A Case Study of the Criminal Justice System in Gainesville in the 21st Century
Part Two: Gainesville Police Department Internal Affairs Division
This is the second part of a series of articles describing an actual court case, 2001-1601-CFA, that began in 2001. In the first part of this series, the examination of the Gainesville Police Department records confirmed the existence of a fraudulent audiotape produced by Detectives Patty Nixon and Drayton McDaniel and submitted as evidence in the case of Mr. Theodore McLeod. In this installment we will examine the actions of G.P.D. when a citizen complains of mistreatment by the police. During the Gainesville City Commission hearings on the need for an independent Citizen Review Board to investigate complaints Chief Botsford remarked that external review was unnecessary because of the extensive resources available to their own Internal Affairs Division. This case reveals how the investigative resources of the Internal Affairs Division are selectively used to cover up rule violations and wrongdoing within the Police Department.
I first learned of the existence of the purported confession tape in April of 2002, but was unable to listen to it until August of 2002. By then Mr. McLeod had been in the custody of the Department of Corrections for more than five months and more than sixteen months had passed since his arrest. It was another four months before his brother and I could visit Mr. McLeod in prison and compare his voice to the tape. After comparing Mr. McLeod's voice to the audiotape, I was convinced that Mr. McLeod's voice is not recorded on the tape at all. The voice speaking as "Mr. McLeod" throughout the tape which admits to the sexually depraved acts actually belongs to someone else.
After realizing what the detectives had done to frame Mr. McLeod for the sexual abuse charge that Detective Nixon made up, I attempted to speak with Gainesville Chief of Police Norman Botsford. His "assistant", Ms. Hannah, informed me that the Chief would not meet with anyone until he had first been briefed by one of his captains. She transferred me to Captain Carrell, then Captain of Criminal Investigations Bureau, who told me that he was too busy to meet that week and referred me to his assistant Lieutenant Washington. I met with Lieutenant Washington later that day and described the two detectives' actions. He assured me that he would listen to the tape himself and initiate appropriate disciplinary actions if he could substantiate my allegations. He said that he would call me in a few days to let me know what he would do. He called me the next morning to tell me that he had spoken to both detectives and they assured him that there was nothing improper about the audiotape therefore he saw no reason to actually listen to the tape himself. He merrily told me that if I was not satisfied with his decision I could file an internal affairs complaint.
The G.P.D. Cover-up
After I obtained the proper form from G.P.D. Headquarters and submitted it, I was phoned by Sgt. Ed Legal of the Internal Affairs Division who told me that since Mr. McLeod was an adult I had no legal stature to file any complaint about wrongdoing in his case. Subsequently, I mailed the forms to Mr. McLeod, who was then confined in the D.O.C. facility at Crestview, Florida. Mr. McLeod completed the forms and mailed them back to me. I then submitted them to G.P.D. on December 17, 2002.
Mr. McLeod's Statement of Complaint submitted to G.P.D. reads as follows. "Sometime after I was incarcerated on May 9th 2001 Detective Patty Nixon and another unknown person made an audiotape (item# 104-I-1, property control # 108996, submitted as evidence Aug. 11, 2001) that is claimed to be a recording of me and an unidentified police officer. To my knowledge no recording was made during the few hours that I was at G.P.D. I have never said anything like what is on that tape as I understand it from others who have heard it. I never did any of the bad things stated on the tape. I was never aware of any such tape until after I was sent to the D.O.C. in April 2002. Friends who have listened to the tape noted a wrong date, numerous splices, a one minute gap in time, and an unfamiliar female voice pretending to be me. I believe that Detective Nixon made the bogus tape because she knew that there was no real evidence to support the false charges that she made against me."
On January 10, 2003 Captain Ray Weaver wrote, in response to Mr. McLeod's inquiry about the status of his complaint, that it had been received and further warned that it was unlawful for him to discuss any details of the complaint with anyone except his legal counsel and Weaver's office until after the investigation had been completed.
The Internal Affairs investigation was done by Sgt. Ed Legal and his report was submitted on January 29, 2003.
