Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

K.C. police officer’s false testimony could affect 15 pending cases

February 27, 2004

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— A Kansas City police sergeant's false testimony in a felony gun case could have ramifications in up to 15 pending criminal cases, police officials said.

Sgt. Brad Chirnside was suspended in January after police officials learned a judge ruled Chirnside gave "false and untrue testimony" in a felony gun case. That testimony prompted Jackson County Circuit Judge Jon R. Gray to exclude the gun as evidence, prompting prosecutors to drop the case.

Although the ruling was issued in January of last year, police did not learn of it until this January. Jackson County prosecutors are now reviewing records in the 15 pending cases, mostly drug possessions.

"We'll need to see what (Chirnside's) role was and what it would be at trial and make a decision from there," said assistant prosecutor Dawn Parsons. "If we do call him as a witness, we'll have to disclose the order from Judge Gray."

Federal law requires prosecutors to reveal evidence that would cast doubt on the credibility of any government witnesses.

Chirnside was suspended with pay on Jan. 16 after police officials learned of the ruling.

The felony gun case started on Feb. 20, 2002, when Chirnside pulled over a car that belonged to a man wanted on a city assault charge. Chirnside searched the car and found a gun, court records said.

In an October 2002 hearing, the officer testified the driver was slow to pull over, was dipping his shoulder and leaning toward the interior of the passenger compartment. He also testified he drew his gun when he approached the man's car and found the gun when he opened the unlocked passenger door to search the car.

The judge believed Chirnside and found the search to be lawful.

But the next month, a videotape of the arrest from a camera in Chirnside's police car showed that the driver did not dip, move his shoulders or lean toward the interior of the passenger compartment. It also showed that Chirnside did not draw his weapon, and that he reached into the driver's pocket to retrieve his car keys, then used the keys to unlock the man's car.

At the second hearing, Chirnside told the judge he had forgotten some details, because several months had elapsed between the arrest and the first hearing.

But the judge said Chirnside "did not merely fudge a few facts, but made numerous material false statements while under oath." He cited eight sections of Chirnside's testimony that he said were untrue.

The case's assistant prosecutor, Paul Sullivan, left the Jackson County prosecutor's office shortly after dismissing the case in February 2003. He said he never reported the judge's accusations to police officials because he believed Chirnside didn't lie intentionally.

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