We should all have the utmost respect for the police. They put themselves in harm's way to keep the peace and protect us and our property. However, occasionally an officer behaves in a way unworthy of our respect, which tarnishes the badge for all police. When such a thing occurs, equal treatment in the law is critical. Favoritism in the law is repugnant to our sense of justice and fair play.
When you think about it, one of the major roles of a police officer is "professional witness." They are out in the field making observations that support their arrests. When the charging document, called a Criminal Complaint, is issued, it frequently is bolstered by the arresting officer's own incident report, which then serves as the "factual basis" for the charges. The factual basis must establish "probable cause" for the charges in the Complaint, or the charges must be dismissed. A formal "complainant", usually a county deputy, will often make a statement in the Complaint vouching for the credibility of the officer making the report. Ultimately, unless a prosecutor has a credible witness to go to trial with, he/she has no case. Police make GREAT witnesses for the prosecution, because jurors' may have a psychological indebtedness to them for all they do for us. Police MUST be honest for the system to work. Now, on to the story:
In December 2012, I was informed by a La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney that James Hackett, a principal prosecution witness for one of the cases I was defending, had "resigned" his position as a patrolman for the La Crosse Police Department. I was told the resignation stemmed from lying to the police during an investigation. Incredibly, the ADA stated that Hackett was still going to be used as a witness in the cases that had been charged before his resignation.
I assumed I would be able to learn further details from the local newspaper. That never happened. So, I drafted an open records request and was given the reports relative to the incident. You can read the full reports below.
According to the reports, Hackett's then live-in girlfriend was intentionally locked out of Hackett's residence during a party hosted by Hackett. Apparently, she was very intoxicated and causing trouble, so one of the guests locked her out. She was wearing a skirt and had no shoes on. A neighbor eventually called the police due to the commotion she was making outside. It was after Midnight.
When Hackett's fellow officers arrived, they found Hackett's pistol, a ".380", and a holster laying in his yard. The girlfriend said she was standing outside the front door holding the handgun up and yelling to get back in the house. She claimed she got the gun out of his car glove box using the key she kept on her person. She said the gun was always kept there. She claimed she had been drinking "UV Blue" vodka at the house, and that Hackett had provided it to her. She was NOT of legal age to drink.
This is my opinion only, but my reading of the reports is that Hackett fed the police a total cock-and-bull story to cover his rear. First, Hackett told the police that he never furnished alcohol to his underage girlfriend. When he was confronted with a text message he sent to the girlfriend stating he had purchased UV Blue vodka for her, he told them he bought it but was holding the vodka until her mother arrived (Wisconsin allows underage consumption of alcohol if a parent is present and agrees). He told them that her mother was supposed to meet him for the first time that night. His girlfriend had no knowledge of this. She was surprised Hackett said that, because her mother lived in Pennsylvania. The police later spoke with her father, who confirmed that they live in Pennsylvania and no plans to meet Hackett that night in Wisconsin.
Hackett also told the police that his girlfriend had been out somewhere else and returned home intoxicated. He was unable to explain why she would be gone in the first place, because her mother was supposedly scheduled to come over to meet him. He said when the girlfriend arrived, he told her she had to leave. She left and came back. He said he eventually had to lock her out when she refused to leave. Perhaps worrying that he might be seen as encouraging drunk driving (with his own car at that), he explained that he thought her mother had picked her up. Lies beget lies.
It gets worse: Hackett also told the police that the first time he knew his girl friend had his handgun was when the police arrived and showed it to him in the yard. However, the police questioned him about a text message he wrote prior to their arrival which said, "where is the .380". Nonetheless, Hackett maintained that he was not looking for the gun prior to their arrival.
With regard to how his pistol ended up on the front lawn, Hackett told the police that his girlfriend must have taken it from the upstairs of his residence without his knowledge. He said he was sure it was stored under his bed. He also told the police that the couple had an argument two weeks prior. During that episode, she got his gun out. While she did not threaten him or her, he "contacted her wearing a bullet resistant vest. " That time the gun had been left out on his desk. I guess he didn't learn any lesson from that episode.
Hackett was allowed to resign from the police force. Despite strong evidence that he furnished alcohol to the girlfriend, his repeated lies to cover up for furnishing the alcohol, not to mention gross negligence in the safekeeping of his gun, he was not arrested, cited or charged with anything. Keep in mind, lying to the police is "Resisting or Obstructing", a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by 9 months jail and/or a $10,000.00 fine. Wis. Stat. 946.41. Not only that, he was referred to as the "victim" in the reports.
His girlfriend was arrested on charges of Disorderly Conduct with a Weapon. Wis. Stat. 947.01(1) & 939.63. A subsequent report stated she should be arrested for bail jumping because she repeatedly texted Hackett that very day, after just being released with a "no-contact" on her bond. However, according to CCAP, an underage alcohol citation is the only charge issued to her. CCAP further notes that the citation was transferred to City court. The ultimate disposition is unknown.
These police reports had to have been looked over by a prosecuting attorney to determine whether--and what--charges should have resulted from these events. Now, I'm just spit-balling here, but it seems that this outcome may have been quite different for the average citizen.