Sgt. Legal's report revealed four conclusions. First, the voice on the audiotape identified as Mr. McLeod was obviously male and that Detective Nixon coughed while Detective McDaniel and Mr. McLeod are conversing. Both statements are factually incorrect. Sgt. Legal's subjective opinion about the sex of the speaker is irrelevant. Technological methods are in common use that can electronically determine the identity of the speaker but Sgt. Legal did not utilize them. The cough which is admitted to be Detective Nixon actually overlaps Detective McDaniel's voice but there is a distinct pause between the cough and "Mr. McLeod's" response which is delivered in a strained voice as if (s)he had just coughed.
His second conclusion that Detective McDaniel had mistakenly identified the date of the taping as March 9, 2001 instead of May 9, 2001 is irrefutable. His conclusion that, "Detective McDaniel's minor error does not negate the fact that Mr. McLeod was arrested on May 9 so that is obviously when the interview took place" is erroneous. The police records reviewed in the first part indicate that the tape was probably made sometime after Mr. McLeod's actual interview at G.P.D. It is my belief that Detective McDaniel was confused about the date because the taping actually occurred on a different date. The fact that the date he stated is two months before McLeod's arrest is consistent with the other equally fictitious information presented on the tape.
The third conclusion, that there was no evidence that someone tampered with the tape is also not correct. The tape has numerous places where electronic noise indicates that the recorder was turned off or parts of the tape re-recorded. Sgt. Legal dismisses this as being due to use of the voice activation feature of the tape recorder. His conclusion ignores the sworn statements of both Detectives. Detective McDaniel stated that he never used that feature and Detective Nixon stated that she was unaware of it when Sgt. Legal questioned them. That conclusion also ignores the fact that the irregularities in the tape sometimes chop off parts of sentences or words and occur at irregular intervals.
The fourth conclusion, that the one and one half minute discrepancy between the time stated by Detective McDaniel on the tape and the actual playing time is also due to the voice activation feature does not match the detectives' statements about the use of that feature. No doubt there are plenty of technical resources available to G.P.D. capable of definitively characterizing the disputed tape, yet none were utilized. The only technology referenced by Sgt. Legal is his own amateur experiments and he offers no credentials to establish his qualification to perform them. Why not consult the F.B.I. which is considered to have the best forensic technicians and equipment to evaluate such evidence?
In Sgt. Legal's conclusion to the report he states, "an issue regarding evidence handling was brought to light by this investigation." That issue pertains to Mr. McLeod's specific allegation in his complaint that Detective Nixon entered the fraudulent audiotape into evidence more than three months after he was arrested. The improper evidence handling was not discovered incidentally during the investigation as Sgt. Legal implies, it was one of the specific articles in Mr. McLeod's complaint. Detective Patty Nixon told Sgt. Legal that she didn't remember the specific reason why she kept the tape in her desk instead of following proper procedure. She also said that she and other unnamed detectives sometimes keep evidence locked in their desks instead of following the general orders. Does this mean that the official G.P.D. rules and procedures are commonly ignored by detectives and not enforced by G.P.D. administration?
Sgt. Legal concluded that Mr. McLeod's complaints could not be substantiated and were unfounded. That conclusion contradicts his own comments regarding the documented violation of evidence policy which was one of Mr. McLeod's complaints. Sgt. Legal's "investigation", which only consisted only of interviewing the two accused detectives and playing with his tape recorder, could hardly be expected to substantiate or disprove anything. On February 11, 2003 Captain Weaver wrote that his review of the complaint concluded that the officer's actions were "proper and within the rules and regulations of the Gainesville Police Department and the laws of the State of Florida." Captain Weaver's statement contradicts and completely ignores the improper evidence handling described by Sgt. Legal.
Following the release of the Internal Affairs report, I contacted City Manager Wayne Bowers and reviewed the documentation and events with him. He asked Chief of Police Botsford to report back to him regarding my complaint about the inadequate investigation. On March 3, 2003 Chief Botsford responded with a brief memo and copies of the Internal Affairs documents. His letter repeats the fictitious version of sexual abuse described by Detective Nixon in the arrest report. He also refers to the audiotape and the equally fictitious sex acts described on it as if it were legitimate evidence originating with Mr. McLeod. He ignores other facts contained in the police records by incorrectly stating that the taped interviews of the victims provided "substantially identical statements of past sexual assaults as admitted to by McLeod." He described Sgt. Legal's investigation as thorough and found no reason to pursue this matter any further. I wonder what reason caused Chief Botsford to later pursue it and submit an additional report on the case four months later.
