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

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Forman Trial: Forman Testifies Under Cross-Examination

Testimony resumed in the ongoing trial of a former Riverside Police Department officer who has been charged with four counts including three involving sexual assaults committed while onduty. Robert Forman had begun testifying on Tuesday before the Wednesday recess and picked up where he left off on Thursday under direct examination by his own attorney, Mark Johnson. In the audience were prosecutors, Forman's family members and Internal Affairs sergeants, John Capen and Marcus Smail along with Sgt. Derwin Hudson.

Interestingly enough, when he returned to the witness stand, Johnson decided to focus on an area of testimony which had curiously not been been addressed the day before (which was addressed here) and that was the fate of the missing media disk from Forman's department issued digital recorder. When he asked Forman what had happened with the media disk, Forman's answer was the following.

"I had no idea until it was brought to my attention," Forman said.

He later testified that he had dislodged his media disk in the past and had broken media disks as well. The problem had to do with the fact that he stored his recorder along with his money clip in his shirt pocket and when he put his money belt in the pocket, it dislodged the clasp on the back that caused the media disk to eject.

After that was settled, questioning resumed to focusing on the first victim. Forman was asked if the victim had been protesting while performing oral sex on him. He responded, no.

"I would never, ever force anyone to do anything," Forman said.

And when he asked if the first victim had consented to the behavior, he said, absolutely.

With that, Johnson finished his direct line of questioning and prosecutor Elan Zekster began his cross-examination of Forman, beginning with the issue involving the still-missing memory disk. Forman talked about his money clip clashing with the recording device. However, when Zekster asked him if he had said anything about the missing disk when investigators had searched his locker and discovered it was missing, it was revealed that Forman had told them that he had no idea where it went.

After the media disk was addressed, the questioning moved on to the third victim who had walked up to Forman's squad car and wound up asking him to take a report on a rape. Forman said he had built a rapport with her and she told him she had been hanging out and partying. He said she was "all over the place" in her speaking and that he said he had his doubts about whether the rape allegation was true. During the time that his approximately 10 minute conversation took place, Forman never saw a man approach him angrily from a nearby parked car during his conversation with the third victim.

She had been with the second victim who had left so Forman had gone with her to look for her friend and as he pulled his car out of the parking lot of the Circle 1, he noticed a car following him. There was some confusion in the testimony exactly when Forman knew who was in the car and whether or not he was being followed. At first he said it was when he pulled out of the lot because of the way the man had backed the car quickly out of the lot and then it was after he had done two u-turns on Eucalyptus street, adjacent to the Circle 1 parcel.

He didn't call for backup and he didn't ask the third victim if she knew why they were being followed. As a police officer, he had commonly pursued other vehicles but had never had a vehicle follow his car.

At that point, more people entered the courtroom and Forman stopped testifying. When he was asked why, he responded brokenly.

"My son just walked in the room," Forman said.

The judge spoke with his son and asked him if he would leave the room voluntarily after he had ascertained that Forman couldn't testify with him present. So his son left the courtroom and testimony continued.

It wasn't until he made the second u-turn with his squad car that he became suspicious and acted on it. He got out to verbally calm the man down and said when he couldn't do that, he called for backup and about five to six officers showed up.

Why was he being followed by the man, Forman was asked.

"I had no idea why he was following me," Forman said.

He parked his car several car lengths behind the man's car and didn't run his license plates. He testified that he wasn't concerned about handling an unknown person by himself saying that during his three years as a Problem Oriented Policing officer he had spent a lot of time working on his own. He didn't ask the man to produce any identification.

"He was upset. He was angry and I wanted to calm him down," Forman said.

The man told Forman that the woman stole $100 from him. Forman denied participating in the theft himself. After the man drove off, Forman later saw him parked near the Circle 1 and told the third victim. He said he was concerned the man would enact his own revenge against her and didn't want to leave her alone there. So they went back to Circle 1 and saw the second victim there. The third victim brings up the rape again and appeared to Forman to again, be in a "jovial" mood.

"She was flighty," Forman said.

They drove to University and Chicago to look for the second victim at a bus stop where she hung out at times. She brought up the rape but Forman said he wasn't sure he believe her. That produced an interesting contrast to his testimony that he had believed her when she had insisted that she had not stolen the man's $100.

"I had no doubt in my mind that she didn't have the money," Forman had testified.

