October 29, 2009
|Basis for Hinson Investigations, Part 88|
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe, Part 88
In the fall of 2005, former City Manager Mitch Johnson, who is white, hired a private security company to follow up an investigation by the City Attorney's Office into allegations that "secret police" had targeted black officers for investigation because of race. Lt. James Hinson created a crisis in the Police Department when he went public with that claim in early June, after finding a tracker on his police cruiser.
The company, Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh, sent three investigators to Greensboro, all of them white, all male, all former law enforcement officers. They prepared a 31-page report that Johnson used to lock Police Chief David Wray out of his office and force his resignation early in January 2006. Wray is white.
In the final section of that report, the investigators provide 38 conclusions. Only two of those conclusions were based in fact. All the rest were either false, or they contained erroneous information, were based on innuendo and supposition, or omitted critical information. The first 18 conclusions were analyzed in Cops in Black and White installments 86 and 87. Nine more follow.
RMA conclusion 19: "In March 2005, Deputy Chief [Randall] Brady, with the authorization of Chief Wray, initiated a criminal investigation into Hinson [prostitution] and directed that investigation through this same intelligence unit. This investigation was not related to any on-going federal investigative effort directed by the U.S. Attorney's Office."
This investigation began early in April 2005, after Hinson ordered a black female sergeant who was under his command to admit a black female with a lengthy criminal record to a halfway house that was supposed to help prostitutes rebuild their lives. The halfway house was an apartment off Summit Avenue that had been set up by the Greensboro Housing Coalition for a project called HELP.
The woman would have been the first person to occupy the apartment. But she never had been charged with prostitution, a requirement for admission to the program. However, she had been personally involved with several black male officers, including one who was a close friend of Hinson's. She also told the sergeant that black officers paid her bills in exchange for sex.
The RMA report provides none of this information. Neither does it mention that Hinson, who'd had his own relationships with prostitutes, had been the creator of Project HELP. Although the sergeant objected, she followed Hinson's orders. She was concerned that the woman claimed police officers paid her bills in exchange for sex and reported this to her captain, Mike Oates.
It was Oates who told Brady that the situation needed to be looked into. Brady and Oates are white. Brady asked Special Intelligence Sgt. Tom Fox, who is white, to keep an eye on the halfway house to see if police officers were coming and going from it. Fox asked Randy Gerringer, who is white, to take on that task without telling him its purpose. Gerringer was a retired Special Intelligence detective who had been hired back part time to assist with the 25th anniversary of the deadly confrontation on Nov. 3, 1979, between Communists, Nazis and Klansmen and the activities of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was looking into the incident.
More suspicion of Hinson was created when current Chief Tim Bellamy told Brady that he had seen a person he thought to be Hinson in another officer's vehicle in an area frequented by prostitutes in early morning hours when Hinson was not on duty.
Wray didn't learn about this investigation until after it had begun. He did not authorize it, as the RMA report claims, although he didn't object to it. At that point the investigation was not related to any federal investigation. But four days after it began, federal authorities informed the Police Department that for the second time Hinson's telephone numbers had been found in the possession of a major drug dealer. At that point a new aspect of the investigation was initiated that was related to a federal investigation, contrary to the claims of the RMA report.
RMA conclusion 20: "On or about June 4, 2005, Hinson discovered that he was under investigation when he observed the surveillance and located the tracking vehicle on his police vehicle."
This actually occurred late on the evening of June 3. By that time, there were two tracking units on Hinson's vehicle. The first was a primitive "bird dog" tracker that emitted beeps on radio waves. Its range was limited, making it difficult to find Hinson, who frequently ranged far out of the district to which he was assigned. Later a satellite tracker was installed. On the evening of June 3, it showed that Hinson's cruiser had been stationary for a lengthy period near the Grande theaters at Friendly Shopping Center.
Tom Fox called Gerringer and asked if he could drop by the theater to see what Hinson was up to. Gerringer had been conducting periodic surveillance of Hinson and had gathered evidence that Hinson was working off-duty while on duty. That had created an additional aspect of the investigation.
Gerringer found Hinson's vehicle empty. The entrance doors to the theater were locked when Gerringer tried them, but two officers who were friends of Hinson were working off duty inside. Gerringer realized they had spotted him and returned to his own vehicle. He soon saw Hinson departing from a side door of the theater, where he apparently had been watching a movie while on duty. Hinson got into his vehicle and began prowling the parking lot looking for Gerringer. When Gerringer left, Hinson followed him for several blocks before returning to the theater and discovering the bird dog tracker.
The RMA report fails to note that there is nothing illegal or inappropriate about placing a tracker on the vehicle of an officer under investigation. Surveillance is not uncommon in such circumstances.
RMA conclusion 21: "Chief Wray was misleading and deceptive in his reports to the City Manager regarding the investigation of Hinson and the recently discovered tracking device by associating Hinson with the interests of the U.S. Attorney's Office and an OCDETF [Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.]"
