Police controversy in court

by Jordan Green

Three years after the resignation of Greensboro police Chief David Wray, the controversy surrounding the police department remains unresolved. Wray, former Deputy Chief Randall Brady and 39 black officers who claim to have suffered discrimination under Wray and Brady all filed lawsuits against the city at the beginning of this month.

Meanwhile, two white former police officers that served under Wray and Brady face obstruction of justice and other charges. Including complaints related to the controversy surrounding the Wray administration, District 4 Councilman Mike Barber said recently that the city is currently the defendant in approximately 60 lawsuits.

Brady vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Former Deputy Chief Randall Brady

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro

• Demand: Brady contended he was entitled to special separation pay from the city of Greensboro, having completed 30 years of creditable service, after retiring from the police department in December 2005, as consultant Risk Management Associates was completing an investigation of the department under the administration of former Chief David Wray. The city had countered that it was not required to pay Brady because it could have fired him had he not retired first. • Filing date: March 1, 2006

• Disposition: US District Court Judge Carlton Tilley Jr. ordered the city to pay Brady his special separation pay benefits in February 2007, and the city eventually paid Brady $59,631.

Pettiford vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Nicole Pettiford and Anthony Pettiford

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro

• Central claim: The lawsuit alleges that Detective Scott Sanders and others held used car saleswoman Nicole Pettiford against her will in a hotel room at the Residence Inn in Greensboro for six hours in November 2004 without food, sleep or reading the woman her rights, and questioned about her knowledge of certain black police officers. Pettiford alleges that police officers told she was going to lose her children and spend 40 years in federal prison without having any probable cause to believe that she had committed a crime. • Demand: Total punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $40,000

• Key revelation: Assistant US Attorney Cliff Barrett admitted in a recorded conversation with Detective Scott Sanders in December 2005, after City Manager Mitchell Johnson stripped Chief David Wray of the authority to hire and fire, that the US Attorney’s Office directed the investigation of Pettiford, according to an affidavit by Greensboro police Detective Jeff Flinchum. “I’ve been in this thing since day one and this thing is clean,” Barrett reportedly told Sanders. “I was there the whole time…. There’s some disbelief in the claim that Pettiford made that I was at the hotel room and I said, ‘No, I was in the hotel room absolutely.’ I mean, I went in there and told her what the damn deal was, that she needed to get off her ass and start telling the truth and cooperate or else she was going to go to prison.” Barrett also reportedly told Sanders: “Anything you did in this case, you did at my direction, and you know, everything was done properly. I stand behind everything that was done. I stand behind everything that you did. If they’ve got a problem with it, come see me.”

• Filing date: Nov. 8, 2006

• Disposition: The city reached a settlement out of court with the Pettifords, and agreed to pay the couple $30,000.

Fulmore vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Officer Julius Fulmore

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro, former Chief David Wray, police hire-back Randy Gerringer, former Deputy Chief Randall Brady, former Asst. Chief Craig Hartley, Sgt. Craig McMinn and private investigator Art League

• Central claim: Detective Scott Sanders and Detective Brian Bissett, acting with offical sanction, allegedly hatched a plan to create and disseminate false statements about Fulmore for the purpose of ruining his reputation and preventing him from working on federal task forces, and otherwise advancing his career. The lawsuit alleges that at the request of Wray and other senior ranking officers, Sanders and Bissett began gathering pictures of Fulmore and other black officers to be used in a lineup book called the “black book” “to embarrass, frame and even wrongfully charge” them.

• Demand: Total damages in excess of $30,000

• Filing date: May 31, 2007

• Disposition: Dismissed by NC superior court judge on sovereign immunity and statute of limitations grounds

State vs. Scott Sanders

• Plaintiff(s): State of North Carolina

• Defendant(s): Detective Scott Sanders

• Central claim: Fox was indicted for two counts of obstruction of justice, accessing government computers and felony conspiracy. A redundant obstruction of justice charges was dismissed by a superior court judge. One indictment alleges Sanders directed Officer John Slone to not allow officers Norman Rankin and Ernest Cuthbertson, who were assigned with him in the special intelligence section, to meet with and talk to a confidential informant. Sanders allegedly told Slone: “We don’t want this investigation to go forward. What we want is for them to fail.” The episode was alleged to have taken place in June 2004. In another incident that took place in December 2003, Sanders accessed a federal Department of Housing & Urban Development computer provided to Officer Julius Fulmore for use in an organized crime drug enforcement task force investigation. According to the indictment, Sanders should have known he was not authorized to access the computer.

