Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ticket case’s legal aspects unclear

February 23, 2012


Federal authorities who investigated allegations that two suspended Lawrence police officers had a role in dismissing speeding tickets in exchange for Kansas University basketball tickets declined to pursue criminal charges.

And Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib and City Manager David Corliss said the internal investigation involves a violation of the city’s gratuity policy.

Although city officials have not publicly released all the facts of the investigation, Laura Routh, a frequent police department critic, said the incident appeared to be more serious and referred to it as “graft and corruption.”

Mary Kreiner Ramirez, a Washburn University law professor, said it’s hard to tell without knowing specific facts about how the ticket fixing worked but there are likely many reasons why federal authorities decided not to pursue criminal charges of either bribery or gratuity, which is a lesser offense.

“Frankly I don’t know that it necessarily falls under one and not the other,” said Ramirez, a former federal prosecutor. “It depends on how the facts fall.”

Khatib and Corliss have confirmed that other officers were involved in the process of dismissing speeding tickets for an individual who had access to KU basketball tickets. The investigation has indicated those officers may have been asked by a single member of the police department to dismiss those tickets as a favor. It isn’t clear whether those other officers received KU basketball tickets in exchange for the dismissals. The city has declined to provide an estimate of the number of other officers involved or whether other suspensions could be forthcoming.

The individual who provided the basketball tickets was a person now in federal prison related to the broader KU ticket scandal in which four athletic department employees and one consultant stole about $2 million worth of basketball and football tickets from 2005 to 2010.

Ramirez said to prove a bribery charge against a public official, prosecutors must convince jurors there was a quid pro quo, such as an individual giving an officer basketball tickets in exchange for a later dismissal of the speeding ticket.

“It’s a bit more difficult because you’re talking about intending to influence a particular act in the future. You have to link them together particularly,” she said.

But it could get muddier if the facts show the tickets were given to an officer after the speeding citations were already dismissed. That case would likely fall under the federal gratuity statute because it would be harder to prove an officer even knew the basketball tickets would be coming.

“It’s a lower standard of proof. You don’t have to prove it actually influenced their decision,” Ramirez said. “With the bribery, you have to show it was intended to influence their decision.”

Sam Walker, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said from seeing news coverage about the Lawrence ticket-fixing case so far it appeared to be more in line with bribery than gratuity.

“It’s an integrity issue,” Walker said. “Even though it’s only a speeding offense, and even though it’s only basketball tickets, you just can’t overlook a little thing because the next thing, it will be a big one.”

Khatib has said the ticket fixing does not involve dismissing “a ton” of speeding tickets, and it’s not “a widespread, systemic amount of officers.”

The city has not identified the two suspended officers, calling the matter a personnel issue.

“One of the best ways to address it is to seek to foster a culture that has consequences for inappropriate action,” Corliss said last week. “That’s what we’re doing. Even though there’s not been a crime committed, we are taking serious action in regards to this.”

City officials previously have said their investigation determined that one officer largely orchestrated the ticket fixing, while the other officer on suspension had knowledge of the activity and did not step forward. The city has not yet released a specific time frame for the ticket fixing or said how many speeding tickets were dismissed.

Khatib has provided the names of the two suspended officers to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson so that prosecutors could determine whether the alleged ethical violations of the two officers are pertinent to pending or past criminal cases.

Ramirez, the Washburn law professor, said federal prosecutors could have taken into account other factors when deciding not to pursue charges, including possible internal department consequences for the officers involved.


somebodynew 6 years, 3 months ago

Thank you George. While there are still questions out there, at least this was a balanced article that tried to shed some light on the process. And with information from people who have no axe to grind (on either side).

begin60 6 years, 3 months ago

@UNIKU KU is known for brutally retaliating against truth-tellers, so I'm sure you know that of which you speak and seek to discredit. The upstanding local DA's obviously don't have any problem persecuting and prosecuting innocent parties at the behest of KU HR and their in-the-corrupt pocket residents cops either. As this news story shows, sometimes the facts actually catch up with truly guilty. We can only hope KU liars and power abusers are someday brought to account too.

