01/24/2006 - A
officer who has been investigated at least once before for domestic
violence is on paid administrative leave pending two internal affairs
investigations into his off-duty conduct.
officer John M. DeStefano Jr. was arrested for driving his 1994 Buick
under the influence of alcohol after leaving a Christmas party in the
early morning hours of Dec. 18, according to Pima County Sheriff's
Department reports. He was arrested again on Dec. 28 for criminal
damage with a value of less than $100 and a domestic violence
aggravation, according to the Pima County Justice Court records Web
the events of Dec. 18, part of which unfolded in front of Marana police
officers, DeStefano stayed on the job through the next week. The
department sent him to speak at a Marana Town Council meeting two days
after his DUI arrest to kick off a campaign for the Special Olympics.
wasn't until he was arrested again a few days later that the department
placed him on paid leave of absence while the investigations are
conducted, said Police Chief Richard Vidaurri. Town records show
DeStefano makes $52,562 a year. The internal investigations are
separate from the criminal investigations and can result in no action
being taken by the department or levels of discipline that go all the
way up to firing.
"At this point, we're getting ready to wrap up
the first investigation probably in the next week or two," Vidaurri
said. "Then we'll get started on the second one and that could take a
few weeks out before everything is completed."
investigated for a domestic violence incident involving his wife less
than three years ago, Vidaurri said, adding that he thinks the officer
was placed on paid leave then, too. When the case was presented to the
county attorney's office, attorneys declined to prosecute the Marana
police officer, he said.
Police and court records on the Dec. 28
arrest and for the older domestic violence incident were not available
at press time. DeStefano could not be reached for comment.
his tenure with the agency, he's done very well," Vidaurri said in
support of DeStefano. "As far as anything of this magnitude, this is
actually one of the first few times where any serious type of
violations have occurred with him."
Records of current and past department investigations involving
DeStefano were not made available to the EXPLORER by press time.
was arrested in Marana's jurisdiction Dec. 18, nearly an hour after
crashing his vehicle into a dirt embankment on the north side of Twin
Peaks Road west of Silverbell Road, according to Pima County Sheriff's
Two sheriff's deputies, a sergeant and two
Marana Police Department cars responded to calls that DeStefano was
stuck spinning his wheels in the loose dirt.
Bonds was the first officer dispatched to the scene shortly after 3:30
a.m. and he found DeStefano's car perpendicular to the roadway.
DeStefano told the deputy he swerved off the road to avoid another
vehicle that had traveled into his lane and he had been stuck there for
about 15 minutes, reports state.
As DeStefano located his
driver's license from inside his car, Bonds reported that he noticed a
Marana Police badge. It took DeStefano two or three attempts to remove
his driver's license from his wallet, reports state.
at one point he seemed to stumble and fall into the vehicle," Bonds
wrote. "As he walked back to me, he also seemed somewhat unsteady on
Sgt. George Economidis of the sheriff's department
arrived on the scene shortly before 4 a.m. As he was arriving, Sgt.
William Hess of the Marana Police Department called him and requested
the sheriff's department conduct the investigation, reports state.
However, just moments after that conversation, Mark Meredith of the
Marana Police Department arrived on the scene.
met with Officer Meredith briefly, indicating to him that it was my
understanding from a phone call with Sergeant Hess that we would handle
the investigation and that no Marana officers would be responding,"
Economidis wrote. "Officer Meredith indicated to me that as he was
already on scene, he would assist in any way possible but would
maintain a non-investigatory role."
Moments later, Hess also
arrived on the scene and ordered Meredith to give DeStefano his duty
jacket when DeStefano was cold, reports state.
admitted to having "a few drinks" at a Christmas party earlier in the
evening, Economidis wrote in his report, adding that he smelled alcohol
on his breath.
However, DeStefano refused to perform a field
sobriety test, specifically a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, because
"he did not believe in the validity of the test, as he was a certified
HGN officer," reports state.
Hess then requested to speak in
private with DeStefano, which they did for three to five minutes in the
back of a Marana squad car, reports state.
DeStefano then talked to Economidis again, saying he was "not impaired
enough to drink," reports state.
believed he meant he was not impaired enough to have problems driving,"
Economidis reported, adding that DeStefano "displayed poor balance."