• Filing date: Sept. 17, 2007

• Disposition: Case has not been tried

State vs. William Thomas Fox

• Plaintiff(s): State of North Carolina

• Defendant(s): Sgt. Tom Fox

• Central claim: Fox was indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy for allegedly participating in a conversation with Detective Scott Sanders, Greensboro police Officer John Slone and Winston- Salem police Officer TD Hill, in which

Slone and Hill wereallegedly instructed to not share evidence relevant to a case beinginvestigated by two black Greensboro police officers, detectives NormanRankin and Ernest Cuthbertson. Fox and Sanders allegedly portrayedRankin and Cuthbertson in a bad light to imply they were “dirty cops”and “couldn’t be trusted” with the intent of undermining the twoofficers’ investigation. The conversation was alleged to have happened in June 2005.

• Filing date: Sept. 17, 2007

• Disposition: Case has not been tried

Fulmore vs. Bledsoe

• Plaintiff(s): Officer Julius Fulmore and Lt. Brian James

• Defendant(s): Journalist Jerry Bledsoe, The Rhinoceros Times, editor John Hammer and publisher William Hammer

• Central claim: In2006, Bledsoe and the Hammer brothers formed a scheme for Bledsoe towrite the “Cops in Black and White” series about the Greensboro PoliceDepartment for The Rhinoceros Times with stories that were rifewith defamatory statements, and John Hammer would write commentarybased on the stories that were also rife with defamatory statements. Theplaintiffs allege that “Bledsoe unfairly and without any basistargeted, among others, plaintiffs in order to deflect Guilford Countycitizens from the truths about illegal, tortuous and immoral actionstaken, authorized and condoned by David Wray and his subordinates.” • Demand: Total punitive damages in excess of $40,000

• Key revelation: NCSpecial Prosecutor James J. Coman testified in Guilford County court inJune 2008 that Bledsoe told him he planned to do everything he could tohelp restore former Chief David Wray’s good name, he hoped the outcomeof the articles would be that City Manager MitchellJohnson would get fired, and that he planned to prove that “political correctness was the order of the day in Greensboro city government.” • Filing date: Nov. 19, 2007

• Disposition: Case has not been tried

Smith vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Bloggers Roch Smith Jr. and Sam Spagnola

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro

• Demand: Theplaintiffs seek a court order declaring that the Risk ManagementAssociates report, the “Black Book, and various communications betweencity employees, elected officials and others

regarding the investigation of the police department under the administration of David Wray. • Key revelation: City Manager MitchellJohnsonwrote in an affidavit sworn in September 2008: “Based on informationand belief, the “Black Book” requested by the plaintiffs and inpossession of the State Bureau of Investigation is a photo array orrecord purportedly compiled for the purpose of solving an allegedsexual assault…. The city of Greensborois not aware of any documents or recordings in the possession of thecity that indicate any other use of the photo array, an original ofwhich is currently in possession of the State Bureau of Investigation,other than to purportedly solve or prevent an alleged violation of thelaw.” Johnson said in a memo to city council two months later that hismain issue with the “Black Book” was that Wray ordered Brady to secureit, rather than reveal its existence to Johnson. The city managerwrote, “The result of all the investigative effort to date is that westill have only the information provided by the officer who used it. Icannot conclusively say that the “Black Book” was not used in any wayother than the way the officer described, nor that it was used in someother way.”

• Filing date: March 23, 2008

• Disposition: Plaintiff Roch Smith Jr. said a judge ruled in earlyDecember that the city must release part of the Risk ManagementAssociates report, based on an investigation contracted by the city toprobe allegations of misconduct in the police department under Wray’sadministration, and must unredact some material from closed sessions bythe city council.