OutlawJHawk 6 years, 3 months ago

Since this seems to have happened more than once, why would this not be some form of conspiracy? The term "orchestrated" reeks of conspiracy and usually the Feds eat this kind of stuff up, unless of course it is one of their own. Or just maybe the cop gave the Fed prosecuter a couple of free KU mens basketball tickets...

fu7il3 6 years, 3 months ago

Police officers don't charge people. Prosecutors do.

Food_for_Thought 6 years, 3 months ago

You are so naive...

"They" IS NOT LPD. "They" ARE NOT Police. "They" ARE Douglas County D.A.'s Office. "They" ARE NOT "honoring the badge of silence". They ARE still carefully reviewing the facts before going forward with any applicable charges. Unless you're a DA or come from some legal background, perhaps you would better understand this...of course, if you had such a background, then you likely wouldn't be leaving misinformed comments on LJW's message board.

The legal process is long and complicated. Any good prosecutor also knows that in order to file criminal charges that will most likely lead to an easy conviction or plea. In complex, lengthy, and convoluted events such as these, the prosecution must be even more scrupulous, when the incident involves multiple events, multiple suspects, and over a period of several years.

Also, it is most professional and in the best interest of the City of Lawrence to "recuse" themselves from any involvement in the criminal charges when it involves one of their own employees, as they are subject to bias. This is the primary reason that Khatib immediately notified the FBI to investigate the matter when he was made aware of the situation. It is better interest of everyone that LPD and the City leave any criminal charges up to an external party, such as the Douglas County District Attorney's Office.

Citizens like yourself, who have little understanding of the legal process and criminal investigations, would be more destructive, than constructive, if on a citizen's review board; then again, I would hope that the City Council would have better judgment than to appoint inexperienced and misinformed citizens to such a position.

Regardless, Khatib has demonstrated professionalism in this matter by referring the investigation to a higher authority, and even upon no FEDERAL criminal charges filed, Khatib still referred it to the Douglas County DA's Office for review of possible STATE criminal charges to be filed. You should not criticize or damn a City official, like Chief Khatib, for doing the right thing, and then insult what he has done so far by crying for a citizens review board.

My recommendation - BE PATIENT. The legal process is a lengthy one. Be happy and grateful that LJW is keeping on the story and giving regular updates, even if the new information gathered is small or not revealing enough to your liking. I would say start becoming angry if the LJW reports that the incident is getting swept under the rug or if you STOP hearing any updates about the investigation.

Bob Forer 6 years, 3 months ago

Don't be too quick to judge the new Chief. Right now, he has done everything possible. Its up to Branson to file charges, and I am sure a decision on that issue will be forthcoming shortly. While Khatib probably had the option of firing them right away, I think it was a smart move to wait and see whether there would be a prosecution before making a final decision on whether to fire the cops. Right now they are suspended, so they are no longer a present threat to the public.

There are a lot of complicated legal issues involved in HR matters, and for that reason the city is pursuing this matter with due caution, but also with due diligence, it appears.

I am sure this is not the end of the story. Be patient. Let the process run its course before passing judgment.

JackMcKee 6 years, 3 months ago

It's time for the PD to come clean on the facts. So far they've been hard to come by.

ModerateOne 6 years, 3 months ago

The story reports that the PD has come clean on the fact to the DA's office and the FBI. The idea that the facts have been hard for you to come by does not mean that they have been hard for the right people to come by.

Sigmund 6 years, 3 months ago

somebodynew (anonymous) says… "Thank you George. While there are still questions out there, at least this was a balanced article that tried to shed some light on the process."

Agreed, good article George. But Khatib's comments are very concerning, "Khatib has said the ticket fixing does not involve dismissing “a ton” of speeding tickets, and it’s not “a widespread, systemic amount of officers.” Apparently the LPD can unilaterally dismiss tickets on a whim and only refer cases involving the Police to the DA when there are a "ton" of them. Apparently the occasional bribe to police officers are tolerated and only a internal matter.