Barton Davis arrived on scene and was able to convince DeStefano to
take the gaze test, though he refused a breathalyzer test, reports
state. He was then arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol
and taken to Northwest Medical Center where DeStefano allowed his blood
to be drawn for testing of its alcohol content. Results of that test
were not available at press time.
"In speaking with him, I
observed he had red, bloodshot eyes, his speech was slurred, and I
could detect a moderate odor of intoxicants coming from his mouth,"
Hess took DeStefano home that night. Ten days
later, on Dec. 28, DeStefano was arrested again for criminal damage
with domestic violence involvement.
Town records show that the
Marana Police Department has sent DeStefano on multiple training trips
in the last year, including a stay for more than a week in Tempe.
Receipts from that trip show he may have spent some time drinking at
VooDoo Daddy's Magic Kitchen, where he ordered a martini and some
merlot, though he only billed the town for the food portion of his
Travel records show he also sought reimbursement for
several food expenses during a trip to Minnesota in October. The town
paid for the sampler platter he ordered at Applebee's his first night
in town, though it didn't pick up the tab for the four beers on his
Vidaurri said he was caught off guard by DeStefano's behavior.
think it was surprising to me that this type of incident happens in
general, whether it's John or anyone else," Vidaurri said. "When these
types of issues happen, it surprises anyone."
12/12/2005 - A
Coal Valley police officer is facing criminal charges for allegedly
using police records to assist in investigating cases as a private
M. Cerda, 42, is charged in Rock
Island County Circuit Court with four felony counts of official
misconduct, a felony count of false impersonation of a police officer
and a misdemeanor count of acting as a private detective without a
of the misconduct
charges stem from an incident July 2 when Cerda allegedly used the
police records management system to look up records for two men and a
woman. The other two stem from incidents between Sept. 10 and 12 where
he again allegedly used the computer system to look up records, this
time for two other men.
stems from a Sept. 12 incident where he allegedly told one of the men
he was a police officer from Davenport, court records state.
was released on his own recognizance Monday. He is due back in court
Valley Police Chief Larry Buechler said Cerda has been on
administrative leave with pay since Sept. 23.
12/12/2005 - DES MOINES, Iowa A Des Moines police officer facing
assault and harassment charges has been fired.
Eric Ortman was arrested October fifth in Ankeny after his wife called
police to their home during a domestic dispute.
police say they needed to use a Taser to control Ortman after they
arrived at the scene.
he'll appear in
court next month on charges of assault on peace officers and
firefighters, first-degree harassment and interference with official
attorney, says her client is a recovering alcoholic on his second month
of sobriety. She says alcohol is at the root of his problems.
10/28/2005 - A Des
Moines activist group says the U.S. Department of Justice will look
into allegations that a Polk County sheriff's deputy targeted Hispanic
drivers for no apparent reason.
"They are very interested in
this case," Angela DeJonge Meraz, community organizer for Citizens for
Community Improvement, said of the Justice Department. "They want to be
sure that there's no discrimination in the sheriff's department."
70 people attended a meeting sponsored by CCI Thursday night in Des
Moines to talk about accusations that Deputy Shawn Van Hoozer, who is
white, pulled over three Hispanic men near Grimes despite that they
were driving the speed limit and violating no traffic laws. The alleged
incidents occurred May 14 and Aug. 5.
Sheriff's officials have denied the allegations.
felt like a criminal," said Miguel Aviles, one of the three men stopped
by Van Hoozer. "The only thing I can think of is that he pulled me over
because of my skin color."
CCI invited Sheriff Dennis Anderson to the meeting, but
officials said he was out of town and unavailable.
Vaughn, the sheriff's chief deputy, defended his department's decision
to skip the meeting. "If there's corrective action that needs to take
place - whether it's training, counseling or discipline - we would take
the appropriate course of action, but we don't want to be thrown into
an emotionally charged setting," he said.
Vaughn said he would meet with the three men only if they
file a formal complaint with his department.
The men detailed their experience with Van Hoozer.
Eliseo Belmares of Des Moines said Van Hoozer stopped him despite that
he was driving the speed limit and violating no traffic laws. He said
he was asked about immigration status. Belmares said Van Hoozer stopped
him after he looked up his license plates and found he didn't carry a
valid Iowa license. Belmares, who moved to Des Moines in 2000, had a
Kansas license and state law requires drivers to get an Iowa license
within 30 days after they move.
