Botch A Drug Raid? No Problem, Just Seal The Warrant, Citizen Complaint And Gag Order Itselfby Tim Cushing
Apr. 03, 2014
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Anyone can make a mistake. The best solution is to acknowledge it, make amends if needed, and move forward, striving to learn from the experience. Far too many entities opt instead for bluster, obfuscation and intimidation, rather than deal with the consequences of their screwup. This is especially true for law enforcement agencies, who often use everything in their power to avoid having to admit anything went wrong, much less take responsibility for it.
Here's what went wrong recently, to the detriment of a person who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time: his own house.
A Benedict Avenue resident contends Huron County deputies forced their way into his home Tuesday without a search warrant.Bad enough, but it gets worse.
They tore through his home, he said, after cuffing him and forcing him to the floor facedown. “They searched my whole house, pulled stuff out my closet, broke a couple knick knacks” he said.How did the offending deputies rectify the situation after they realized they had both the wrong home and the wrong person? They uncuffed him and left, as if all of the above had never happened.
Collins filed a complaint against the Huron County Sheriff's Department and asked for a copy of the search warrant. This is when the department went on full lockdown with some help from the local judiciary.
Huron County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Cardwell issued a secret gag order March 21 to seal the search warrant. The gag order is also secret, Cardwell’s court clerk said after the Register asked for a copy of the order.Even Collins' complaint itself is now under seal, and the Sheriff's Department is circling the wagons, digging a moat around the circle and filling that moat with blustery statements and unanswered phones.
First, the department flatout denied it had done anything wrong, calling Collins' story a "rumor" that was "highly inaccurate." And, who knows, maybe that would still be up for debate (citizen v. cop and all that), but then the department went and had the complaint sealed. And the warrant. And the gag order itself. It also issued a contradictory statement a few days later.
"We finished a search warrant at 114-1/2 Benedict Ave," he said Thursday. "Our next move then was to check on an individual who may have a warrant in close proximity."Now, the story has changed. According to this narrative, the department supposedly had a warrant for Collins' address but then decided to pursue a different warrant after tossing the first house for twenty minutes while its resident lay face down on the floor, handcuffed. Warrant news must travel really slowly in Huron County, though. The warrant that deputies "became aware of" during their search of the wrong address was issued in 2012.
From that point on, the department (wisely, or at least as close to "wise" as any of this gets) decided to cut the lines of communication, as Matt Westerhold of the Sandusky Register notes in his description of the department's "Plan B."
As Sheriff's Howard's spokesman, make yourself as unavailable and be unfriendly as possible to any reporter who has questions about the inconsistent story you're trying to make sure the public hears.Still, the department (via Capt. Ted Patrick) continues to insist that it did nothing wrong. But it's completely unwilling to provide any evidence to back that assertion up. Instead, it expects to just push its way through the mess it's created without ever having to explain exactly what went on that night, all with the implicit blessing of a local judge.