Wednesday, March 1, 2006 10:01 pm
Something doesnt add up
Record of hours worked may have been faked to help police informant
The investigation into possible misconduct by two Springfield Police major case detectives includes allegations that one of the officers provided a phony document to probation officers in another state. At the same time, local defense attorneys have filed court pleadings complaining that felony investigations handled by the two officers are missing “vital reports.” Detective Paul Carpenter has been on administrative leave since Oct. 4. His partner, Detective Jim Graham, was placed on administrative leave Jan. 17. Both officers are subjects of an ongoing Illinois State Police investigation. The document in question is a time card showing community-service hours purportedly worked by an Illinois man who is on probation for a crime committed in another state. Carpenter faxed the time card, together with a note saying that the probationer had completed his community-service obligation, to authorities in the other state. The card showed the probationer had worked at a charity more than 250 hours in a single month, including 16 hours every Saturday and nine hours every Sunday. Illinois Times is withholding all potentially identifying information about the probationer — including his name and the state in which he committed the crime — because the man worked as a confidential source, or informant, for Carpenter. In the fall of 2003, Carpenter went to the Sangamon County Adult Probation office and asked to have the informant’s snitch time counted toward his community-service requirement. Local probation authorities could not grant Carpenter’s request, because the informant was still under the jurisdiction of the other state. After being rebuffed by the probation office, Carpenter obtained a document purportedly showing that the probationer had indeed completed his community-service requirement — a time card showing that he had worked at a local charity every day but one during the month of September 2003. When contacted by a reporter, the supervisor who signed the card said that the charity routinely offers double- or even triple-time credit for probationers who are willing to staff shifts when volunteers fail to appear. However, the supervisor, who no longer works for the charity, refused to answer any other questions, citing the probationer’s confidentiality. The card, which appears to be computer-generated, indicates that the probationer worked at least three hours every day of the month except Labor Day. At the bottom of the card is a handwritten tally of 252 hours, though a more careful calculation of the specific hours yields a sum of 232. On Oct. 20, 2003, Carpenter faxed the time card to authorities in the state where the man had pleaded guilty to a narcotics charge. Carpenter added a cover letter on SPD stationery with a handwritten note suggesting that he had previously provided contradictory information: “I was off on my dates for [the probationer’s] community service. He already completed it. Sorry for my mistake. I will fax this to Sangamon County Probation also. Thank you.” It’s not clear when Carpenter followed through with this promise to provide the document to the local probation office, but a few months later, on May 13, 2004, Chief Judge Robert Eggers issued an administrative order all but prohibiting the use of probationers as informants. The order states, “. . . the Sangamon County Courts have directed that probationers under the jurisdiction of the Courts should not associate with persons engaged in criminal activity nor work as an informant for a law enforcement agency.” It makes an allowance for probationers who could serve as informants in “exceptional” cases in which their information “would likely result in conviction of a major criminal or where the security of the nation is involved,” Eggers wrote. But even then, the probationer must first have permission from the sentencing judge. Eggers said that his order was not issued in response to any one incident but rather in answer concerns voiced by probation authorities. “What inspired this order was the need perceived by the probation office to gain some control over police officers using probationers as informants, sending them back into places they shouldn’t be going under the requirements of the probation,” Eggers said this week. “Police agencies need to run everything through parole [officials] so they know what their people are doing.” Mike Torchia, the director of Sangamon County Adult Probation, echoed Eggers’ assertion that all decisions concerning probationers have to come through his office and should not be handled by law-enforcement officers. “We’re the ones that are actively monitoring the cases,” he said. “We’re the agency that reports back to the sending jurisdiction.” Torchia refused to comment on the specifics of this case but said that a time card such as the one in question — indicating that a probationer worked 16 hours every Saturday and nine hours every Sunday in a month — would raise questions. “I wouldn’t put a lot of trust in that time card,” Torchia said. This incident was one of the first specific allegations presented to ISP investigators, who were initially called in to handle a 20-page complaint filed by another SPD officer, Ron Vose. Vose, who was the sergeant in charge of SPD’s narcotics unit when he wrote the memo, was subsequently transferred to patrol. In January, he resigned from SPD and filed a federal lawsuit against Kliment and another supervisor, claiming the transfer was retaliatory. According to Vose’s lawsuit, the memo detailed concerns about the detectives’ methods for obtaining search warrants and their use of undocumented confidential sources. But this week, when contacted by a reporter, Vose confirmed that the memo also mentioned the incident involving Carpenter and the probationer. He refused to answer other questions, citing his lawyer’s advice. “I hand-delivered the memo to the chief on March 2, a year ago, so you would have to ask him about the status of the investigation,” he said. Kliment could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, local defense attorneys are raising questions about Carpenter and Graham’s failure to produce documents. On Feb. 9, attorney Bruce Locher sent a letter to Eggers asking him to enforce state statutes that require police to give prosecutors “all investigative material,” including reports and memoranda. “If the Springfield City Police Department [and all other investigative entities] would designate at least one person to handle the task of gathering and disseminating to the appropriate prosecuting agency virtually everything connected with the felony case involved, incidents such as Detective Jim Graham sitting in the witness chair with reports never disclosed to either the State or the defense would be significantly reduced and more information would likely flow to the defense,” Locher wrote — referring to a 2004 murder trial in which attorneys discovered that the lead detective on the case held reports that they had never seen. Eggers said that he had received Locher’s letter but also said that he wasn’t sure that it required immediate action. “I haven’t responded and I don’t know that I intend to,” he said. “I have a piece of litigation before the court right now that I think involves all these issues somewhat.” Eggers is presiding over the case of Dennis J. Scott, who is charged with a 2001 triple homicide. Graham and Carpenter handled the investigation of the murders, and Scott’s attorneys have subpoenaed their disciplinary records and asked Eggers for permission to depose the detectives. A ruling on those motions is expected next week. But pleadings filed by Scott’s attorneys suggest that they haven’t received expected police reports. “Without disclosing specific issues to the Court, it is the defense’s position that there exist numerous shortcomings in the investigative procedures employed in this instant case. These include absences of critical written reports, incomplete disclosures and loss of vital physical evidence,” according to Scott’s response to motions to quash their subpoenas. Steve Weinhoeft, first assistant state’s attorney, called these assertions “fairly routine attacks that are made in every case.” “Police officers are always challenged on whether or not they did a full and complete investigation,” he said.