• Aviles, of Des Moines, said he
was traveling on Iowa Highway 141 when Van Hoozer stopped him. Aviles
said the deputy asked him to get in the patrol car while he searched
the vehicle. Van Hoozer, he said, impounded his vehicle and drove
Aviles, who had an expired Iowa license, to a gas station.
Luis Hernandez of West Des Moines said Van Hoozer took his wallet, keys
and cell phone then locked him in the patrol car before asking for a
driver's license or insurance. He said the deputy then got agitated
when Hernandez told him that he had just moved to a new house and
didn't remember his address. Hernandez said he was threatened with jail
time if he didn't say his home address. He said Van Hoozer then asked
for his license and insurance and told him his truck was being
CCI obtained records and videotapes from the
sheriff's department showing that 53 percent of Van Hoozer's 42 tickets
went to Hispanic drivers between May 27 and Aug. 19. Van Hoozer's
ticketing pattern suggests racial profiling, DeJonge Meraz said.
a handful of attendees - most of them Hispanics - complained of racial
profiling by Iowa law enforcement agencies and said it might be a
10/06/2005 - A Des Moines
police officer was arrested early Wednesday morning by Ankeny police.
Eric Ortman was charged with domestic abuse, assault on a police
officer and interference with official acts.
has been a Des
Moines police officer since 1994. He's been placed on administrative
leave from his duties at the Des Moines airport.
09/23/2005 - MASON
CITY — Former Mason City police officer Dan Mason was
sentenced to up
to two years in prison this morning for his conviction earlier this
year of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse.
Judge Bryan McKinley imposed the sentence after hearing nearly three
hours of statements from witnesses, including Masons’
asked that he be granted probation.
The conviction stems from
an incident in December 2004 with a 19-year-old woman in her home.
Mason testified in his trial and said again today that he had
consensual sex with the woman and that he stopped when he realized she
wanted him to stop.
McKinley, in imposing sentence, told Mason
what happened wasn’t an accident or the result of a
“It was a crime,” he said.
Mason was charged in early 2005 in
two other sexual assault cases. He was fired by the Mason City Police
Department after an internal investigation.
The additional trials for Mason are scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 13.
09/16/2005 - A Polk
county youth shelter aide and former Des Moines police
been accused of sexually abusing a child. His name is Walt
he worked at the Polk County Youth Shelter for a little more than a
year. In July he resigned and now he is facing three sex abuse
Bevel is charged with assault
with intent to commit sex abuse, indecent contact with a child and
third degree sex abuse. Police say the abuse occurred at the Polk
County Youth Shelter, where Bevel was an aide and outside of the
shelter. Investigators believe it occurred over an eight month period
beginning in January of this year. The shelter normally houses children
as young as nine to as old as 17.
was a Des Moines police officer
from 1983 to 2001. He retired taking accidental disability after
sustaining some type of injury. We talked with an officer who worked
with Bevel. He says he was personable, a competent officer and they
were shocked to hear about the charges.
08/12/2005 -Mason City
- Dan Mason, the former Mason City police officer convicted in June of
assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, has asked for a new trial.
Mason's attorney was in court Tuesday morning claiming affidavits from
five jurors indicate the jury misunderstood and misapplied
instructions in finding Mason guilty of an aggregated misdemeanor.
Michael Byrne, Mason's attorney, presented the
affidavits during a two-hour hearing in Cerro Gordo County District
also asked the
court to delay sentencing, pending the outcome of two additional cases
against the 14-year police department veteran.
Bryne said the motion for a new trial is connected to juror misconduct.
He said an "objective discussion" among jurors during deliberations is
the basis for the motion.
juror misconduct involves the misapplication of the court's
instructions," Byrne told Judge Bryan McKinley. "The jury failed to
discuss the defendant's specific intent, which resulted in failure to
follow the instructions of the court.
"Subsequently, the defendant has not received a fair trial," Bryne said.
He called it "an unforeseeable error."
was not a case where jurors went out on their own," Bryne said. "It was
a good faith effort. But the fact is that they misapplied the law on
Prosecutor Patricia Houlihan of the Iowa Attorney General's
Office argued against a new trial.
She said there is no proof of misconduct and said the
affidavits were not legally valid evidence.
