and as there are cameras on the crossings, the video will be pulled on this incident to send to Union Pacific.

Union Pacific entered into an agreement with the city to curtail or greatly reduce its blockages of the city's main thoroughfares which has decreased the time spent blocking city streets quite a bit. It was a bit surprising to see this stoppage because they haven't been as frequently noted. It might be an appropriate stop but all stopped trains should be reported to the city and the city should call up Union Pacific Dispatch office and ask why that particular train stopped because it's a serious situation in some situations. Not to mention that the intersections of major thoroughfares are not parking lots.

Several weeks earlier, crossing guards were going up and down over a 15 minute period under apparently their own volition as there were no trains and no signs of any maintenance or other work being done by Union Pacific.

[Union Pacific train stopped on Veterans Day in front of the Magnolia intersection where the grade separation is set to be built.]

[Pedestrians wait as the Union Pacific train slows before it stops in intersection. These two gentlemen would walk to the other side of the street as they waited for it to start moving again. In the past individuals had climbed in between train cars to get to the other side which is very dangerous not to mention it can delay the train from moving again until it's been completely inspected.]

Riverside County's furlough program for employees falls short on saving money.

Den of Corruption?

In San Jacinto, nine people including the mayor and city council members have been indicted on corruption charges.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The nine defendants appeared for arraignment today in Riverside County criminal court. They either pleaded not guilty or deferred entering a plea. They will make another court appearance in early December.

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco will offer more details on the sweeping corruption probe at a 4 p.m. news conference.

Few details were available during the crowded arraignment appearance before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael B. Donner.

But the indictment is 68 pages long. According to a copy viewed by a reporter, the 155 counts allege felony and misdemeanor violations.

The defendants are accused of hiding campaign contributions. In one count, two defendants -- Jim Ayres and Holgate -- are accused of offering a bribe.

Not surprisingly, this disgraced City Hall is suffering from a few credibility issues just about now.

Veterans Day Monument

(located on Central Avenue near Olivewood Cemetery)

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