HUNDREDS OF CASES PROSECUTED WITH PLANTED EVIDENCE, MANY WRONGLY CONVICTED STILL IN PRISON
The Alabama Justice Project has obtained documents that reveal a Dothan Police Department's Internal Affairs investigation was covered up by the district attorney. A group of up to a dozen police officers on a specialized narcotics team were found to have planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. They were supervised at the time by Lt. Steve Parrish, current Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, current Director of Homeland Security for the State of Alabama. All of the officers reportedly were members of a Neoconfederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels "racial extremists." The group has advocated for blacks to return to Africa, published that the civil rights movement is really a Jewish conspiracy, and that blacks have lower IQ's . Both Parrish and Hughes held leadership positions in the group and are pictured above holding a confederate battle flag at one of the club's secret meetings.
The documents shared reveal that the internal affairs investigation was covered up to protect the aforementioned officers' law enforcement careers and keep them from being criminally prosecuted.
Several long term Dothan law enforcement officers, all part of an original group that initiated the investigation, believe the public has a right to know that the Dothan Police Department, and District Attorney Doug Valeska, targeted young black men by planting drugs and weapons on them over a decade. Most of the young men were prosecuted, many sentenced to prison, and some are still in prison. Many of the officers involved were subsequently promoted and are in leadership positions in law enforcement. They hope the mood of the country is one that demands action and that the US Department of Justice will intervene.
The group of officers requested they be granted anonymity, and shared hundreds of files from the Internal Affairs Division. They reveal a pattern of criminal behavior from within the highest levels of the Dothan Police Department and the district attorney's office in the 20th Judicial District of Alabama. Multiple current and former officers have agreed to testify if United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch appoints a special prosecutor from outside the state of Alabama, or before a Congressional hearing. The officers believe that there are currently nearly a thousand wrongful convictions resulting in felonies from the 20th Judicial District that are tied to planted drugs and weapons and question whether a system that allows this can be allowed to continue to operate.
Members of the Henry County Report have spent weeks analyzing the documents. The originals, secured at an N.G.O. in Canada, are being shared directly with attorneys in the U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division, and are being made available to the lawyers of those falsely convicted that seek to clear their names.
There are two federal lawsuits currently pending by former police officers Keith Gray and Raemonica Carney against the Dothan Police Department. They will be given access as well as they substantiate their claims of racial discrimination and city's violation of a federal court decree.
The documents serve as irrefutable evidence of criminal activity at the highest levels of the Dothan Police Department.
Beginning in early 1996, the Dothan Police Department received complaints from black victims that drugs and weapons were being planted. Specifically young black men who had clean records were targeted. Police Chief, John White, allegedly instructed senior officers to ignore the complaints and they willingly complied.
In early 1998, a group of concerned white officers from within the Police Department complained in writing about what they witnessed. This is reflected in the document below where it refers to a series of allegations that took place over 11 months before the department acted. The initial written complaint from the department's own officers is dated June, 1998. The internal memo documents the last allegation as occurring in April of 1999. Almost a year of internal complaints by the department's own police officers passed before Chief White turned it over to the Internal Affairs Division.
On August 27, 1999 more than a dozen officers had allegations against them for planting drugs and weapons on black men they had falsely arrested. They were each notified of a formal investigation and required to prepare statements in writing to the Internal Affairs Division. They were then tested by polygraph examination, most reportedly failed. The notification of charges reference a combination of marijuana, cocaine, and guns being planted on citizens during arrests that were witnessed by multiple fellow police officers.
All of these cases involving planted drugs and weapons were subsequently prosecuted by District Attorney, Doug Valeska, despite the written allegations by police officers that the evidence was planted. Never was any such information shared in the discovery process with the defendant's attorneys. We have been advised that each of these are considered felonies committed by the district attorney.
District Attorney Doug Valeska
One of the officers alleged to have planted drugs and guns, Michael Magrino, now an investigator working for the state's Indigent Defense Fund and Dothan attorney Derek Yarborough, was alleged to have stolen weapons and drugs in his car. A Dothan police officer familiar with the case told us that "Under no circumstances was this legal, he (Magrino) should have been immediately taken into custody prosecuted but he was not because Lt. Parrish defended him and blocked it."
Former Dothan police officer Michael Magrino
The documents reveal that Magrino contacted District Attorney Doug Valeska and Andy Hughes to intervene into the Internal Affairs investigation.
The head of the Internal Affairs investigation, Sgt. Keith Gray, repeatedly warned Magrino this was a violation of the departmental procedures. Magrino then threatened to go to the press if he was fired, according to a taped interview with Andy Hughes.
"He basically would have done anything to save his skin," one of the officers told us and referred to him as the "character from the movie "Deliverance" he squealed like a pig, eventually Hughes managed to shut him up and force him to resign to save the others."
In the internal affairs documents, three names worth noting appear repeatedly.
Capt. Carlton "Bubba" Ott, now commander of the department's Criminal Investigation Division, Steve Parrish, current Chief, and Andy Hughes, former Sheriff and current Director of Homeland Security for the state.
Carleton "Bubba" Ott, Steve Parrish, and Andy Hughes
All were aware of the investigation and its outcome. All have been rewarded with careers in law enforcement by those for whom they covered, while those who spoke out were forced out of the department. Disturbingly, Ott and Parrish have both attended the FBI academy. Both were highly recommended by the district attorney and former Police Chief, John White.
