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Sunday, June 6, 2010

2 hardworking, hard-hitting cops are now felons

2 hardworking, hard-hitting cops are now felons

Detroit duo convicted for planting evidence                  

Willie Joyner, 38, of Detroit uses a cane as he leaves the 
office of attorney Daniel Romano, right, in Southfield. Joyner said he 
was chased down and repeatedly kicked by Ruffus Stewart and Lashaud 
Welcome in 2008, smashing the ball and socket of his hip.   (Photos by 
PATRICIA BECK/Detroit Free Press)Willie Joyner, 38, of Detroit uses a cane 
as he leaves the office of attorney Daniel 
Romano, right, in Southfield. Joyner said he 
was chased down and repeatedly kicked by 
Ruffus Stewart and Lashaud Welcome in 
2008, smashing the ball and socket of his hip.
(Photos by PATRICIA BECK/Detroit Free Press)

Willie Joyner crawled through the field on his elbows, dragging his right leg, useless and shattered at the hip.

“Just take me to jail,” Joyner said he had silently prayed as the kicks slammed into him. “At least I’ll get some medical attention.”

Today, Joyner needs a cane to support his 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound frame on a right hip and leg held together with two metal plates and a dozen screws — the result, he says, of an April 2008 encounter with Detroit Police Officers Lashaud Welcome and Ruffus Stewart.

He has filed a lawsuit against the officers.

In just five years on the street, Welcome and Stewart have been named in five major civil suits, as well as numerous citizen complaints, alleging everything from improper stops and searches to commandeering a woman’s pink and black Dodge Charger and crashing it.

They were racking up impressive numbers of arrests and seizures, which gained them recognition and pleased their immediate supervisors.

But the two officers, especially Welcome, also caught the attention of upper brass monitoring potential problems for the department. The officers represented the kinds of problems that worry the department as it tries to strengthen community bounds to help it break the stubborn cycle of violence plaguing the city of Detroit.

Now felons, Welcome and Stewart are on three years of probation for official misconduct.
Their lawyers John Goldpaugh and Donald Stolberg said they were simply hardworking cops trying to do the right thing.

But Wayne County Circuit Judge Linda Parker said their actions in framing an innocent man, which led to their convictions, “affects anyone who cares about justice” and destroys community trust. And, she said, it throws a shadow of “did this really happen?” over police testimony.

Lots of arrests, missing evidence, complaints

Cops like Stewart are no strangers to Wayne County Circuit Judge Vera Massey Jones in her 31 years on the bench.

"Once again, a lie is as good as the truth if you can get somebody to believe it," Jones said in 2008, dismissing a gun case against Richard Flanagan after a video showed that Stewart's testimony about how he found the gun and what actually happened at a Detroit gas station had little in common. And it was just one incident in a disturbing pattern of unethical behavior.

Stewart and his frequent partner, Welcome, weren't Detroit street cops for long. But they left a swath of problem cases from their June 2004 police academy graduation until their suspension without pay in June 2009.

The partners are now convicted felons -- caught on video framing an innocent man in 2009 while letting a wanted felon walk away from a drug charge.

Welcome was sentenced May 11 by Parker to serve three years of probation in relation to the 2009 incident. Stewart was sentenced May 27 to three years of probation in the case, as well.

"This one cuts deep for so many reasons," Parker told Stewart. His crime destroyed "some element of faith and trust" between the people and the police."It just throws everything off," the judge said.  But the convictions don't mean the city of Detroit is through with the two cops.

The city settled a false arrest suit brought by Flanagan -- who has severe birth defects that caused mental and physical impairments -- for $100,000 in March. But several other lawsuits are pending. The latest suit, in which a Detroit woman says she was fondled, falsely arrested and abandoned after one of the officers crashed her car, was filed in late May.

Their departmental disciplinary records included suspensions, reprimands and pending complaints.

