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Archive for Friday, March 30, 2012

Officers won’t face criminal charges in ticket-fixing case

March 30, 2012, 2:13 p.m. Updated March 30, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

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Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Friday prosecutors have determined the results of 18 past criminal cases would not be undermined even though two officers who were witnesses were recently dismissed from the Lawrence Police Department after a ticket-fixing scandal.

Branson also said his office would not file criminal charges in connection with the ticket investigation because prosecutors did not find probable cause to prove bribery or other crimes.

Two officers were suspended earlier this year, and neither is now employed with the police department. In 2011, the FBI investigated allegations that speeding tickets were dismissed in exchange for Kansas University basketball tickets.

The city has not identified the two officers, but city officials have confirmed that Matt Sarna and Michael Monroe, both sergeants and longtime officers, are no longer employed with the department.

When asked on Friday whether the active cases reviewed involved Sarna and Monroe, Branson said they did.

Investigation and review

City officials have said six speeding tickets were dismissed for a former athletics official who now is in prison as part of the broader KU athletic-tickets-for-cash scandal. The speeding tickets were dismissed in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

The officer who resigned in February, now identified as Sarna, had a long-term friendship dating to the late 1990s or early 2000s with the KU Athletics employee and received “free, discounted or otherwise special access to certain athletic events over several years,” and at some point the athletics employee asked for help dismissing speeding tickets he received or was about to receive.

The second officer — Monroe, who was suspended and was no longer employed with the city as of last week — was asked two or three times by Sarna for assistance in fixing a ticket and may have benefited from KU tickets obtained by Sarna.

The other tickets were fixed by asking officers who issued or were about to issue a ticket to void it or not issue it, but those officers did not “knowingly” receive anything in return. No other officers have been suspended.

FBI agents, at the city’s request, investigated the case and decided against filing federal charges of bribery or other offenses.

In the last month, Branson reviewed past cases because prosecutors are required to turn over to defendants possible exculpatory evidence involving witnesses.

In a statement, Branson said his office used its computerized records system to identify cases in which the two officers were listed as witnesses. Prosecutors, who discovered the 18 cases, reviewed:

• Each officer’s role in the cases.

• Whether the cases resulted in a plea or trial.

• Whether each officer’s contribution to the investigation was material.

• Whether there was “a reasonable probability that had the officer been unavailable for trial the result of the proceeding would have been different.”

“There were no cases identified where the officer’s involvement undermined the confidence in the outcome of the case,” according to the statement.

However, Branson said his office was not able to review every case that could involve the two officers because his office’s current computer system allows for searches only back to October 2005.

Sarna and Monroe were employed with the department beginning in 1991. Monroe was promoted to sergeant in 2004, and Sarna was promoted to sergeant in 2008 after serving as a school resource officer for several years. When he became a sergeant, Sarna was a patrol supervisor until he became the department’s public affairs sergeant and media spokesman in 2010.

Monroe worked as a patrol supervisor from 2004 to 2009 and later moved to the department’s office of professional accountability. In 2011 he was a sergeant and supervisor in the investigations division.

“If there is an attorney that has reason to believe they may have a case that is affected by this situation, they should contact the district attorney directly so he can pull that file and make a review,” the district attorney’s office statement states.

No criminal charges

In his statement Friday, Branson said prosecutors reviewed the FBI and department’s internal affairs report, which revealed the KU tickets were provided to the officers and that the same officers fixed certain traffic tickets.

“However, the timing and circumstances surrounding the receipt of or access to those basketball tickets could not be directly linked to specific requests for fixing traffic tickets,” which would be required in a bribery conviction, Branson said.

That meant there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that a crime was committed “based upon the nexus between the receipt of basketball tickets and any request for traffic tickets to be fixed,” Branson said.

Comments

MarcoPogo 2 years, 8 months ago

Put some quarters in the jukebox because here comes the same ol' Song and Dance crowd...

John Hamm 2 years, 8 months ago

Funny. as much as things change how they still stay the same in ol' Larryville......

Clickker 2 years, 8 months ago

Doesnt really sound like a bribe. Sounds like a cop doing a favor for a friend. Nothing wrong with that. It wasnt until later that a favor was asked. The cop could have said "no", but probably did it out of friendship, not because he got a few free tickets.

deec 2 years, 8 months ago

Kinda like the opening scene of the Godfather. I do you a favor, and someday you do me one.

John Hamm 2 years, 8 months ago

Oh no this isn't a "bribe." A bribe would be "you fix this for me and I'll give you something of value." Now we all know KU Basketball tickets don't have any value....... Jeeezzzzzzzzzzzz

jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

Wow.

They fixed some traffic tickets, and received KU tickets from the same people.

Sure sounds like bribery to me.