If we can't trust police officers on small matters just how are we to trust them with more weighty responsibilities? After all police officers carry weapons and are given certain privileges and immunities to use deadly force. Their word at trial is often accepted as facts by juries who regularly convict defendants at trial. We expect that they have excellent judgement and character.

If the DA office gives a pass to the police who on the face of it have committed bribery but refuse prosecution because they didn't do it a ton of times, this gives the impression that both the Chief and the DA are willing to accept a certain amount of bribery in Lawrence because everyone does it.

The DA needs to charge these police officers with bribery and take them to trial. The officers can get a defense attorney and defend against those charges. Let the facts come out and let a jury of their peers make the close call, if it really is a close call which I doubt it is. I don't remember any case where civilians were given a "pass" on criminal charges just because they didn't commit the crime a ton of times.

Richard Payton 6 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like the police department had their own yellow house.

shadowlady 6 years, 3 months ago

If the truth comes out, and the Neighbors are found to have been falsely accused, I can see a law suit coming.. And if that happens, I don't blame them, they have been through a lot, not to meantion that their name has been muddied by more than just the accusers, but by some of the people putting comments on here. But what you bet, there will be none to apologize!!! Okay, I can see the tomatoes coming. Do ya have any salt????

KU_cynic 6 years, 3 months ago

Troubling situation, to be sure.

One aspect that seems to be under-reported on is how widespread the supply of tickets from KU Athletics in exchange for favors might have been in the past . I am skeptical that this practice was limited to the already-convicted-felons involved with the KUAC ticket scandal. Instead, I conjecture that KUAC coaches and administrators have pervasively used tickets and similar favors to law enforcement as means of smoothing over problems related to traffic violations and other minor infractions committed by KUAC personnel and student athletes. Seriously, would such a practice seem out of character for KUAC in the Lew Perkins era?

thewatcher 6 years, 3 months ago

Nothing short of the officers termination is acceptable. Lead by example!

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

Termination and felony conviction for abuse of power under color of authority.

Ricky_Vaughn 6 years, 3 months ago

“One of the best ways to address it is to seek to foster a culture that has consequences for inappropriate action,” Corliss said last week. “That’s what we’re doing. Even though there’s not been a crime committed, we are taking serious action in regards to this.”

So where's the consequences? Fire these corrupt lackeys! No crime committed? What serious actions are you taking? You mean looking the other way? Of course I have to remember that this is coming from the guy that likes to use the phrase "spear-chucker".

Now I know what Lawrence is all about...KU basketball, nepotism, and corruption of authority. I'm thankful I don't live there anymore.

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

From the sounds of it, LKPD and DA is probably putting more effort into discovering who sent the anonymous letter than actually punishing the offenders under the full extent of the law.

Getaroom 6 years, 3 months ago

And the conspiracy theories pile up along with the trash in a cyclops eye. Great detective there _wilber.

purplesage 6 years, 3 months ago

How do you approach a citizen, whom you are accusing of breaking the law, with an ounce of integrity if the possibility of dismissing those charges exisits for some, particularly those who can provide desirable things in exchange.

Cops are crooked, some more than others. The lack of accountability for their actions makes this the case. They operate in a culture so isolated from the society that hey are commissioned to protect and serve that the mentality of being above the law and free to do what they pleae quickly develops. And of course, there aren't any charges forthcoming. Cops look out for cops - in this case, the FBI for LPD. That doesn't mean there isn't a crime here. And it is not a "personnel matter."

fu7il3 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm not being sarcastic or anything, but I am just wondering if I missed something in the past. I've only lived in Lawrence for a few years, but who is Laura Routh? I've seen her quoted a couple of times now and have yet to see anything credited to her other than "doesn't like the police."

Does she have some advanced degree in Law, Criminal Justice, Public Administration, or something like that? Papers published that would make her an expert of some sort? Spokesperson for some sort of non-profit related to police corruption?

I am just wondering who she is that she keeps showing up in these articles next to law professors, prosecutors, police chiefs and the like. I assume she must have some sort of qualifications other than "frequent critic," otherwise what is the point of quoting her specifically?