However, not one of these officers, or members of the district attorney's office, had the moral courage to do the right thing and correct the wrongful prosecutions against the young men who had drugs and weapons planted on them. Disturbingly, on his web site, John White lists that he is a adjunct professor at Troy University's Criminal Justice Program and advertises asking people to let him protect them in the courtroom.
All of these men are now in secure positions of leadership in law enforcement. Many of the men wrongly convicted however are still in prison and have felonies on their record, their lives destroyed.
The results of a polygraph tests given to officers like Michael Magrino were conclusive. The result was DECEPTION STRONGLY INDICATED – probability of deception was greater than 99%.
The result of the internal affairs investigation found that many of the officers should be discharged such as the document below states in Officer Magrino's case.
The scale of the problem facing the city is indicated in Magrino's files where it mentions some 50 cases alone in his arrests that were questionably prosecuted. This number does not take into account the previous cases where he was the arresting officer, or the nearly dozen other officers in the squad with allegations against them by fellow officers.
Internal Affairs Sergeant, Keith Gray, recommended that Magrino be immediately discharged and prosecuted, all of his previous cases reopened for investigation, and the judges and attorneys of those convicted be immediately notified. Gray believed there were hundreds of false arrests in the system by the group of officers, historically over a thousand.
However, at this point, our sources and the documents confirm the investigation was shut down, and the files ordered "buried" by Police Chief, John White, and District Attorney, Doug Valeska.
The original group of officers were dismayed that the investigation was covered up. Even more disturbing, the officers responsible were then promoted in the department. They allege the practice of planting drugs continued for years on black men by those who were part of the group.
On November 9th an unsigned letter by the officers was put on Dothan City Commissioner Don Clement's desk. In the letter, officers detail how the investigation was covered up and they used officer Magrino as an example, referencing stolen guns and drugs in his patrol car.
They refer to the issue that Magrino, like the other dozen officers had, executed hundreds of arrests that should be questioned in light of the results of the internal affairs investigation.
The letter indicates that federal law enforcement authorities were not notified as required by the department's and state's policies.
The letter directly implicates the top management of the Dothan Police Department as being complicit in a cover up of hundreds of felonies. Chief John White responded two weeks later in a letter to Dothan City Manager Jerry Gwaltney copied below.
Note carefully that White stated in writing:
"AT NO TIME PREVIOUS, DURING OR SINCE, HAS ANY INDIVIDUAL MADE AN ALLEGATION THAT THIS OFFICER PLANTED OR MANUFACTURED EVIDENCE OR TESTIMONY IN ANY CASE."
White completely misrepresents the ongoing internal affairs investigation, that is evidenced in a letter to him by Sgt Keith Gray where he found that the officer in question, Michael Magrino, should be discharged.
Further, White seems to have forgotten the previous multiple written complaints by fellow officers implicating a dozen officers who were witnessed planting drugs and guns on black men dating back to 1998, or the fact that he ordered the cases turned over to internal affairs in the first place.
White's own words, as early as Nov 99, are clear evidence of an illegal cover up.
Police Chief John White was then deposed in an unrelated lawsuit where in June of 2001 he gave the following sworn deposition. Again, note that White misleads and gives multiple false statements under oath. At this point, he should have had his APOST certification stripped and been prosecuted.
In the deposition, it is clear that Police Chief, John White, now a lawyer and Troy University criminal justice professor, is being misleading. With the leaked internal affairs investigation now made public, it's obvious his sworn testimony is at odds with his written words to city officials, and it appears he lied under oath.
The larger issue is no less than hundreds of wrongly convicted black men and tens of millions of dollars in potential damages as well as potential prison terms for himself and the district attorney and those who assisted them.
The original group of police officers responsible for the written complaints were in disbelief and for years afterward attempted to get federal assistance to help those wrongly convicted and continued to warn of the practice of the narcotics team of planting drugs on young black men. The officers who were responsible for the narcotics team, Steve Parrish and Andy Hughes, continued to be advanced in rank and were richly rewarded for their complicity in hiding the truth.
For two decades District Attorney, Doug Valeska, having full knowledge of the situation, proceeded to earn a reputation across the Wiregrass as a tough prosecutor while knowingly prosecuting black men whom he knew the evidence was planted on them in their cases. The district attorney's office took in millions of dollars in court fees and their pre-trial diversion program.
The group of police officers who chose to notify federal authorities and the US Attorney in a series of constructed letters to protect their own safety documented is below as many had their lives threatened by fellow officers.
By coming forward almost a decade later after these letters, this group of officers who witnessed drugs and weapons being planted and had the moral courage to bravely do the right thing are hoping the United States Department of Justice will intervene. The want a specially appointed federal prosecutor, from outside the state of Alabama to hold District Attorney, Doug Valeska, former Chief, John White, current Chief, Steve Parrish, Homeland Security Director, Andy Hughes, and Capt Carleton Ott responsible. But most importantly, attempt to make those hundreds of young black men's lives whole again who have been victims of the Dothan Police Department. They believe the time for justice has come.
Editors note: We contacted Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish regarding this article and he declined comment, however we agreed to cooperate with him to redact any personal information from the documents that we share with the public that would compromise an ongoing investigation or put an individual at risk.
By Jon B. Carroll Posted on December 1, 2015
By Jon B. Carroll Posted on December 1, 2015