The court will accept written briefs prior to ruling on the motion.
the motion to delay sentencing, Bryne said pre-sentencing medical and
sexual information requested by the Department of Corrections could
jeopardize his client's chance at a fair trial in pending cases.
was charged with third-degree sexual assault in December 2004. He was
accused of raping a 20-year-old Mason City woman earlier in the year.
Charges in two more cases followed and early in 2005 he was
fired by the Mason City Police Department.
In June, a jury of seven men and five women found him guilty of the
lesser charge of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse.
He could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and would have to
register with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry program.
Two trials on additional charges against Mason are scheduled later this
A Moline police officer
appeared in court today on a drunk driving charge alleging he
sobriety tests along Interstate 80 in Scott County, court records show.
K. Saathoff, 32, of Cordova,
Ill., was arrested at about 3:10 a.m. June 30 after he was involved in
a sideswipe accident in Illinois, the Scott County Sheriff's Department
refused to take either a
preliminary breath test at the scene and a breath test at the Scott
County Jail, the department said.
- Mason City - The veerdict — guilty of assault with intent
sexual abuse — elicited little emotion from defendant Dan
and straight-faced as the Cerro Gordo County District Court jury was
polled, the former Mason City police officer's only reaction was to
wipe perspiration from his forehead.
Without speaking, Mason followed his attorney from the courtroom.
seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated less than four hours before
returning the guilty verdict Friday morning on the aggravated
misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to two years in prison.
The conviction also requires Mason to be listed on the Iowa Sex
Mason was charged with raping a 20-year-old Mason City woman Dec. 10 at
her home, prosecutor Patricia Houlihan of the Iowa Attorney General's
Office called the guilty verdict on a lesser charge a "great victory."
Prosecution of similar cases involving law enforcement
officers in Iowa is "very low," Houlihan said.
the conviction rate is much lower than in most sexual assault cases,"
she said. "While this has been a very difficult and emotional case
for the state, the victim and the defendant — it really is a
As the verdict was announced, the victim's mother and
a friend wept softly, leaning on one another, before leaving the
courtroom without comment.
Iowa Division of Criminal
Investigation agent Larry Hedlund, the primary investigator in this and
two similar cases pending against Mason, said only, "My sympathy goes
out to the victim and her family. I will say only that this case had an
excellent judge and an excellent jury."
Asked if the defense will file an appeal, Mason's attorney, Michael
Byrne, said that discussion is premature.
are disappointed that the jury found any basis for a conviction.
Because of the length of deliberation, I anticipated a verdict of not
guilty," Byrne said.
We believe the jury was mistaken in holding
Mr. Mason responsible for any injury to the victim and that any sexual
activity was consensual."
A 14-year veteran of the Mason City
Police Department, Mason was placed on administrative leave when
charges were filed against him and was fired in April following an
internal investigation by the department.
- Iowa Court
records show an Iowa State trooper accused of sexually abusing a girl
more than a decade ago asked her not to talk about it for fear he'd
lose his job and family. Investigators recorded a telephone
conversation between Karl Kluender of Huxley and the girl last month.
He was charged this week with second-degree sexual abuse. He was also
alleged abuse happened between 1992 and 1994 at Kluender's parents'
apartment in Denison. Kluender's attorney, Bill Kutmus, criticized the
criminal complaint as editorializing and an effort to "capture the
media's attention. Kutmus says Kluender plans to plead not guilty and
will appeal his firing.A preliminary hearing is set for April 29th in
Crawford County District Court.
Involved: Gregory Collins
-- Federal prosecutors
dropped the final charge against a former Davenport police narcotics
and vice commander, two months after his conviction and 18-month prison
sentence on that charge was overturned on appeal. The dismissal means
that former Sgt. Gregory Collins, who was fired in 2000 after an
eight-month internal affairs investigation revealed that he pocketed
money and used seized property for his own benefit, will serve no
Involved: Travis Hamilton
02/2003 -- Charges alleged that Travis Hamilton made an improper arrest
in February 2003 and submitted an inaccurate report of the incident and
in general, harassed the person arrested. He also had charges alleging
he made improper and unprofessional statements after an arrest and was
cited for not following standard police safety procedures and
conducting an improper and illegal search in a May 2003 traffic stop.