If you believe everything you read in a police report and search warrant, then it is quite possible that Orlando’s police departments are the most perfect government entities known to mankind. Of course, there’s two sides to every story, and usually the home owner who’s house has been ransacked has a different version of the facts.
Unfortunately, most judges believe everything they are told by law enforcement, and the honest words of our citizens don’t do much to sway a judge from their blind faith in police officer testimony. And, this may also come as a shock to you–but most police officers stick up for each other, “cover” each other, if you will. No surprise there, right? But things are different where I’m from–good ‘ol St. Louis–home of my baseball Cardinals & St. Louis Blues (a hockey team, for those hard core Floridians that have never seen or heard of such a sport). Here’s the recent story of how a home search gone bad. Happens all the time, by the way….
In February of 2009, Phillip Alberternst was wanted for manufacturing a controlled substance (meth), so several law enforcement agencies banded together to hunt down Alberternst based on a reliable tip. The tip led the officers to a trailer park where Alberternst may have been hiding out. The officers did not have a search warrant for a home they suspected Alberternst was operating out of, so they planned to gain “consent” to search the home. In the end, one over anxious officer was found guilty of burglary of a dwelling.
Ok, so attempting entry into a dwelling via consent is a good plan–but Officer Christopher Hunt had his own ideas–he kicked in a porch door. That’s burglary of a dwelling, right? Right. But, Hunt wrote up a report which fabricated this portion of the incident. And that’s not all. After kicking down the door with no warrant and no consent to search, Officer Hunt proceeded to beat a “helpless, naked man” who was not resisting the officer in any way. But of course, the helpless naked man wound up getting arrested for resisting an officer. Surprise surprise. Doesn’t every officer beat down come with a side of resisting?
In August, Officer Hunt was found guilty of Missouri’s equivalent to Florida’s Burglary of a Dwelling, Assault (really the Florida version of Battery), and criminal mischief (property damage). The trial took three days, and the prosecution relied on several of the other officers present at the scene to testify as to the false police report and the web of lies spun to cover up the false report. Courtroom observers noted that Officer Hunt’s police department was seated on one side of the court room, with an equal number of officers from the other (adversarial) departments on the other side of the room.
At sentencing last Friday, October 5th, the prosecution asked for 15 years prison on the burglary charge because of the position of trust held by Hunt. The judge did not agree, and instead imposed a five year prison sentence for the burglary charge.
Sometimes, a story makes you realize that there really are good people in the world.
Rarely do you find a criminal defense attorney such as myself recognizing that these good people are law enforcement. But hey, I call ’em as I see ’em. The cops that testified against officer Hunt deserve some sort of badge of honor. That was not easy to do. It was, of course the right thing to do, but rarely is that easy. Our law enforcement officers are on the front line of defending the Constitution. The deputies from Warren and Montgomery counties who testified against officer Hunt should remind us that many in law enforcement defend our Constitution just as much as the judges and defense attorneys. Thank you officers.