Twin Rivers California Police Officer Branche Smith, Charged With Beating Handcuffed Inmates, Has Two Drunk Driving Convictions – Last Was With Blood Alcohol Level Three Times Legal Limit

June 23, 2012

SACRAMENTO CALIFORNIA – The Twin Rivers Unified School District officer arrested Thursday on four misdemeanor counts of assaulting detainees has two convictions for driving under the influence, including as recently as 2005 when his blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.

Branche Smith, 37, was released Thursday on his own recognizance, and is scheduled to appear on the assault charges at an arraignment July 10. He faces up to four years in jail and a fine of $10,000 if found guilty on all four counts.

“We look forward to fighting them and putting on a vigorous defense,” said Christopher Miller, Smith’s attorney.
Call The Bee’s Melody Gutierrez, (916) 326-5521. Follow her on Twitter @MelodyGutierrez.
The Twin Rivers District Police Department works to change their image.
rpench@sacbee.com – File: Corporal Branche Smith with the Twin Rivers District Police Department places crystal meth and other evidence on his police cruiser after removing it from the recreational vehicle, right. The driver of the RV – who was arrested – was parked adjacent to Kohler Elementary School for an extended period of time raising suspension from observers.

In response to Smith’s previous DUI convictions, Miller said Smith paid penalties and served his probation.

“He was hired as a Twin Rivers officer with the district having full knowledge of those charges,” Miller said.

In 2005, Smith pleaded no contest to drunken driven charges in which he had a 0.21 blood-alcohol level. The legal limit is 0.08. Smith had pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in 1997 with a blood-alcohol level of 0.19.

Earlier this month, Smith filed a tort claim against Twin Rivers Unified, in which he said he was subjected to hours of interrogation by the Sacramento Police Department about the allegations of excessive force, despite the expiration of a one-year statute of limitations for a public employer to investigate and propose discipline on an officer.

“The Twin Rivers Police Department was aware of these allegations when they occurred back in September 2010 and May 2011,” Miller said. “They elected not to investigate those allegations.”

In the tort claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, Smith said he was placed on leave one day before he was subpoenaed to appear before a Sacramento County grand jury and that he has been retaliated against for being black.

The embattled Twin Rivers Police Department has been making sweeping changes following intense scrutiny over the past eight months. The department and the school district are the subject of a grand jury investigation, the results of which will be released next week.

“For the size of the Police Department, I get more calls about them than any similarly sized department,” said attorney Stewart Katz, who is well-known for his lawsuits against law enforcement for use-of-force issues.

Katz represents Lawonda Bailey, who is suing the Twin Rivers school district and district police Officer Jason Smith over allegations that Smith used excessive force following a traffic stop. Officer Jason Smith is not related to Officer Branche Smith.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office filed charges Thursday against Branche Smith, accusing him of choking Demonte Kelly, then 18, and Andrew Latshaw, then 21, and threatening Austin Westall, then 20, with a stun gun.

The men were detained with two others at the Twin Rivers Police Department pre-booking facility about 3 p.m. Sept. 17, 2010, according to court documents.

The five subjects were arrested on Longdale Drive as suspects in various crimes, including obstructing an officer, assaulting an officer, conspiracy, inciting a riot and resisting arrest.

No charges were filed against Kelly, Latshaw or Westall, according to online court records.

Acting Twin Rivers Police Chief Scott LaCosse said Smith was not at the scene during the incident that led to the five subjects being arrested. Smith entered the pre-booking facility later while the subjects were being detained, LaCosse said.

A case summary filed in court documents indicate there were numerous Twin Rivers police officers in pre-booking when Smith entered the room. An officer digitally recorded the events.

The case summary said the accounts of the detained subjects and police officers who witnessed the incidents are consistent in saying that Smith choked Kelly and Latshaw while they were handcuffed and threatened Westall by holding a Taser inches from the suspect’s chest.

In a separate incident May 30, 2011, Smith is accused of kicking Jacob Paul, then 25, in the head while the subject was on the floor at the Sacramento County jail.

Smith originally arrested Paul, a parolee-at-large, after Paul ran when Smith stopped to talk to him, according to the case summary against Smith.

Paul told investigators that Smith pulled over on the side of the freeway and choked him for moving too much in the back seat of the patrol car.

While at the county jail, Smith allegedly entered Paul’s cell and slammed the inmate’s head into a wall. Smith said Paul was resisting, according to court documents.

After entering the cell, a deputy said, “Officer Smith ‘booted’ Paul in the face as Officer Smith walked out the cell.”

