Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Detroit cop charged in corruption probe signed warrant that sparked lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS, MIKE BOENING PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Via Flickr Creative Commons, Mike Boening Photography

A former Detroit police officer who has been criminally charged as part of a probe into the city's scandal-plagued narcotics unit was a key player in a 2013 drug raid that's at the center of an ongoing federal lawsuit, according to records obtained by MT.

Officer Arthur Leavells was involved in an alleged conspiracy led by two officers in the Detroit Police Department's now-disbanded narcotics squad from June 2010 until they were suspended in October 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The trial for the indicted officers — Lt. David "Hater" Hansberry and Officer Bryan "Bullet" Watson — is slated to begin later this summer. The pair is accused of carrying out fake arrests, stealing money and drugs from civilians, and extortion. 

In April, Leavells was charged in a "criminal information" for allegedly distributing cocaine between June 2010 and August 2014, meaning he's expected to plead guilty. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. 

No specific incidents are cited in the charge brought against Leavells, but his name appears in documents related to a disputed raid of a Warren home in December 2013 — first reported by MT — where Detroit narcotics officers seized over 70 marijuana plants.

The raid has since become the focus of a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

According to the complaint filed by Warren couple Timothy and Hatema Davis, members of DPD's narcotics squad forcibly entered their home, demanded to know if they had any money, and seized nearly fifty marijuana plants. Timothy Davis was legally licensed to operate a marijuana grow facility, the complaint says.

Davis was then taken to a seemingly abandoned building and questioned for several hours, according to the complaint.

It was Leavells' surveillance of the home that led Detroit officers across city limits to conduct the raid, records show.

In a sworn affidavit for a search warrant, Leavells said he received a tip that "large amounts of marijuana" were located inside the Davis' home.

On Dec. 22, 2013, Leavells set about surveying the property. In the affidavit, he says he witnessed Timothy Davis leave his house in a white vehicle, drive to the intersection of Dresden and Bringard on Detroit's northeast side, and park. Soon after, he continued, a black Dodge Magnum appeared and the driver, a thirty-something male, entered Davis' car.

"[T]he passenger stayed a short time and then exited the target vehicle carrying a plastic bag, returned to the Magnum, and [left the] location," Leavells wrote, adding he witnessed similar scenarios occur in the following days. 

Leavells said the alleged transactions gave sufficient "probable cause" to execute the search warrant. A Wayne County magistrate judge signed the warrant at 11:24 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2013; the raid commenced the following afternoon. Police seized $275, 77 marijuana plants, and a 2005 Cadillac from the property, records show. 

The criminal indictment filed against the alleged ringleaders — Hansberry and Watson — says the group failed to log evidence money and drugs seized during searches of homes. Instead, they sold the drugs on their own and split the profits, the indictment alleges. 

Leavells reportedly recorded conversations using a wiretap to assist the FBI in its investigation. He has since resigned from the department.

"Mr. Davis and his wife were subjected to an illegal raid based on Officer Leavells’ affidavit and now Mr. Leavells has admitted to the FBI that Detroit’s narcotics unit was engaged in unconstitutional and illegal activity," said attorney Michael Dezsi, who represents the Davises.

Leavells is scheduled to be in court June 12 at 9:30 a.m. for a plea hearing. A message was left for his attorney seeking comment. A Detroit police spokesperson declined comment, saying the department doesn't comment on pending litigation. 

"It is disturbing to say the least to learn that members of the narcotics unit were obtaining affidavits to conduct what appears to be illegal raids," Dezsi told MT in an email.

Why the Detroit narcotics unit executed a search warrant in Warren is unclear. Warren police received a request to assist DPD on the raid after Detroit officers were already on-site, records indicate.  

Another Detroit officer who participated in the Warren raid was Sgt. Stephen Geelhood, according to a copy of the Warren Police Department's incident report obtained by MT.

Geelhood is named as a defendant in a separate case filed last November in Wayne County Circuit Court by a Detroit couple, alleging officers illegally searched their home with a warrant based on false statements. The officers physically assaulted Anthony McCallum and threatened his wife, Elaine, "for no reason," the complaint — which was first reported on by MT — stated.

McCallum was detained and charged with intent to deliver and manufacture marijuana, intent to deliver and manufacture less than 50 grams of cocaine, firearms possession by a felon, and felony firearms, court records show — but all counts were eventually dropped once issues related to the warrant came to light. McCallum was convicted in 1997 of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, according to the Michigan State Police sex offender registry.

Police obtained the warrant based on an affidavit signed by Officer Amy Matelic, according to a court transcript from an Aug. 8, 2013 hearing on the charges brought against Anthony McCallum, who initially plead not guilty on each count.

In the sworn affidavit, Matelic stated she received a tip from a confidential informant that cocaine was being sold and stored within McCallum's home. The informant provided tips in the past that led to arrests and generated cases in 3rd Circuit Court and 36th District Court, according to the transcript.

But, the transcript shows, Matelic had no direct conversation with the informant or personal knowledge of the tip; another officer, Gil Hood, actually received it. For unclear reasons, Hood didn't sign the affidavit.

"So the affidavit I mean really just cannot be described as anything other than false in that respect," said Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, during the 2013 hearing.

The only thing "honestly averred in the affidavit," Hathaway said, is that Matelic and Hood conducted surveillance of McCallums' property. "That in and of itself does not provide probable cause for the warrant," Hathaway said.

The McCallums filed their seven-page complaint against two officers who conducted the search of their home, Geelhood and "Officer Blue," who have been with the Detroit Police Department since 1994 and 1997, respectively, according to court records.

In briefs filed by the McCallums' attorney, Geelhood and Blue are identified as "undercover" officers in the city's "now disbanded narcotics unit." (The city later identified Blue in an email to MT as Officer Abraham Blue.)

A hearing in that case is scheduled before Judge Annette Berry on June 12. 

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