The N.A.S.A. Cover-up
Following the release of Chief Botsford's letter I began speaking out at Gainesville City Commission meetings during the the time allocated for citizen comments. During the next several months I used the three minutes allowed for each citizen to speak to continue my accusation that the two detectives fabricated the audiotape and to demand a proper investigation to determine its authenticity. Individual commissioners told me that any remedy to my complaint would have to come through the City Manager's Office since they were directly responsible for the Police Department. Officer Jeff McAdams also addressed the City Commission about this issue during the time for citizen comment, presumably speaking on behalf of G.P.D Administration. He urged the City Commission to do nothing about this matter since I was the only citizen complaining about the behavior of the Police Department. On May 6, 2003 Gainesville Mayor Tom Bussing wrote me a letter advising me that the City Commission was not going to take any action regarding my complaint. During the following weeks I continued to discuss the problems in the Internal Affairs Report with City Manager Wayne Bowers.
On June 23, 2003 Mr. Bowers wrote to Mayor Bussing and the Members of the City Commission that Chief Botsford had submitted a more recent analysis of the audiotape. Attached to the memo was a letter from Chief Botsford dated June 6, 2003 stating that the audiotape had been examined by N.A.S.A. and the results were enclosed. The chief wrote, "I believe this is the limits of our investigation into this matter. I don't think anything we do will satisfy Mr. Williamson, however, our investigation was thorough, complete and totally exonerates the officers involved." As for myself, I believe that Chief Botsford never expected to satisfy me with another fraudulent report. Apparently, the ones that he sought to satisfy with his deception were Mr. Bowers and the City Commissioners to whom his report was addressed. For the record, I will never be satisfied until there has been a competent analysis of the tape that meets acceptable standards and can withstand professional scrutiny. I hope that Chief Botsford's most recent statement about ending the investigation will be as erroneous as his earlier pronouncement of finality.
The report contained a memo from Captain Carrell addressed to Chief Botsford, a memo from Sgt. Terry Converse, G.P.D. Forensics, addressed to Captain Carrell and a report from Mr. Brad A. Lawrence, a Computer Specialist at the Kennedy Space Center. Sgt. Converse wrote that he had before contacting N.A.S.A. he had contacted the F.B.I., F.D.L.E., the North East Florida Support Center in Jacksonville and the University of Florida to inquire about analysis of the audiotape. According to Sgt. Converse, neither the F.B.I. nor F.D.L.E. would analyze the tape because it was not a part of an on-going criminal investigation. Why is this matter not a criminal investigation? I have made accusations of criminal wrong doing against Detectives Nixon and McDaniel.
When I asked Sgt. Converse about his contacts at those agencies he said that he could not remember who he had spoken to or when he had contacted them. He also stated that the N.E.F.S.C. did not have technical resources to analyze audiotape. Dr. Howard Rothman at the University of Florida advised Sgt. Converse to contact Forensic Communication Associates, a local company headed by Professor Emeritus, Dr. Harry Hollien. When Sgt. Converse was told that professional analysis of the tape would cost at least $3500, Sgt. Converse said that he would look elsewhere. Is there a limit to how much G.P.D. would spend for a competent analysis to prove the integrity of officers accused of wrong doing? He then described his contact with Mr. Brad A. Lawrence at N.A.S.A., an agency that Captain Carrell said, "has assisted us in the past with investigations". I never would have imagined that investigating crime was a part of the mission of N.A.S.A., but now we know. I sure would like to know what those other cases were that N.A.S.A. helped out G.P.D. with before this. I wonder if they were also Internal Affairs Investigations or maybe they were looking for clues on the moon.