Food_for_Thought 6 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

fu7il3 6 years, 3 months ago

I was just curious. I used to be a journalist and couldn't really figure out what she was doing in the story other than being a random dissenting voice.

It would be like quoting me in the West Lawrence Rec Center story as saying "It is a bad idea." Sure, I think it is a bad idea, but why should anyone care what I think? I am nobody.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 3 months ago

First this is not a public. Issue. This is a internal affairs matter. If federal investigators are not recommendi.g charges no amount of pressure from the press or forums will change that.

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

LOL how is the police, a public-serving entity - a government agency at that - abusing their color of authority, not a public issue?

We don't live in a police state. We are not run by the Gestapo. Police indiscretion while performing their public duty is very much a public issue.

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

Of course that's absolutely true. But it doesn't change the fact that this is still a very public issue, whether someone chooses to wear rose-colored glasses or not.

Any pressure We, the People can put on the Government to do what is right by the citizens, only continues to help keep the police state farther away than it could be.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 3 months ago

This is no different than a city trash man accepting tickets for the special favor of after hours pick up. It may be unethical but it isn't a crime. It is a employment matter. A lighted match is not a five alarm fire.

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

Is that city trash man commissioned to enforce laws? Laws against bribery of a public official, racketeering, etc? No.

It's his job to pick up the trash. If he does it on his own time and his own effort, that's his business.

It's not a police officer's job to decide which laws they need to enforce at a given time, based on what the offender has to offer them. On the contrary. It's a police officer's job to decide at the time what laws have been broken and enforce the law within their duty and power.

Changing their minds on what laws to enforce based on bribes is illegal.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 3 months ago

Such drama. I bet the black helicopter is in your garage.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

No, the black helicopter is in the sky above me, I am looking at it right now. Oh, wait. That is a fly on my window.

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

LKPD: Take this example as what a police department should be doing when officers are caught breaking the law. You shouldn't be protecting them, you should be exposing them and charging them with the crimes they committed.

Sigmund 6 years, 3 months ago

biggunz (anonymous) replies… "Well, apparently, the people trained in the judicial process have determined no crime was committed."

Well I have been trained in the judicial process and I have not come to the determination that no crime was committed. In fact no one familiar with the case has said publicly that no crime was committed. The fact that the feds did not prosecute may be for a number of other reasons like they expect the local DA to prosecute under Kansas Laws as they have more pressing cases.

Looking at the facts we know and the law as published leads me and others to the conclusion the crime of bribery was committed:

21-6001. Bribery. (a) Bribery is: (1) Offering, giving or promising to give, directly or indirectly, to any person who is a public officer, candidate for public office or public employee any benefit, reward or consideration to which the person is not legally entitled with intent thereby to influence the person with respect to the performance of the person's powers or duties as a public officer or employee; or (2) the act of a person who is a public officer, candidate for public office or public employee, in requesting, receiving or agreeing to receive, directly or indirectly, any benefit, reward or consideration given with intent that the person will be so influenced.

(b) Bribery is a severity level 7, nonperson felony. Upon conviction of bribery, a public officer or public employee shall forfeit the person's office or employment. Notwithstanding an expungement of the conviction pursuant to K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-6614, and amendments thereto, any person convicted of bribery under the provisions of this section shall be forever disqualified from holding public office or public employment in this state.

So the next time Biggunz gets pulled over for speeding I suggest just offering $100 if the officer forgets all about it, either the officer accepts and you're golden, or if you are charged with bribery just tell the Police and the DA you didn't do this a ton of times and you won't be prosecuted as this is the new standard in Douglas County.

Not a fan of Laura Routh or police oversight boards, but if if the LPD new policy of self enforcement is "we didn't accept bribes a ton of times so it is a internal matter" and the DA goes along with that nonsense, then I am afraid we need a citizen oversight board for the LPD and a new District Attorney.