"That's a lot for just five years," said Detroit Police Cmdr. Brian Stair, head of Internal Affairs. He said that "citizens' complaints put them on our radar."

He said internal affairs' charging of the officers shows the department "takes these allegations very seriously."

Jamie Fields, who recently retired as Detroit's deputy chief overseeing risk management, said Welcome's name arose in numerous citizen complaints, but that some of his supervisors lauded him as a good cop making many arrests.

City officials did not reply to telephone and e-mail requests for comment on the lawsuits involving Stewart and Welcome.  Attorney John Goldpaugh, who with associate Donald Stolberg, represented the cops in their criminal cases, said they were "hardworking guys trying to get guns and dope off the streets."

Goldpaugh wouldn't address specific allegations, but said: "It's almost like they were trying to do the right thing, but doing it in the wrong way."  And Stolberg said at Welcome's sentencing that he shouldn't be the scapegoat for cop-citizen tensions.

'Why do they lie?'

However, prosecutors and civil lawyers weren't so benign.

"Why do they lie when they don't have to?" asked attorney Arnold Weiner, whose client Megale Redd was framed by Welcome and Stewart last year.

It was Redd's February 2009 arrest that put Welcome and Stewart on the other end of the criminal justice system.The cops reported that they found Redd with a pistol and a bag of marijuana after stopping him for a seat belt violation.They said their in-car video camera wasn't working. They didn't know that the security cameras at the gas station where the frame-up happened were.

Redd's family got the gas station videos, which told a different story: The cops approached the car parked in the station and found a bag of marijuana on Sherrod Redd, Megale Redd's uncle, who was in the backseat.

After finding nothing in their search of the driver Megale Redd and his friend Dan-Angeleno McGilary, the cops popped the car's hood and said they found a gun.

Megale Redd, who did not own the car, was arrested and the other men were let go. If the cops had checked, they would have seen that Sherrod Redd was wanted for probation violation on a charge of assaulting a police officer.

When prosecutors saw the videos, they cleared Redd and charged the cops.
Stewart pleaded guilty to official misconduct. Welcome went to trial and was convicted.

Cameras tell the truth

Welcome and Stewart sometimes operated beyond camera range, according to a federal lawsuit by Willie Joyner.  Joyner said he was chased down and repeatedly kicked by them in 2008, shattering the ball and socket of his right hip. He said he didn't know they were cops when they rolled up on him.

"You know how a good bricklayer can work that mortar just so easy and smooth? That's the way they did me -- like it's what they did and what they do," said Joyner, 38.  Joyner, who has past convictions for drugs, said he was left injured in a field: "I was kosher with them. I was respectful, and they just left me there."

In pretrial questioning, the officers said they chased him for walking in the street with a can of beer and ticketed him without incident.

However, Stewart later testified that the ticket book he used to write the citation was thrown away, so he had no record of the ticket.

In late 2008, seven months after the Joyner incident, Welcome and Stewart said they caught ex-convict Jeffery Treadaway tossing away a pistol.

"I've been to prison -- I was a bad guy -- but I've been clean for five years," Treadaway said. "It was Thanksgiving, and I'd just told my family I'd changed my life. What would they think? Here he goes again."

Treadaway, 38, who had done time for accessory to murder and armed robbery, was saved by the scout car video, which contradicted the cops' claim that he tossed a gun while walking away from them.

Prosecutors dismissed the case after seeing the video, but took no action against Welcome and Stewart.

Treadaway has since sued. And his lawyer, Herbert Sanders, said it's hard to believe the cops were left on patrol.

"The video was their downfall," Sanders said. "Without it, they'd still be out there."

Contact JOE SWICKARD: 313-222-8769 or jswickard@freepress.com

Detroit Police officer Lashaud Welcome, along with his 
partner, Ruffus Stewart, was convicted of official misconduct.
Detroit Police officer Lashaud Welcome, along with his partner, Ruffus Stewart, was convicted of official misconduct.


  


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