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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006 06:57 pm

Cutting corners

SPD detective disregarded paperwork requirements

A Springfield Police detective who is the subject of an Illinois State Police investigation has a record of failing to submit necessary court paperwork on time, according to a document obtained by Illinois Times. Detective Jim Graham, who on Jan. 17 was placed on paid administrative leave, has neglected to file “returns” on search warrants eight times since 2003 –- more than any other officer. A list generated by a Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office and titled “Springfield Police Department Search Warrant Returns Needed” shows names of eight officers next to addresses and dates search warrants were approved. Of those eight officers, five had only one missing return, and three had just two. Graham had eight missing search warrant returns. The list was dated Oct. 26, 2005. The ISP investigation has a broader scope, including allegations of administrative and criminal violations that form a pattern of misconduct. But the missing returns are in keeping with the tenor of claims that Graham had a tendency to take shortcuts. His longtime partner, Paul Carpenter, was placed on administrative leave Oct. 4. Carpenter’s name appears on the list, with one missing return. A “return” is one of four elements related to a search warrant: The first is the complaint, requesting a search warrant. The second is the affidavit — a sworn statement outlining the reasons for searching a piece of private property. The third is the search warrant itself, which lists the types of items the officer plans to look for and collect (for example, controlled substances, firearms, ammunition, or currency) and is signed by the judge. The return is the fourth and final element — a recitation of all the items found and seized during the execution of the warrant. And although returns almost never play a part in the resolution of a case, there are solid reasons they’re required, attorneys say. Returns assure judges that law enforcement officials gather only the items they had legal permission to seize, and provide citizens with a list of what’s been removed from their homes. “It is for the protection of everybody involved in a search warrant, especially the property owner,” says Brian Otwell, chief public defender for Sangamon County. “Oftentimes people aren’t present when a search warrant is executed, and they don’t know what’s taken from their home. And sometimes, the police find all sorts of stuff you didn’t even know was in there — like drugs and guns — so it’s good to have a list.” Steve Weinhoeft, first assistant State’s Attorney, describes the return as an “extremely routine simple administrative function,” usually accomplished by stapling the evidence log (required by police procedure) to another memo and dropping it off with court personnel. Of the four steps necessary in a search warrant, the return is by far the easiest, he says. Why Graham failed to fulfill this simple step is a question Weinhoeft won’t answer on the record. But the former major case detective’s list of missing returns includes at least two related to a homicide investigation. Another return Graham failed to file was for a March 17 search warrant that resulted in the arrest of Larry “Hollywood” Washington, an alleged drug dealer who SPD detectives described to the State Journal-Register as “probably the biggest we’ve pulled down.” Officers found almost 500 grams of powder cocaine hidden in a graham cracker box in Washington’s kitchen pantry. Washington — who had a 1994 felony conviction for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance — has pleaded not guilty. The return is just one of several items missing in Washington’s case. The videotape of officers interrogating Washington after searching his house has mysteriously disappeared. And the affidavit for the March 16 search warrant was not produced until this week, when reporters began asking about the document. Drafted by Graham, the affidavit relies on two sources of evidence for probable cause: a “trash rip,” in which he and Carpenter sifted through Washington’s garbage and found baggies said to contain cocaine residue, plus information from a federal agent implying that the search might turn up a weapon used in the 1999 murder of a Chicago Police Officer. “[The agent] indicated that the weapon used in the homicide had been purchased on behalf of Larry Washington,” according to the affidavit. However, there may be problems with both sources. Washington has a document purporting to show that his trash was not out at the time the detectives claim to have found it. Prosecutors have so far been unresponsive to his attorney’s requests to have the baggies found in the trash tested for fingerprints. As for the gun used to kill the Chicago cop, it was recovered within hours of the incident, and the shooter was convicted and incarcerated for the crime.
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