Friday, September 21, 2012

Pinellas County 911 Slip and Fall

James McArthur

Pinellas County Sheriffs investigation
Special report, Pinellas County 911 Slip and Fall.

It was May 27, 2010, at 5:45 PM when the Pinellas County Sheriff's office received a report of domestic violence. A patrol car was dispatched to 10136 63rd Ave North, Pinellas County Florida. Maureen Dobson a 65 year-old renter, reported that she had been assaulted by her landlord, James McArthur. The responding deputy, Scott Reid, arrived and started an investigation. Reid interviewed Dobson and determined that there were no physical injuries. Dobson reported that she had been struck in the chest four hours earlier by McArthur during an eviction notification. Dobson was never asked why it took her four hours to file for a report with the police. Nor was her motive for making the allegation questioned. Dobson was 11 months behind on her rent. According to Dobson, McArthur had paid her bills and purchased food for her after Dobson's husband left her.

Dobson told the police that McArthur came to her rental May 27, 2010 at 1 pm. He became angry and attacked her by striking her in the chest with his fist. Dobson reported that she had two witnesses, her foster son, and a neighbor across the street. According to the police report, neither witness saw the incident. Both witnesses could only state that they heard yelling and screaming. Nevertheless, deputy Reid implies in his report that both witnesses affirmed McArthur's guilt. An independent witness who observed the eviction was not interviewed nor included in the deputy's report. According to the witness the deputy refused to talk to him though he told the officer he had critical evidence and that he had witnessed everything. The deputy was told before making an arrest that no assault had occurred by the only independent witness at the scene.

Initially, Deputy Reid determined that he did not have enough information to make an arrest, but according to his police report, just before getting into his patrol car, he changed his mind. 

Deputy Reid said he took another look at the victim Dobson before leaving. It was then that he noticed scratches and swelling on Dobson's chest. Reid says that he decided to make an arrest. This is how Dobson explained the lack of injuries in her deposition and courtroom testimony:

Dobson testimony

Question: when the Deputy talked to you when he first got there, you told him that you didn't have any visible injuries. Had you looked at your chest?
Answer: no. I had-I have high blood pressure real bad. That made me go red red. So there wasn't any marks that he could see at the time. Then he took me-Mr. Reid I think his name was, he took me to the site here, and we were talking. Then all of a sudden he see the bruising, because the redness had gone down I mean I was angry.

According to Dobson deposition and courtroom testimony she was either unaware of the injuries or the injuries were so faint that they were not noticeable for several hours. Dobson claims she was assaulted around 1 PM yet she made her call to the police at approximately 5:40 PM almost 4 hours and forty minutes later. Even at that point in the day the deputy did not see an injury upon his initial examination. But according to Deputy Reid the invisible scratches and marks suddenly appeared visible. 

On cross-examination Dobson said the following about her lack of injury:

Attorney: Describe how he pushed you. You said he just popped you in the chest?
Dobson: he just thumped me like that in the chest.
Attorney:  like a quick pop in the chest?
Answer uh-huh
Attorney with his knuckles?
Answer: I really don't know. It happened so quick. He just stood up and went like that. And went like this and he went like that.

Dobson's late reporting, lack of injury and motive for making such a complaint would have raised concerns for most police officers.

Exhibit 1 evidence photos of Maureen Dobson the alleged assault victim

No significant injury
According to McArthur he was at a business meeting when he received a telephone call from Deputy Reid. Deputy Reid conducted an interview with McArthur by phone. He told McArthur that he had a warrant for his arrest though no warrant had been issued. Reid demanded that McArthur return to the crime scene. According to the police report McArthur was uncooperative and delayed the deputy. Deputy Reid speculated that McArthur had gone to a bar and that he was willfully failing to return to the location. Records we reviewed for this report show that McArthur was at a previously scheduled business meeting. He was not at a bar and it does not appear that he made any effort to avoid responding to law enforcement. The deputy's speculation about McArthur being at a bar is consistent with other hyperbole injected into his police report.It is evident from the deputy's report that he was not happy because McArthur declined to leave his meeting immediately.

At approximately 11 PM Deputy Reid arrived at McArthur's home. Reid entered McArthur's home without permission through an unlocked screen door. At 11:30 PM, James McArthur was arrested and charged with assault on an elderly person over 65 years of age. has completed a six-month investigation into the arrest of James McArthur. We found evidence of perjury and a deliberately falsified police report by a deputy with substantial credibility problems. We have posted a portion of the evidence we have reviewed below. 

Expert Summary:

Maureen Dobson, had little to no injury. She reported her criminal complaint five hours after the incident allegedly happened. She was nearly a year behind on her rent. A complaint of assault could stall the process indefinitely. 

The officer failed basic investigative steps and he ignored witness credibility issues. Dobson's key witness Sherman Williams has been charged with felony assault and armed robbery. 

Problems with the Deputy

Dobson's witness is not the only one with credibility problems, responding deputy Scott Reid has been accused of sexual misconduct and a range of other serious offenses. It appears Reid escaped prosecution because the key witness in the coerced sex case would not cooperate.

What's Wrong with This Case?

Key Points:

Substandard police report (the officer repeatedly mischaracterized witness statements. The officer also drew erroneous conclusions based on little evidence or pure speculation).

Substandard investigation (the investigating officer ignored evidence and witness statements available at the time of his investigation).

Witness credibility (the investigating officer relied on the statements of a witness previously convicted of robbery and felony assault. Witnesses favorable to the defendant were ignored and intentionally omitted from the police report).

Officer credibility (the arresting officer had his own serious credibility problems. The officer has had multiple complaints of misconduct against him including sexual coercion of a female suspect).

Inflated Credentials (Deputy Reid told the court he was an expert on domestic violence. None of domestic violence shelters we spoke with in Pinellas County had ever heard of Deputy Reid. He has no special training in the records we reviewed sufficient to call himself an expert).

False Courtroom testimony by Deputy Reid

* Deputy Reid under oath stated that the witness Mujeeb P, had told him he was parked down the street, saw nothing, was looking the other direction. On a second trip to the stand under oath, Reid stated Mujeeb specifically told him he had his windows up and the A/c on, and as a result could hear nothing… Reid refused McArthur’s request to enter Mujeebs name or contact information as witness statements on the Police Report. 

* Mujeeb stated he had his windows down and could hear and had unobstructed view of both parties very clearly at all times during the alleged incident. Mujeeb stated his view was unobstructed and he was advised to pay attention in case something bad happened to McArthur or his vehicle during the visit with the tenants being evicted.  

* While under oath, Deputy Reid stated the witness for McArthur, Mujeeb P told him he was parked down the street facing a different direction, and his vehicles windows up and the air conditioning on, so he could hear or see nothing as it related to the incident in Case number CRC10-11678CFANO on _1/19, 2012.  

Exhibit 2 audio recording of witness Mujeeb. His statement was omitted from the police report so he was there for the entire event.

Exhibit 3 documents demonstrating that the officer committed perjury during his trial testimony.