Zekster brought up the fact that Forman had said he didn't believe the third victim about the rape allegation but he did believe her when she said she hadn't stolen the man's money. He said the difference in his mind was her "demeanor". They reached the bus stop and she told him to go to a parking lot and let her out because she didn't want anyone to see her getting out of a police car but they wound up stopping in view of the bus stop anyway. They had another discussion about the rape allegation and he gave her his personal cell phone number.

Phone records had shown that he called her on two separate phone numbers on Feb. 20, 2008 and then called her over a month later.. He wasn't sure whether or not he had stored her land line number (which he said he discovered through Caller ID) in his phone or just remembered it a month later. He couldn't remember why he thought of the third victim that month later enough to give her some phone calls. Forman was asked if he had been attracted to Tessa and he denied it and then was asked why he phoned her on his days off from work.

Later on the same day he had run into the third victim, he performed a traffic stop on a vehicle that did a rolling stop in an intersection. Even though it was self-initiated, he didn't activate his recorder. He didn't remember if he ran any plate numbers on the vehicle which had tinted windows. There were about five people in the car including the third victim. He didn't call for backup. The third victim got out and said, what's up, can I speak with you? He asked her if she was okay in the car with those people and she said yes. She then leaped into his arms.

Forman was then questioned about the first victim whose apartment he went to on April 18, 2008 on a home invasion call. He had been assigned with his trainee, Megan Edwards (Meyers) in the Eastside but had responded to the downtown call on the North (NPC) because it would provide a training opportunity for Edwards. When he got there, other officers briefed him that there had been evidence found of check fraud, syringes, meth baggies and a woman on probation. He went up to the apartment and said the first victim had been sitting in the chair in the living room. He saw different officers including Edwards and William Zackowski talk with her. He asked Edwards to direct Officer Lonnie Battest to take photographs. He did talk to her and asked her what was going on. She could have been high on drugs but he didn't test her.

As he left with Edwards, he told Edwards, I'll be right back. He said he went back to the woman's apartment to get his flashlight. When the woman opened the door, he said he noticed his flashlight sitting on a chair and told the woman that he needed to get it. The woman had asked him several times during the time he had been at her apartment to help her get some unwanted people out of her house and he wasn't sure if he had developed a rapport with her.

Testimony turned to the discussion of the police department's use of force policy most particularly the bottom two levels of force which are a uniformed presence and verbal communication respectively. The statements of an officer alone could constitute the second level of force and Forman agreed with that assertion. He had never arrested the woman or collected the syringes in her closet. He said he had believe her when she said the syringes weren't hers.

He finally left her apartment after two hours spent on that call and went to the Orange Street Station. He and Zackowski then went to the Robert Presley Detention Center nearby to book the woman on felony probation with drug paraphernalia that had been arrested. After that was done, Forman went back to the station and then off to get some food at the Del Taco drive thru on 14th and Brockton. After he left the restaurant, he went back to the apartment.

"I had time to kill," Forman said.

His trainee was working on the police report which might take hours and while still in uniform and onduty, he went to the apartment never telling anyone where he was going. Even though he was potentially going there to confront unwanted parties who were likely criminals. Even though it wasn't his beat and there were other officers who could have handled it.

"I routinely did things on my own," Forman testified, referring to his POPs stint.

When asked if what he was doing could be dangerous, he said there was the potential for danger anytime.

He went back to the woman's apartment and doesn't remember how he identified himself when he knocked on the door. The door opened and man stood there. There were a total of four people inside the apartment and three of them left. The woman said they were gone but said he could check anyway. He did, looking for "drug addict type people". He passed by a bathroom door and said he wasn't aware of a closet door in the living room and went straight to the bedroom.

He had testified that she had closed the blinds when they were in the bedroom making small talk but there weren't blinds on the two windows, there were curtains or sheets draped over them in photographs taken by Battest several hours before. When asked about that, he said that she had been covering the windows. The access to both of the windows was very limited because the bed was pressed against the walls where the windows were located, meaning that to get to the windows to close the blinds or cover them, a person would have to climb on the bed which was filled with clothing. But Forman said there was space between the windows and the bed.

Was he concerned that he was in an apartment with a woman he didn't really know who had locked the front door and now was closing blinds? He said that he wasn't paying attention when the first blinds were closed and it didn't register with him. After she shut the second blind, that's when she told him that one of her sexual fantasies was to "do a police officer".

"At that moment, you must have wanted to get the heck out of there," Zekster asked.