Mr. Brad A. Lawrence is Computer Science Lead at the Kennedy Space Center Advanced Visualization Environments (KAVE). His report does not state that he has any expertise or experience in the forensic analysis of audiotape. I guess you get what you pay for and that is reflected in the quality of his report. His brief report only has nineteen lines of print and an additional three pages containing three graphs which are not described in the text or explained in any way. The brief text describes his purported analysis of the audiotape in which he refers to the numerous electronic noise events as "pops". According to Lawrence the pops all occur after 3.4 seconds of silence indicating that they were caused by the use of the voice activation feature of the recorder. In fact, the irregularities occur after varying time intervals, frequently there is no interval and the noise punctuates words and terminates Detective McDaniel's sentences leaving them incomplete and without an answer before a new sentence begins after the noise. The flaws in the audiotape are so obvious that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to find them. It is disconcerting that N.A.S.A.'s rocket scientist was unable to find them. Lawrence's failure to explain the graphs poses more questions about his analysis than he describes.
After reading Chief Botsford's report I contacted Professor Hollien, who had been described by Sgt. Converse as a competent authority in forensic analysis. That description may be the only accurate statement in Sgt. Converse's memo. Professor Hollien is one of the leading authorities on forensic electronic analysis in the world. He is author of several books on the subject including both The Acoustics of Crime and Forensic Voice Identification. He has also served as a consultant to the F.B.I. and other agencies on the subject. I retained him as a consultant to evaluate Lawrence's report and provided him with a copy of the suspect audiotape.
During July 2003 Professor Hollien informally evaluated Lawrence's report and the audiotape and prepared his own report concerning the adequacy of Lawrence's work. Although Dr. Hollien's analysis of the audiotape was limited, he determined that "even a casual examination will reveal the presence of over 40 clicks or pulses (pops?). Of greater importance, they are of several different types." Therefore, the use of the voice activation feature would not explain all of the irregularities on the tape as both Sgt. Legal and Mr. Lawrence contend. Dr. Hollien wrote, "As may be seen from his report, Mr. Lawrence's efforts did not achieve the level of professionalism required for the proper conduct of this type of analysis. To conclude, it must be stated that neither the integrity nor the accuracy of the tape recording in question have been established; nor has Mr. Lawrence demonstrated its authenticity."
That report was submitted to the Gainesville City Manager and the City Commissioners. If any of them ever took any action about it, I am unaware of it. After Mayor Hanrahan took office I met with her and Mr. Bowers during July 2004 and reviewed the information with them. Neither official saw any reason to question the adequacy of Chief Botsford's report or initiate any further investigation. Subsequently, Mr. Bowers did agree to request F.B.I. analysis of the audiotape. Soon afterward the hurricanes of 2004 struck and disruptions to my personal life as well as those to the City Government interfered with any immediate follow up to Mr. Bowers' offer of a competent analysis of the tape. Next, Mr. Bowers resigned and left town without doing anything about it. His successor, Acting City Manager Barbara Lipscomb has refused to meet with me regarding this matter. What is a citizen to do when they have a complaint?
When the City Commission decided not to establish a formal mechanism for external review of citizen's complaints about police misconduct they said that the City Commission would act as a review board. Thus far, I have not been able to get any commissioner to take measures to resolve the failure of G.P.D. to competently and honestly investigate Mr. McLeod's complaint. I suspect that there are other cases involving homeless or mentally handicapped persons who have been conveniently framed for crimes that they did not commit in ways similar to those revealed in Mr. McLeod's case. I am disheartened to learn how easily an unwary person can become incarcerated based on fictitious charges. While finding someone to blame for specific crimes may look good for G.P.D. statistics, it does not improve our public safety or reduce crime when innocent persons are jailed and the real criminals are left to continue their illegal activities. The institutional cover up by the police that is revealed in this case suggests that citizens are not getting either fair treatment or a fair return from their tax money. The principal issue is whether there is sufficient order and discipline within G.P.D. to ensure that rules and regulations are followed. Based on this review, it is evident that under Chief Botsford and Ms. Hannah's leadership, serious violations of the rules are tolerated without any corrective disciplinary actions and covered up utilizing the most bizarre methods when they are discovered.
In the next installment we will continue the case review by examining the Public Defender's Office and their legal representation of Mr. McLeod.
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