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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 02:20 pm

The time bandit

Former detective free of criminal charges but still faces battle for badge

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The cover letter of the facsimile sent by SPD detective Paul Carpenter to Texas officials on behalf of an informant.
Untitled Document Paul Carpenter moved one step forward in his efforts to return to work in law enforcement this week when his attorney filed a motion to dismiss the final criminal charge against the former Springfield police detective. Carpenter had been indicted on charges of wire fraud and official misconduct in October 2006, at the same time that he and his partner, Det. Jim Graham, were fired from the Springfield Police Department. The pair had been the subject of a year-long Illinois State Police investigation. Last month, a judge dismissed the wire-fraud charge. The state’s deadline to appeal the court’s ruling expired Monday night; on Tuesday morning, Carpenter’s attorney, James Elmore, filed a motion calling the official conduct charge “ripe for dismissal.”
“Once the wire fraud is gone, there’s no predicate or underlying offense for the official misconduct,” Elmore says. The charges stemmed from Carpenter’s efforts to satisfy the request of an informant who had been arrested in Texas in 2002 and charged with possession of 20 pounds of marijuana. The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of deferred probation and 250 hours of community service. Illinois Times has not disclosed the man’s identity because his work as an informant could put him in jeopardy. In court documents he is referred to as “Probationer A.”
A member of a politically influential family, Probationer A didn’t want to serve the 250 hours because doing so would interfere with his full-time state-government job. According to a summary of the ISP investigation, Probationer A asked Carpenter, whom he considered a friend, to “take care” of the community-service hours, and Carpenter agreed. Initially Carpenter asked probation officials to count Probationer A’s snitching as community service. When Texas authorities refused that request, Carpenter created a time card showing that Probationer A had worked 252 hours at St. John’s Breadline. Carpenter faxed it to authorities in Texas, along with a cover sheet bearing a handwritten note saying that the man had served his hours. Elmore doesn’t deny that Carpenter faxed the time card, but he denies that Carpenter’s actions constituted a crime. His intentions were not to commit a crime but rather to help his confidential informant,” Elmore says, adding that Carpenter planned to testify that Probationer A had provided tips that led to seven homicide convictions, one shooting conviction, and information on five other shootings. However, Carpenter had never registered Probationer A as an informant, because detectives in the major case unit believed SPD rules requiring confidential sources to be registered applied only to narcotics officers. Had Carpenter been tried on the wire fraud and official misconduct charges, witnesses were prepared to testify that Carpenter’s actions were endorsed by his supervisors and fellow officers, Elmore says. In fact, Elmore says, a Breadline employee contacted Carpenter to offer help creating a time card at the suggestion of another officer who knew that Carpenter needed such a document. “If you’re going to commit a crime, why would you involve all these other people?” Elmore asks. Dismissal of these charges may not be enough to win Carpenter back his old job, however. Former SPD Chief Don Kliment, who fired Carpenter and Graham, refused to comment, citing Carpenter’s pending arbitration hearing. But ISP found that Carpenter had committed 28 violations of the SPD General Orders, including multiple infractions of Rule 4 (“Conformance to Laws”) and Rule 33 (“Lying and Untruthfulness”) — either of which could be grounds for termination. Rule 4 specifies that dismissal of charges in a criminal prosecution does not preclude the SPD from conducting its own inquiry and “seeking disciplinary action, including termination” against an officer in violation of this rule. Rule 33 lists a variety of venues in which officers must be truthful (with exceptions for undercover work and questioning suspects) and says no member of the SPD shall “knowingly sign any false official statement or report . . . whether or not under oath.” According to the order, violation of Rule 33 “is a serious disciplinary offense which will result in termination.”
Elmore, who has known Carpenter for years and always respected his police work, says his client hopes to return to the field of law enforcement. “He’s a good guy, and this has been a living nightmare for him,” Elmore says. If Carpenter succeeds and Elmore someday finds himself facing his former client in court, could he use the time-card incident to impeach Carpenter as a prosecution witness? The defense attorney sidesteps that question.
“I think I’d have a conflict. I don’t think I could cross-examine him,” Elmore says.
Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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