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Hero To Zero: Hundreds Of Utah State Police 2007 “Trooper Of The Year” Lisa Steed’s DUI Called Into Question – Also Attacted Innocent Motorist With Taser Weapon

March 29, 2012

UTAH – Lisa Steed was named Utah Highway Patrol’s “Trooper of the Year” in 2007 for making more than 200 DUI arrests, but now all of her cases could be in question because she admitted she did not follow proper protocol while administering a DUI check.

It is the second time Steed’s DUI arrests have gained notoriety. A 2009 dashcam video shows her Tasering a motorist who was later determined to be sober.

“The cumulative facts may well have a significant ripple effect across every case she’s touched,” Salt Lake City attorney Joseph Jardine told ABCNews.com. “This could become the basis for overturning multiple convictions in the past.”

Jardine is representing Theron Alexander, who claims Steed violated procedure when she administered a breathalyzer test before a field sobriety test in March 2010.

“The credibility of an investigating officer is paramount. If you can’t trust the cop at their word, there’s very little left that you can trust with an investigation,” Jardine said.

At a court hearing on Tuesday, Steed admitted that she had removed her microphone during the incident in order to perform an unauthorized action.

“She specifically stated [Tuesday] that she took the microphone off so her superior wouldn’t know what she was doing,” Jardine said. “We’re concerned that she may have a tendency to stretch the truth when it suits her purposes. Our objective is to probe her credibility.”

Steed’s attorney Greg Skordas does not believe that the incident is any reflection of his client’s credibility.

“It doesn’t affect her credibility. It affects the way she does things, her ability to follow instructions,” Skordas told ABCNews.com. “It doesn’t mean she’s dishonest.”

Skordas said that Steed was simply trying to give the person she had pulled over “the benefit of the doubt” by skipping straight to the breathalyzer test and not having them get out of the car.

“It wasn’t anyone she knew. I think she was just being overly sensitive,” Skordas said. “There wasn’t any bad intent. It was one of those, no good deed goes unpunished.”

This is not Steed’s first run-in with the law. In 2009, a police car dashcam recording caught her Tasering a man during a DUI stop after he refuses to get out of his car, saying he’d like to call a lawyer.

The man, Ryan Jones, can be heard calmly saying, “Ma’am, please don’t shoot me with a Taser,” before Steed zaps him and he beings to scream. When Jones was eventually tested, his blood alcohol level was a 0.03, well below the legal limit.

The case was settled in November 2011 when the state paid Jones $40,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

When asked about the Taser case, Skordas said, “She took her lumps, she was reprimanded and we move on.”

“Unfortunately, you have 300 cases and two go south and then all of a sudden you have a history,” he said. “She wasn’t named Trooper of the Year because she has a history. She works very, very hard and had a couple of unfortunate incidents, which she also stepped up to the plate for.”

Steed has not been charged with a crime at this point, but Jardine believes she has a “huge insubordination problem” that needs to be dealt with.

“It’s hard to say why she would do it specifically,” Jardine said. “Is it pressure from her past achievements? Is it her desire to outdo the other officers in the state? Is it for advancement? Is it for all of the above? Who knows?”

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Forsyth Georgia Municipal Court DUI Judge And Monroe County Chief Magistrate Jeff Davis Pleads Guilty To DUI For A Slap On The Wrist

June 11, 2011

MACON, GEORGIA — A Forsyth Municipal Court judge who heard DUI cases has pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge.

Judge Jeff Davis, who also is chief magistrate for Monroe County, entered his plea in Bibb County court Friday. He was sentenced to one day in jail, a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and an $800 fine.

Bibb County authorities arrested Davis early Saturday at a safety checkpoint in near the Monroe County line.

The next day, Davis resigned from his job with the Forsyth Municipal Court. He has not stepped down from his Monroe County job.

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Veteran Seattle Washington Police Officer Scott Moss Remains On The Job After Drunk Driving Arrest

April 22, 2011

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – The Seattle Police officer arrested for DUI earlier this month will stay on the job, at least for now. Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb says that the Office of Professional Accountability has opened an investigation but the criminal case has to be complete before any discipline could be imposed.

The arrest occurred on Interstate 405 near Bellevue. It was 5 a.m., and the trooper saw an SUV weaving across the white line onto the narrow shoulder.

Once stopped, the trooper realized that the driver was Scott Moss – a 16-year veteran of SPD – who often appeared as the face of the department, until he was arrested in 2005 for DUI. That charge was later amended to negligent driving.

