The Richmond Register

Local News

July 27, 2010

RPD officers ask judge for reinstatement

RICHMOND — A pair of former Richmond police officers have appealed their firing by the Richmond City Commission in Madison Circuit Court and are seeking to be reinstated to the force.

The appeal was filed Thursday by attorneys representing former Sgt. James “J.J.” Rogers and former patrolman Garry Murphy.

Rogers and Murphy were dismissed by city commissioners on June 22 following a two-day hearing on administrative charges of conduct unbecoming a police officer and conduct impairing the effectiveness of the police department.

The 13-page complaint alleges that the hearing against the officers was “an erroneous and improper” hearing “where the petitioners were deprived of their statutory and constitutional due process rights and the decision was arbitrary and not supported by substantial evidence.”

The charges against the officers stemmed from an internal affairs investigation into a consensual sexual encounter Rogers, Murphy and a third officer, Brian Hensley, had with a woman, April McQueen, at her Richmond apartment on the evening of Oct. 26, 2009.

A criminal investigation into the encounter was opened by Madison County sheriff’s deputies the next morning, and the officers were suspended with pay by Chief Larry Brock on Oct. 31, the same day an article about the criminal investigation appeared in the Register.

Rogers, Murphy and Hensley were indicted in January by a grand jury on charges of witness tampering or intimidation and were acquitted following a March trial.

According to the complaint, the officers requested the dismissal of the administrative charges following their acquittal, but the request was denied.

Hensley submitted his resignation prior to the June administrative hearing and is now employed outside law enforcement, according to the complaint.

The complaint argues that the decision issued by the four commissioners who participated in the hearing was “arbitrary and not supported by substantial evidence.”

City Commissioner Mike Brewer recused himself at the start of the hearing for undisclosed reasons and did not participate in the decision.

The complaint argues that none of the witnesses who testified at the hearing gave statements that supported allegations in the statement of administrative charges that the officers had caused harm to McQueen or influenced her to change her statements to investigators.

In the complaint, the officers’ attorney, Lexington lawyer Scott Crosbie, argues that the officers “were being charged due to the publicity generated ... ” by media reports on the case and that Brock “has instituted an arbitrary discipline standard that is inconsistent, unpredictable and incoherent” and in violation of state law.

The complaint also argues that attorney Mary Ann Stewart, who presented the city’s case against the officers, gave an improper closing argument.

Specifically, the complaint cites Stewart’s use of the term “simulated rape” to describe the encounter the officers had with McQueen, and referred to the encounter as being “very similar to ‘horrible, horrible crimes.’”

Crosbie argues that Stewart also presented evidence that was not in the record during her closing argument, particularly an argument that the case against Rogers and Murphy was “reflective of numerous other police discipline cases and that they have been upheld ‘over and over.’”

The complaint seeks to have the orders dismissing Rogers and Murphy vacated and asks Madison Circuit Judge William G. Clouse, who also presided over the criminal trial, to remand the cases back to the Richmond City Commission with instructions to dismiss the charges and reinstate the officers with pay and benefits.

Crosbie also is asking the court to require the city to pay attorney’s fees for Rogers and Murphy as part of the complaint.

The city has not yet responded to the complaint, and a hearing date has not been scheduled, according to court records.

Brian Smith may be reached at bsmith@richmondregister.com or at 624-6694.

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