JackMcKee 6 years, 3 months ago

I, too, have been "trained in the judicial process" and I concur that no determination of whether a crime was committed can be made from the information presented. It is also my learned legal opinion that this is a matter of public interest and policy that cannot be classified as merely an internal personnel matter for the police.

Liberty275 6 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if the policemen in question knew the tickets were stolen property.

Kelly Anderson 6 years, 3 months ago

The way I see it....after all of these comments, some good, some not so good, is one of the many reasons that they have NOT disclosed the names of the officers is because it looks to me that they have already been convicted and NONE OF US has any more information then this article does. Two sides to EVERY story and we have only seen very little if any information on only one side so far..........

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 6 years, 3 months ago

Strange, whenever other adults engage in misconduct their names appear in the paper, but the names of these cops isn't? How is that even remotely fair? This crap of constantly giving cops a pass when they violate the law is getting old. No special treatment, either in, or out of jail. You break the law, you get punished and your name appears in the paper. We're always told that crimes against cops are more serious, so shouldn;t it hold that when we're confronted with a crooked cop the penalties should be more severe?

nangasaur 6 years, 3 months ago

Be careful, some folks here will start accusing you of seeing black helicopters above your house.

This is what happens when you call it as you see it.

WOOHOO 6 years, 3 months ago

I wonder why the normal spokesperson for LPD isn't giving the press releases. I wonder if he was involved?

Bob Forer 6 years, 3 months ago

Question: I don't see where the story indicates whether the cops were suspended with or without pay. The public has a right to that answer.

Uhjh 6 years, 3 months ago

I believe the rudimentary question is why a police officer has the ability to ‘fix’ a ticket. Once it is issued and supposedly sign by the offender shouldn’t it then be up to City Hall to collect the fine or an appearance required. There seems to be some sort of connect here. If not then it must have never entered the ‘system’. To me there needs to be an independent review to determine how the thing was fixed and to assure an officer does not have ability to ‘fix’ a traffic violation.

Sigmund 6 years, 3 months ago

biggunz (anonymous) replies… "Well, I'm guessing you are not a part of the official investigation so your opinion really means nothing."

Correct, I am not part of the LPD who investigated the LPD and determined the LPD committed no crimes which seems pretty incestuous to me. The fact that the LPD and DA are not releasing a lot of pertinent facts that would help us mere civilians offer more informed comments must give you great comfort.

But then again since you are not a part of the official investigation your opinion really means nothing as well.

JackMcKee 6 years, 3 months ago

If it is income for anyone it would be the recipients. However, It could be argued that the tickets should be classified as a gift. There just aren't enough facts with this story to make any determinations.

JimmyJoeBob 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't believe they have different sentencing guidelines for cops and civilians so I don't believe the penalties can be more severe. The sentence length would all be based on their criminal history.

bornon7 6 years, 3 months ago

While eating lunch at work today, I asked my co-workers how they felt about the LPD/ticket scandal....I was unsettled by their responses..." I know so and so and they let my family off all the time!" and " I am from Lawrence...I haven't paid a ticket yet!" Boy, I must be a total zero. I was not raised in Lawrence, I don't have a ton of money, and I obviously don't know the right people. Guess I am not only screwed, but naive.

Sigmund 6 years, 3 months ago

can8iv66049 (anonymous) says… "Two sides to EVERY story and we have only seen very little if any information on only one side so far.........."

What we do know: 1. police officers took basketball tickets and more than one but not a "ton" speeding tickets were dismissed as a result, 2. the facts of this case including the results of any police investigation have not been released to anyone outside the LPD, except only the names of the officers have been released to the DA to determine which current and past cases might be impacted because they were involved, 3. no one who knows the facts of this case has flatly stated that no crime (ie Kansas bribery laws) were committed.

purplesage 6 years, 3 months ago

If someone in the general public sells tickets for more than face value, it is scalping, right? That can get you arrested. So please tell me how it is that a basketball ticket can be traded for a speeding ticket and that not get you arrested?

Just what does it take to get a cop blamed for the excesses and indiscretions. Check out the no wrong doing in the link below. Tasered 71 time . . .

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