Was all this fallout due to a computer search?
The Scott Sanders trial came to an end last week with tears and great sighs of relief from friends and family of the defendant, who was found not guilty of “causing to be accessed a government computer willfully and without authorization.” It was a good day for Sanders and his lawyer, Seth Cohen, and we believe it was a good day for justice as well. Charges like this have a name in legal circles: BS. And we think it would have been wrong for Sanders, a cop, to have a felony on his record for searching the computer of someone he was investigating, no matter what kind of stickers it had on it. For some, the verdict spells vindication not just for Sanders and Tom Fox — separate charges against them were dropped after the jury rendered its verdict — but for former chief David Wray, his assistant Randall Brady and every other officer who was implicated in accusations of racial profiling that led to Wray’s resignation in 2006. But to believe that you must believe that the only wrongdoing here was on the part of Sanders and, to a lesser degree, Fox; that the only transgression in this entire fiasco was an unauthorized search of Julius Fulmore’s laptop; that everything — Wray’s and Brady’s resignations, the RMA report, all of the lawsuits and indictments — all stemmed from that Saturday afternoon when Sanders had SBI agent Gary Cullop swipe the hard drive of Fulmore’s laptop. We’re not buying it. As we see it, Sanders took the fall for a department gone amuck. His indictment and trial were intended to appease to the concerns of a distrustful public while at the same time shielding them from the ugliness that had pervaded the Greensboro Police Department since long before 2006, when City Manager Mitch Johnson locked Wray out of his office. Had Sanders been convicted, it would have weighed on all of our consciences. Sanders’ role in all this was that of lowly detective: His assignment, among other things, was trying to get black police officers to implicate themselves while he taped the conversations. A little distasteful, yes, but a big part of how the sausage of criminal investigations is made. So Sanders gets off, as does Tom Fox, and both, as of this week, are back on the force. But the real intent of this trial was to give the city and its citizens some closure in the years-long fiasco that has plagued the department. And because, for many, it raised more questions than it answered, the trial failed in that regard. But this trial is all we’re going to get — at least in the criminal courts. So in many ways it is the end. Now, perhaps our police officers can stop investigating each other and get back on the streets, where there are actual criminals running around. Discovering the identity of the murderer who assaulted Deb Moy and then lit her on fire, we say, is as good a place to start as any.
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But to believe that you must believe that the only wrongdoing here was on the part of Sanders and, to a lesser degree, Fox…