The RMA report doesn't spell out how Wray was misleading or deceptive in what he told City Manager Ed Kitchen, and Wray said that he told Kitchen what he thought he needed to know and he was truthful and accurate about it. Kitchen never said anything to him indicating that he thought otherwise, Wray said.
Wray said he thought it was vital for the city manager to know the seriousness of the reasons Hinson had fallen under investigation on this occasion as well as earlier.
Few people were aware that events in Greensboro in the fall of 2002 had brought down a major international cocaine cartel. Local news media never reported the story. The Island Boys cartel operated throughout the Caribbean, in Colombia, Venezuela and the eastern United States. It was run by James Springette, who is black and was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list along with Osama bin Laden.
One of Springette's top associates was Elton Turnbull, who moved to Greensboro in 1994 to set up drug operations and begin smuggling guns to the cartel. Some of those guns were used in a battle between cartel members and police officers in Tortola in the West Indies that left an officer critically wounded and blinded in one eye. Tracing those guns led to a federal task force investigation of Turnbull that resulted in his arrest in October 2002. That arrest disclosed a cell phone number for James Springette that brought about his capture in Venezuela a few weeks later.
A search of Turnbull's home also turned up Hinson's telephone numbers in a safe, as well as in Turnbull's wallet. Turnbull denied that Hinson worked for him, but Hinson had a long sexual relationship with a woman who had been Turnbull's mistress and worked for Turnbull as a courier. Hinson had continued his friendship with her throughout her lengthy affair with Turnbull. The woman told investigators that Hinson knew Turnbull was a drug dealer and knew that she worked for him. The woman lived in a house owned by Hinson that he eventually sold to Turnbull, and she said Hinson knew that the money he received for the house came from drug sales.
Two Greensboro residents who worked for Turnbull turned up missing after telling others they were waiting for Turnbull to pick them up. They are presumed to be have been murdered, but those cases are yet to be solved.
Wray said he thought it was important for the city manager to know about these matters, even though they later appeared to be of little interest to RMA investigators. At the time of Turnbull's arrest, Hinson's involvement with him was of high interest to federal authorities, despite the RMA report's claims to the contrary.
RMA conclusion 22: "Between June 4, 2005, and June 17, 2005, Deputy Chief Brady obtained the 2004 Internal Affairs investigative file on Hinson as well as the disposition recommendation."
This is false.
First there was no Internal Affairs investigation, only a review to determine if an investigation would be conducted. Internal Affairs Detective Ryan Walton, who is white, conducted that review under the guidance of his sergeant, LeVester Thomas, who is black and was a friend of Hinson. The review resulted in a single-page memo saying that no investigation was necessary.
Capt. Matt Lojko, who is white, had become commander of Internal Affairs on June 1, 2005. The previous commander, Dwight Crotts, had told him nothing about the Walton review, Lojko said. Crotts, who is white, is now an assistant chief. He was part of the anti-Wray faction in the divided command staff.
It was in late June, Lojko said, when he got a call from Brady asking for the Walton file. He didn't know what it was. Walton was no longer in Internal Affairs. Lojko asked Don Webb, who had replaced Walton, about the file. Webb, who is white, said it was in his credenza, but he couldn't find it there. He said that Thomas might have it, but Thomas was off that day and his desk was locked.
Lojko kept notes about all of his activities, and those notes show that he got the file from Thomas on June 28 and took it to Brady. He remembered it being a single, brown accordion folder. He had no idea what was in it and didn't look at the contents. Brady said that the file he received contained nothing generated by Walton, only notes and other items created by Detectives Scott Sanders and Brian Bissett, who had conducted the original investigation of Hinson. Sanders racial designation is Pacific Islander. Bissett is white.
Walton later claimed that his files were in two accordion folders. He told city attorneys that he reviewed one folder in the summer of 2005 and found that interview logs, recorded interviews, notes and other materials were missing from it. He also stated that one tape with his name on it had been erased.
Lojko said that if this were true, he should have been informed but nobody ever told him anything about that. So far as is known, no investigation has ever been conducted to determine if these items were missing, what became of them, if and why a tape was erased, or what happened to the other folder. Wray and Brady said they weren't told about it either.
RMA conclusion 23: "On June 17, 2005, Chief Wray suspended Hinson without having reviewed any written documentation of facts and circumstances that would support a reasonable assertion that the 'actions' alleged had a factual basis."
When Wray was blindsided and interrogated for hours by RMA investigators in November 2005, he said his inquisitors pressed him to admit that he had not read all of the documents about the investigations into Hinson's activities. Their reason for doing this, he believed, was to attempt to show that he had acted carelessly and without cause in suspending Hinson and ordering a new and thorough administrative investigation. Wray said he admitted that he hadn't read all of the documents but explained there was no need to do that because he had been briefed throughout the process.