"No," Forman responded.

He said he had laughed when she had said that and had thoughts of leaving but also of not leaving. She told him she wanted to sleep with him but she was on her period. He stayed and he asked about her boyfriend by name and she said he wasn't coming back. She led him to the bed by guiding him with her arm. He sat down and she performed oral sex after she unzipped his pants. She then masturbated herself.

After that, Forman said he left and never returned. Testimony abruptly ended at that point and presiding judge, John Molloy sent the jurors on a break. Court wound up being recessed for the day because both attorneys took ill with the flu and were unable to continue. Testimony is set to resume on Monday, Dec. 7 at 10 a.m.

More information unfolding in the recent indictment of the Mount San Jacinto Community College police chief.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In one of those arrests, court documents say, Segawa seized ice cream from a street vendor, put as much as he could in his freezer at home and then gave the rest to a neighbor. Segawa called immigration authorities who later deported the vendor, documents say.

McComas is charged with one count of offering a bribe to a public officer and two counts of aiding and abetting the misappropriation of public funds.

Both are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 30 in Riverside County Superior Court. McComas' attorney said Thursday that his client is not guilty. Segawa could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Court documents say that in 2007, Segawa damaged a police car in an unreported accident and brought the car to a body shop in Riverside owned by McComas.

The shop repaired the car without knowledge of the college, documents state.

The Press Enterprise's Last Stand?

Is this the Press Enterprise's last breath? Controversial decisions out of Belo Enterprise in Texas have editorial content intermarrying with advertising as the corporation unveils new measures to facilitate the integration of business and news which will be applied at all of its publications including the once family owned newspaper in Riverside.

Corporation heads reassure readers that important lines between advertising and news won't be crossed. Yeah right.

(excerpt, Dallas Observer Blog)

Colleagues: Today we are launching a new business segment structure as the next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers. To better align with our clients' needs, we will be organized around eleven business and content segments with similar marketing and consumer profiles including: sports, health/education, entertainment, travel/luxury, automotive, real estate, communications, preprints/grocery, recruitment, retail/finance, and SMB/Interactive. Each segment will be led by a General Manager (GM), a newly-defined role, each reporting to Cyndy Carr, charged with analyzing and growing the business by developing solutions that meet consumer needs and maximize results for our clients. Their responsibilities will include sales and business development. They will also be working closely with news leadership in product and content development. In the Sports and Entertainment segments, the senior news editors will report directly to the GM while retaining a strong reporting relationship to the editor and managing editor. These collaborations will bring new products that consumers want to the market more rapidly. We are proceeding knowing and trusting each other's distinct roles and responsibilities in the same way our News leadership and our Publisher have worked collaboratively for years. This business/news integration is a progressive step and is strongly supported by the news leaders of both the Sports and Entertainment segments: "As a segment, we have a lot of advantages usually associated with a start-up," said Bob Yates, deputy managing editor and Executive Sports Editor. "We should be able to move much more quickly to take advantage of opportunities. That comes from having greater autonomy that gives us the freedom to develop both advertising and content solutions."

Riverside needs to keep its power lines to itself. So says Jurupa. But so far, war hasn't broken out between the two parties over this development.


The Human Resources Board is scheduled to meet Monday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m.
The agenda includes several presentations including from department heads.

The Riverside City Council will be meeting and discussing this agenda on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. This week's meeting boasts a packed litigation calendar, a discussion item that's not really a discussion item and a slew of high ticket items on the consent calendar. Otherwise known as business as usual.

The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee is set to meet on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 2:30 p.m. Here is the agenda.It was scheduled to meet the following week on Dec. 15 to hold the hearing on an ethics code complaint against Community Police Review Commission member Chani Beeman but that meeting might be tabled due to the fact that the committee by scheduling it violated the ethics code by failing to send the complaint for possible resolution to the CPRC chair in accordance to its own resolution passed by the city council governing the process. Committee member and Councilman Andrew Melendrez through email confirmed that the appropriate process needed to be followed and that complaint is now being sent to CPRC Chair Peter Hubbard for handling.

The Transportation Committee will be meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. to discuss the Overlook Parkway. Councilman Paul Davis will be substituting in on the item because it's in his ward.

Here is the report on that item.

The Community Police Review Commission will meet on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. and will discuss this packed agenda.

Finance Committee Watch Continues

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. as shown here. It's not clear yet if it will actually meet on that day.

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