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

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Forman Trial: "I was a good police officer."

The Trial of Former RPD Officer Robert Forman

Day 11

The Defendant

The trial of a former Riverside Police Department officer charged with three felonies continued with defendant, Robert Forman taking the witness stand and testifying that one of the victims had performed oral sex on him consensually but that the other alleged incidents reported by two other women were not true.

Forman testified that he had been a police officer in Riverside from between March 1997 and Nov. 22, 2008. He spent most of his career working varying shifts in patrol and three years working in the Problem Oriented Policing unit.

One of the first issues he was asked about by attorney Mark Johnson when he took the stand was whether or not he complied with the police department's written policy on activating his issued digital audio recorder. He said that during his entire time he spent equipped with the recorder, he had often not activated it on self-initiated contacts and at other times, he deleted recordings from the device. He said he did it out of laziness because he didn't want to match up recordings with incident numbers.

"It was easier to just delete them," Forman said.

So Forman testified about his deletion of recordings from his device and his failure to activate it when required by policy but so far, there's been no mention involving any information about the fate of his media disk card which is still missing.

Among the self-initiated contacts he didn't record were those involving the second and third victims. He testified that he did have contact with all three women who alleged that he sexually assaulted them.

In February 2008, he worked patrol and often checked out the area near the Circle 1 store because of criminal activity there. He pulled his squad car in there one night and saw the second victim walk towards him on the driver side, and they engaged in small talk. She gestured for the third victim to come over to Forman telling her, "You can talk to Forman. He's cool." Forman said he talked to the third victim and said that both women appeared to be happy, jovial and that they laughed and smiled. At some point, Tessa made an indication to Forman that she had been raped and wanted to report it. He took out his note pad and wrote down information that she gave him and asked questions. But he never wrote a report about it.

"If I don't believe a crime occurred," Forman said, "I'm not going to write a report. I don't have to."

The second victim and left and she became more anxious. She asked Forman if he would help her find him. Forman said he gave her some idea of where the second victim hung out and she wound up getting in his car to go look for her.

Forman drove towards Comer and he said he noticed that a silver vehicle that he had seen the third victim get out of earlier started following him so he did several u-turns and the Black man in the car appeared very upset. Forman called for backup units which arrived. The Black man said the woman had just been in his car and had stolen money from him. When asked if he had participated in the jacking of a Black man, Forman said, absolutely not. Forman said that the man had been vague on details but finally admitted that he had solicited for prostitution and ultimately wanted to drop it.

Forman closed out the incident as a civilian problem. Could it have been a theft or a prostitution report?

"You have to have a victim to have a crime," Forman said.

The man went to his car and drove it across the street towards University and Eucalyptus. Forman got back in his unit and told the third victim that the man was there, pointing him out. Then he told her he would help her look for the second victim so she got in the car. They went to Circle 1 and saw the second victim there and she talked with her for a while before going back to talk to Forman about the rape. Once again, she looked up at some point and the second victim wasn't there. She was nervous and this time Forman took her to Chicago and University near a bus stop where the second victim often hung out but she wasn't there so they pulled into a parking lot. Forman told her he couldn't complete the investigation and he gave her his personal cell phone number to contact him with more information. He admitted on the stand that it wasn't "standard practice" and she exited the car.

He testified that he didn't try to kiss her or put his hand down her pants.

One hour later, he performed a traffic stop at Comer and Mission Inn on a dark compact vehicle with tinted windows. He didn't follow departmental policy and activate his recorder during the stop. The driver rolled down the window and he heard a voice inside the car saying, "What's up?" He saw that it was the third victim. She asked him if he would talk to her for a second and she got out of the car. He then testified that she lunged towards him and gave him a big hug. He pushed her away and said she couldn't do that. He was a police officer there with a job to do. He told the driver of the vehicle they could leave and never saw her again until the trial.

She did telephone him on February 20 to talk about her rape report and gave him some more information. He then did a CLETS report because her description of drug use sent up "red flags" and he wanted to find out exactly who he was dealing with. He called her several times including on a land line where he blocked his phone line he didn't know who was at the house and whether or not there was drug use. He said he got the land line phone number when she called him the first time as it showed on his Caller ID.

Forman testified about his interactions with the second victim. He had prior contacts with her for about a year, possibly longer. He said she was a drug addict and street walker on the University Avenue corridor. He drove into Circle 1 and she was there. She asked him, hey Forman how do I get out of this one? She complained and used derogatory language about Officer Henry Park who had arrested her.

She asked him for $10 and he said he wouldn't give it to her unless she gave him information on drug dealers. He admitted that he had violated the department's policy on the use of informants.

"It was slow and I had done it in the past," Forman said.

He told her to jump in the car but she didn't want anyone to see her with him so she had him meet her in an alley behind the Circle 1. He said she had a box of Hostess donuts with her when he ran into her.

They wound up heading to Chicago and University and she said it was a Black man with dark clothes but Forman said he needed more information so she told him there was a room on the ground floor at the Motel 6 where there were drugs being sold. He drove her back to the same location as before. He said he hadn't given her drugs and hadn't been using him themselves.

"It's ridiculous to think I'd be high," Forman said, "I'm a police officer."