Wray took extensive measures to make certain that he and top commanders were fully informed before suspending Hinson. Three days before the suspension, four detectives spent more than six hours going over every aspect of the investigations with Wray, his assistant chiefs and the police attorney. Two days later, Wray held an all-day meeting with investigators and other top commanders.
"I said, 'Let's go over everything in depth,'" Wray recalled. "I wanted to focus on questions. Just what have we got? Are we sure about this? Is anything going to come up and hit us that we don't expect?"
After those sessions, Wray said, there was no question that there had been a factual basis for investigating Hinson.
RMA conclusion 24: "At the time of this administrative action Wray knew or should have known that there had already been two criminal investigations (federal review and Sanders 2002-2004 investigation) and an internal administrative investigation (Walton 2004) that did not support the 'actions' alleging Hinson's associated [sic] with criminals."
There was no federal review of Hinson, and no administrative investigation by Walton, only a review. Wray, of course, was aware of the investigation of Hinson that began in 2002 and was aware that it had been turned over to Internal Affairs in February 2004, but he didn't learn until weeks after suspending Hinson that Internal Affairs had determined in August 2004, without even questioning Hinson, that no investigation was deemed necessary.
Wray also knew that both investigations of Hinson produced evidence that Hinson associated with criminals. Hinson's former mistress, Toshia Withers, became Turnbull's mistress and worked for him as a courier. Hinson continued a relationship with her while she worked for Turnbull. Both Withers and Turnbull also told investigators about other drug dealers known to law enforcement officers with whom Hinson associated.
RMA conclusion 25: "Wray directed Internal Affairs to expedite the conclusion of an Internal Affairs complaint filed by Ms. Hinson in order to include an 'Unfounded' finding report in his June 17 press statement. This investigation is incomplete and the findings cannot be supported by the facts and circumstances. There is a possibility of a different finding if the incident had been allowed to be thoroughly investigated."
This is false.
Both Wray and Lojko say they told RMA investigators that Wray didn't give any directions to Internal Affairs regarding Beverly Hinson's complaint that she believed she was under surveillance by secret police. And the RMA report provides no evidence to support that he did.
James Hinson and his wife were separated at the time and later divorced.
Nearly a month before Hinson found a tracker on his police cruiser Beverly Hinson called police about a man sitting in a vehicle near her apartment. The man was Art League, a private detective and former Greensboro police officer. League is white. He was working a domestic case in a nearby neighborhood and was using the apartment parking lot because it offered a view of an intersection he needed to watch.
An officer explained the situation to Beverly Hinson and she had no problem with it at the time. But her later complaint to Internal Affairs brought widespread media attention at a time when the police department was in turmoil. Lojko, who had been a police chief in two North Carolina towns, said he realized from his experience that this had become a political matter and it had to be resolved as quickly as possible to reassure the public.
Contrary to the claims of the RMA report, the investigation was complete when Wray made his statement to the press, Lojko said, and the findings were fully supported by the facts.
RMA conclusion 26: "Chief Wray inappropriately directed a premature conclusion to the Internal Affairs complaint filed by Ms. Hinson of June 13, 2005, for the purpose of including a finding in his press release of June 17, 2005."
The RMA report offers no evidence to support this, and this claim is also false. All of the decisions about the investigation were his, Lojko said, and he got no interference from Wray or anybody else.
RMA conclusion 27: "It is not possible to definitely conclude that Art League was not 'connected' to the GPD [Greensboro Police Department] based upon the incomplete IA [Internal Affairs] investigation and numerous and apparent inconsistencies that needed to be resolved."
False again. The RMA report doesn't spell out any of what it calls the "numerous and apparent inconsistencies that needed to be resolved." Lojko said he was aware of only one bit of information that the detective conducting the investigation still wanted to get when the matter was resolved. That was the mobile digital terminal transmissions about checking League's vehicle tag. This was incidental, Lojko maintained, and would not have changed the findings.
Contrary to the RMA report, it was possible to conclude that League wasn't connected to the Police Department and that he told the truth to the officers who checked on him in the apartment parking lot as well as to the Internal Affairs detective who investigated Beverly Hinson's complaint. Both the lawyer who hired League for the domestic investigation as well as the client confirmed what League said. And his casebook showed the names, addresses and times of the actions he took on the date he was in Beverly Hinson's parking lot.
League said he spoke to an RMA investigator and offered to be interviewed, but that never happened.
The transcript of the interrogation of Matt Lojko by RMA investigators shows that they had predetermined that League had Beverly Hinson under surveillance and that Wray prodded Lojko to quickly resolve the matter to fit his needs. When Lojko denied that, he was accused of lying.
After the interrogation, Lojko submitted to a polygraph test that was conducted by RMA in violation of polygraph standards. Asked if Wray or anybody in his office had interfered in the investigation of Beverly Hinson's complaint, Lojko answered no. He showed no deception. This information doesn't appear in the RMA report.