Moss made sure the trooper knew he was a police officer – handing over his driver’s license and his Seattle Police ID.

Was Moss given special treatment?

“Everything I read in the report appears to be very standard. I don’t see any special treatment or anything out of the ordinary,” said Trooper Julie Startup.

Moss agreed to take a field sobriety test.

Moss failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test – considered a bellwether for impairment. During the test the trooper looks for an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball that occurs when a person is impaired by alcohol. But the trooper did not administer two other roadside tests – walking and balance – that are usually done.

“All three of the standardized tests are typically performed, but it’s always at the discretion of the officer to determine if that’s necessary,” said Trooper Startup.

According to the trooper’s report, Moss “appeared shocked” and “frustrated’” when he was put in handcuffs.

But he wasn’t breathalyzed right away. The trooper’s portable unit had a dead battery. And nearly two hours elapsed before a blood alcohol test was done at a nearby police department. By then his readings were .069 and .075 – below the legal limit of .08.

When challenged, the trooper told Moss that by extrapolating backward and dong the math, it was easy to tell that Moss was over the legal limit at the time he was stopped for weaving on the freeway.

Moss was not booked into jail. An SPD commander was called to come and get him.

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Surprise Arizona Police Officer Mike Phillips Arrested, Suspended, Charged With DUI And Endangerment

April 14, 2011

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – A Surprise police officer has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated DUI and endangerment.

Police say officer Mike Phillips was booked Tuesday after a collision in the area of Paradise Lane and Mountain Vista Boulevard.

During the course of the investigation, police say it was discovered that Phillips was impaired at the time of the accident.

Police say a breath test showed Phillips had no alcohol in his system, but he was under the influence of a nervous system depressant.

Phillips was booked into the downtown Phoenix jail. Police say he’s been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

The Arizona Republic says the 39-year-old Phillips was hired with two other rookies last August.

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Chief Delaware State Alcohol Enforcment Offical Siobahn Sullivan Quits Amid Suspension After DUI Arrest While Speeding

October 9, 2010

DOVER, DELAWARE – The head of the agency charged with enforcing Delaware’s alcohol laws has resigned after being arrested for drunken driving.

Siobahn Sullivan submitted her resignation letter to Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Lewis Schiliro on Friday, saying she was resigning effective immediately as director of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.

Sullivan was stopped for speeding early Thursday on Route 1 near Lewes and subsequently charged with drunken driving. The 45-year-old Sullivan was released pending arraignment, which is scheduled for Oct. 22., and had been placed on administrative leave with pay.

Sullivan is a retired state police sergeant and was the commander of the executive protection unit assigned to former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

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Nye County Nevada District Attorney Bob Beckett Arrested For Drunk Driving In County Vehicle After Former Madam Heidi Fleiss Calls To Report Suspicious Car

September 10, 2010

PAHRUMP, NV – New information is being released about the dui arrest of Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett. It turns out a former madam is responsible for the 911 call that led police to Beckett’s car.

It was none other than Heidi Fleiss who called police to report a suspicious vehicle parked in her neighborhood. The former Hollywood madam did not want to go on camera, but told us that despite the D.A.’s rap sheet, she was pretty surprised when she learned it was Beckett who was behind the wheel that night.

“I guess a lot of people make mistakes. But it sounds like that guy has made a lot of them,” said Pahrump resident Jason Owen.

It’s the talk of the town. Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett has another run in with the law. After responding to a call Tuesday night, a sheriff’s deputy found him drunk inside his county owned car.

Fleiss tells us she spotted a vehicle just a couple of yards from her home off the gravel road near her house. She said she was concerned, had no idea what it was doing there and that’s why she dialed 911.

Sheriff Tony De Meo says the district attorney had no ID on him and failed all sobriety tests.

“Mr. Beckett was compliant as he was being booked and was respectful of the job the deputy had to do,” said De Meo.

Most Pahrump residents still cant’ believe the odds of Fleiss’ call landing Beckett in jail. Especially since she too was booked in Nye County for driving under the influence of narcotics in 2008.

“That’s really bizarre…of all people,” said Pahrump resident Michelle Hebert.

Yet, they were not exactly shocked that Beckett was drunk at the wheel, since the four term district attorney also faced dui charges in California two years ago. Beckett lost the Republican primary in June. Although he has till the end of this year before he leaves office, many think he should consider resigning. Beckett was also arrested on charges of embezzlement this past may.

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