Hinson vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Lt. James Hinson

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro, former Chief David Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady

• Central claim: Around2003, Detective Scott Sanders and Detective Brian Bissett begangathering pictures of black officers, including Hinson, to be used inlineup books “for the purpose of framing, embarrassing, and wrongfullycharging black officers with crimes, offenses and violations of law andpolice policies.” The lawsuit alleges that then-Chief David Wray“maliciously and falsely” reported that supposed criminal activity byHinson was “ongoing and connected to a violent international drugcartel. Hinson also alleges that Wray encouraged the use of a “blackbook” to single out black officers, including Hinson, in “unnecessaryand unauthorized investigations.” • Demand: Total compensatory and punitive damages of $20,000

• Key revelation: City Manager MitchellJohnsonsigned a memorandum of understanding with Hinson on Jan. 10, 2006,agreeing to reinstate the lieutenant followed by a suspension imposedby Wray and to purge any records in Hinson’s personnel file “that theinvestigation of these events has determined to be fraudulent andinappropriate.” In exchange, Hinson formally acknowledged “that thecity of Greensboro,other than certain officials in the police department, exercised duediligence in the investigation of the events that lead to hissuspension as soon as this matter was brought to their attention.” • Filing date: May 30, 2008

• Disposition: Case has not been tried

Wray vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Former Chief David Wray

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro, City Manager MitchellJohnson

• Central claim: “AlthoughMitchell Johnson knew or should have known that [they] were unfounded,Mitchell Johnson reacted to allegations of racially motivated conductby seeking to placate certain members of the African-Americancommunity, [Lt. James] Hinson and the complaining black officers.Toward that end, Johnson set about a course of conduct intended toresult in reinstatement of Hinson, termination or forcing David Wrayfrom his position as chief of police, and appointment of an African-American officer as chief.” The former chief alleges that the city’s actions to force him from office “were motivated by racial bias.”

• Demand: $20,000in compensatory and punitive damages and reimbursement for legal costsof lawsuits filed by Lt. James Hinson and Officer Julius Fulmore

• Filing date: Jan. 2, 2009 • Disposition: Case has not been tried

Brady vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Former Deputy Chief Randall Brady

• Defendant(s): City of Greensboro

• Demand: Thelawsuit contends that Brady is entitled to be reimbursed by the cityfor legal costs incurred defending against civil suits filed by Lt.James Hinson and Officer Julius Fulmore. • Filing date: Jan. 2, 2009

• Disposition: Case has not been tried Alexander vs. Greensboro

• Plaintiff(s): Greensboro police officers Lawrence Alexander Jr.,

Ellis Allen, Mitchell Alston, Frances R.Banks, Ahmed Blake, Michael O. Brodie, Kevin E. Chandler, Charles E.Cherry, Ernest Cuthbertson, Darrin Davis, Steven A. Evans, WilliamGraves, Miford J. Harris II, Jonathan Heard, Antuan Hinson, Steven L.Hunter, Brian James, Demetrius W. Johnson, John O. LeGrande, George M.Little, Darrell McDonald, CL Melvin, Stacy A. Morton Jr., WillieParker, Larry Patterson Jr., William A. Phifer, Joseph Pryor, NormanRankin, Wayne Redfern, Alexander Ricketts, Ronald Rogers, StevenSnipes, Calvin Stevens Jr., Eric Stevenson, Jermeir Jackson-Stroud,Julius Tunstall, Allen Wallace, Frank Young and Wayland Wall • Defendant(s): City of Greensboro, former Chief David Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady •Central claim: The 39 black police officers allege that “after Wraybecame police chief and defendant Brady became deputy police chief,they directed subordinate officers to gather pictures of black officersfor the use in lineup books, or other visual aides for the purpose offraming, embarrassing and wrongfully charging black officers withcrimes, offenses and violations of both law and police policies.” Theofficers believe that their photos were used in at least one version ofa lineup book or a “visual aide,” and also allege that the policedepartment under Wray’s command “caused” black officers to beinvestigated by the special intelligence section, while white officerswere investigated by the more accountable criminal investigationdivision. • Demand: $20,000 in compensatory and punitive damages • Key revelation: The GreensboroCity Council approved a settlement for the black officers during closedsession on Oct. 21, and on Nov. 3 the city submitted a written offer toresolve the complaint. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs, MayorYvonne Johnson and City Attorney TerryWood signed a stipulation of confidentiality, but The Rhinoceros Timespublished the names of the plaintiffs and the amount offered on Nov.13. The disclosure created a public outcry that caused council torescind the offer. “At the time of the publishing of the article, apublic document did not exist which contained the identities of theplaintiffs,” the lawsuit alleges, “[or] the specific monetary amountthe defendant Greensboro agreed to pay the plaintiff to resolve thematter.” • Filing date: Jan. 9, 2009 • Disposition: Case has not been tried.