Paula Kissinger 2 years, 8 months ago

It just makes me sick...illegal or not...it just makes me sick that they brought shame to the police as a whole by doing this.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 8 months ago

what they did was unethical and ultimately cost them their job. Justice has been served. Quit defending them, but also quit burning them alive. Move on.

progressive_thinker 2 years, 8 months ago

Violation of gratuity policy would be along the line of accepting a reduced rate meal just for showing up in uniform, or maybe accepting a gift card for changing someones tire.

I do not see how they get violation of a gratuity policy where there is a quid pro quo exchange of basketball tickets for the officer's breach of public trust.

tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, they have lost a good paying job, and have to start looking for another one. I'd say life is not good for them.

pace 2 years, 8 months ago

I am sure since the DA decided insufficient evidence and they weren't charged, if they don't mind moving, they will get another law enforcement job. Fixing tickets for objects of value= bribe. It is not hate, it is fact. Saying they took a bribe is just fact. What kind of silliness is it , when you are suppose to lie or cover up corruption out of "love" or "hate".. Everyone pays when there is no standard of conduct expect of law enforcement. No one but crooks want the police to be on the take.

schwa997 2 years, 8 months ago

These guys are going to pay dearly for the rest of their lives for some damn basketball tickets. What makes this really bad is that it dates back 12 years.

My understanding is that both of these guys were well liked by their peers, community, and employer. Both were seargents.

Seriously, if all you did since college is be a law enforcement officer, what are they looking at for employment? Remember Brian Edwards, who was a veteran of the force who plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to something involving a false claim on a computer manufacturer or something along those lines. He ended up being an adjunct professor at Washburn and now is in senior management for loss prevention for Nebraska Furniture. I really do hope these two men find a way to support their families. As 20 year veterans, these guys were making 65-75k a year. Any law enforcement job in any other state.... this is going to follow them.

pace 2 years, 8 months ago

Your dire prophecy of this being the end for them is not supported by any logic or history. One example is Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. after thirty years in prison for murder most foul, (wikipedia)" Leopold moved to Puerto Rico to avoid media attention and married a widowed florist.[2][6] He was known as "Nate" to neighbors and co-workers at Castañer General Hospital in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, where he worked as a lab and x-ray assistant, Many people build a life after bad press and losing a job over it. It doesn't seem to even involve character.
These guys got caught, got off without charges. They left the department and the University tarnished but not destroyed. Give it a break about the inhumanity that people minded the graft.

goodcountrypeople 2 years, 8 months ago

Double standards rule in the dirty, backwoods town of Lawrence. Leave it to the creepy KU-graduated, poorly educated lawyers and prosecutors to falsely accuse and smear anyone with integrity while hypocritically pretending those like themselves are pillars of the community. The true criminals seem to the punitive scam-artists in charge. Even the doctors, lawyers, and judges in this town are coarse and uncultured hicks. Those in authority offer "get out of jail cards" to the crooks and liars who most resemble themselves.

Jayhawk_4_Life 2 years, 8 months ago

those are vast generalizations of the doctors, lawyers, judges, and police in this town.

irvan moore 2 years, 8 months ago

as an uncultured hick i kinda resent being compared to lawyers

BlackVelvet 2 years, 8 months ago

What are you, Smitty's dad or something? You wouldn't be content even if the officers had gotten the death penalty.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 8 months ago

Wonder if the DA's office got any tickets for this? If it would have been me or you we would be doing time.

Steve Jacob 2 years, 8 months ago

I like how the DA says "18 past criminal cases would not be undermined even though two officers who were witnesses were recently dismissed from the Lawrence Police Department after a ticket-fixing scandal." I think that's for a judge to decide. You can bet the appeals are being worked on as we speak.

Jayhawk_4_Life 2 years, 8 months ago

of course not...officers are above the law.

grammaddy 2 years, 8 months ago

Duh! Did anyone really expect a different outcome?

Wayne Propst 2 years, 8 months ago

Part of damage control is to release information late on Friday.....that alone is a sign of cover up......let us see some details about the pensions.....they can't be charged because they "know" too much......

begin60 2 years, 8 months ago

Here's a great article on prosecutorial misconduct:

http://www.chron.com/news/kilday-hart/article/Patti-Hart-Who-polices-prosecutors-for-violating-3445764.php

In my unfortunate experience, the Lawrence version of "law enforcement" is a dirty, southern-justice bunch of criminals themselves-- certainly not individuals any thinking person with a good reasoning capacity and high ethical standards would respect. In fact, my own vindictively brought case was dismissed mainly because I let it be known that otherwise I'd be reporting these local, despicable criminal yahoos to the Kansas Bar. The case was rife with unforgivable constitutional violations that only the truly hateful and ignorant could ever be guilty of. I so fricking detest liars, especially the hillybilly type and those who give the legal and academic professions a bad name.

Liberty275 2 years, 8 months ago

The cops did blatantly wrong things. I won't argue with whatever punishment they receive. However, I'd think anyone that received a speeding ticket from either officer has grounds to appeal any convictions on the possibility they may have been wrongfully ticketed to make up for the infractions not pursued. Their actions undermine every case in which they were the sole policeman to provide evidence.

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