Forman went to a credit union and withdrew $20 and then went to exchange that for two $10s at the Circle 1. He gave the second victim $10 and just after that, Park pulled up in his squad car. She told him to give her an hour or two and Forman told Park about the Motel 6. The officers went there with Officer Marco Ortiz and talked with the individuals in that room but no arrests were made. Forman said there was a box of donuts like the one that the second victim had been holding inside the motel room. Earlier he said he had seen her walking with a Black man and he and another officer separated them. He spoke with her about drug dealers.

Forman then moved on to testifying about the first victim, and said that he and his trainee Megan Edwards (Myers) had responded to a home invasion call and that he had spent about 45 minutes outside with the first victim's boyfriend who said that some occupants were holding his girlfriend hostage. Forman eventually went inside the apartment and spent about an hour there. He said he knew about the syringes inside the bag in the closet and had seen them. It hadn't been a home invasion robbery and the investigation shifted towards check fraud. The first victim had said she wasn't responsible for the syringes or the check fraud but that she was just trying to get her life together. Forman knew she was on probation but he never arrested her. She told him several times that she wanted the occupants gone and one of them, a woman was arrested and taken to jail.

When asked about the underwear, he said he saw it on Officer Anthony Watkins' gun belt but didn't touch it or joke about it nor did he place it on the dartboard. He didn't see anyone do that and didn't even notice the dartboard until he saw it on an evidence photograph of the living room.

He said that the first victim asked him to come back and help her keep the occupants out. He said that he would. He left with Edwards and Zackowski but went back up for 30 seconds to retrieve his flashlight which he had left in his chair when he had been seated near the victim. He said he didn't make any comments about her underwear or ask to see her breasts.

He and Edwards headed back to the Orange Street Station.

Forman and Zackowski went from the Orange Street Station to the Robert Presley Detention Center nearby, while Edwards stayed at the station to write the report. He went back to the station and told Edwards he was going to Del Taco on 14th to get some food. And he left and went through the drive thru. After that, he said he had time to kill and was concerned about the woman so he headed back to her apartment without telling the department through his radio where he was going.

"When I left the station, I didn't think I was going there," Forman said.

Even though he knew it could potentially put him in danger, he didn't tell anyone where he was going. He said the three years he had spent in the Pops unit working by himself had taught him how to handle things by himself and he felt comfortable and relaxed doing so. He went to the apartment and a man answered the door. The man left or he told him to go along with two Black men. He said she appeared grateful that he was there and he searched the apartment including the bedroom to see that everyone was gone. While they were both there, he said she pulled the blinds closed and then told him she always had a fantasy about having sex with a police officer. She said she wanted to sleep with him but since she was on her period, she said there were other things they could do. He said that she had performed oral sex on him.

She got up. He stood up and they went to the bathroom to clean up and she said that next time he was there, they could have sex. They walked together out of her apartment to the stairs and ran into the apartment manager who asked if anything was wrong.

Johnson asked him if he was proud of himself.

"Absolutely not," Forman said, "I lost my career. I lost my house. I lost everything."

He said he had let himself down, his department, his family and friends.

"I was a good police officer," he said before breaking into tears.

Judge John Molloy stopped the testimony for the day which had seen quite a lot of developments in this contentious trial.

Earlier that day, several police officers testified for the defense including former trainee, Michael Husy who said that Forman had been a "strict" field training officer and that he didn't believe that Forman had ever been under the influence of drugs. He had been friends with Forman and had socialized with him. Would he lie for him, Johnson asked. A question asked of a lot of the officer witnesses in this trial.

"No I would not," Husy said.

Officer Anthony Watkins who had once worked with the California Highway Patrol before being hired in December 2005 testified that he had worked with Forman and had been a friend of his even helping him move last year. He had responded to the home invasion call on April 18, 2008 and had worked as perimeter officer with a long rifle. He entered the residence later on but didn't do any searches. Forman and his trainee, Edwards made an arrest. At one point, he noticed that female underwear was draped on his uniform. He didn't know who put them there.

"They were hanging off of my gun," Watkins said.

He testified that he put on a glove and dropped them off his uniform. He didn't see a dartboard and didn't put the underwear on the dartboard or see that occur.

He also testified that he had seen the second victim walking in the middle of a street in the Eastside, sometime between the time that Forman was put on administrative leave and when he left the department. He told her to get out of the road. She asked him who he was and that she hadn't seen him before. She asked him if he recognized her. She called Forman, "Bobby" and told Watkins, "I'm going to make money off of Bobby." At the time, Watkins hadn't activated his department issued recorder.

Under cross-examination, Watkins was asked questions about statements he had made to the investigator some time later. He was asked about the information he had given to the defense team.

"It's about a fact and it happened and I gave it to him," Watkins said.

He talked to the investigator in March 2009. Prosecutor Elan Zekster said that the investigator's report stated that he had said that she had told him that she had no where to go and no money and that she had just said "Bobby" and hadn't mentioned a last name.

A while later, the jury was sent on recess and the issue arose about whether or not the defense had provided adequate discovery regarding Watkin's interview with the defense investigator. After hearing both sides, Judge John Molloy decided that although Johnson had committed a violation, it was out of nonfeasance which is neglect rather than malfeasance so sanctions would not be issued.

An Old Politician but Brand New Supervisor

The newest Riverside County supervisor John Benoit was sworn in to office amid some concerns about financial donations that might be connected to an individual indicted in the San Jacinto scandal.



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