Attorney Says Stutsman County Sheriff's Department Covered Up Incident Involving Drunk Deputy

On March 15, 2015, officers of the Jamestown Police Department were called to a complaint regarding an unknown drunk man in someone’s living room. According to the transcript of the call, the folks making the complaint had no idea who the guy was.

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The police report lists a man named Zach Wyman as the originator of the call, but I spoke today with Luke Kordonowy, a friend of Wyman’s who was with him that night, who told me he is the one who actually made the call (Luke’s number is attributed to Wyman in the report).

I asked Kordonowy if he knew why this man was in Wyman’s apartment. “We have no idea,” he told me. “We were just out for Running of the Green [an annual spring event in Jamestown]. We came back to Zach’s place. We tried to wake him up. We even told him if you don’t wake up and leave we’re going to call the cops.”

I also spoke to Wyman, who confirmed that he didn’t want to press charges that night. “He didn’t steal anything or really do any damage. I figured he was just wandering around drunk. I thought it was my fault for not locking the door. I just wanted him gone,” he told me.

The situation was pretty gross, per the transcript:

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Why am I writing about this today?

Because the man who was passed out was Stutsman County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel White, and it kind of seems like some effort was put into making sure the incident wasn’t made public. This was brought to my attention when Jamestown attorney Joe Larson sent me a complaint he’s filed with the Attorney General’s office over the incident.

Wyman told me the officers responding to the call recognized the man immediately, though they didn’t comment on his status as a law enforcement officer in front of him.

Larson tells me that not only was White not arrested that night, but he got a ride home from his boss Sheriff Chad Kaiser.

You can read the police reports here and here. Here’s a key excerpt confirming the ride home from Sheriff Kaiser:

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“None whatsoever,” is what Larson told me when I inquired about White being disciplined for the incident. “I have his personnel file.”

So why is Larson filing this complaint? Well there’s something of a food fight going on in Stutsman County right now related to a report that the Sheriff was using a county-owned jet ski for his personal use. You can read more about that here. Larson is representing Officer Thomas Nagel of the Jamestown PD who was accused of defamation for allegedly going to the media over the jet ski thing. Nagel also went to his boss, Chief Scott Edinger, with concerns that the White incident was being covered up.

Larson, though, says the matter with White isn’t related to Nagel or the jet ski. “This complaint was done in my personal capacity,” Larson told me. “It was not done by Officer Nagel.”

Larson says he’s “reporting what I see is a cover up which occurred in the sheriff’s department and police department.” He used the words “culture of corruption” with me.

“In terms of what’s been going on in Jamestown, there’s a history here. In terms of a vignette, the Daniel White matter explains it very well,” he added.  I only know what has been reported in the media about the jet ski situation, and that’s not really my focus here. I think the situation with White is its own issue whatever Larson’s motivations are for bringing it up.

You can read a cover letter detailing Larson’s complaint below. He alleges that the initial incident report did not include White’s name (something confirmed by a follow up report written three months later by one of the officers who responded) and didn’t identify White as a suspect in the incident as would usually be the case.

Larson says that follow-up report was prompted by Nagel complaining to his chief that it appeared as though the incident involving was being covered up by the sheriff’s department:

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Larson also says nothing was done in terms of consequences for White after the incident:

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Based on Larson’s accusations, the situation with White doesn’t look good. I can find no indication that White was arrested or charged with a crime for breaking into a stranger’s home and passing out. And when I contacted Sheriff Kaiser about the incident, he told me that while White was given a verbal reprimand over the incident the next day there is no written record of the reprimand.

“There’s no physical paperwork on his verbal,” Kaiser told me during a phone conversation which also included Chief Edinger.

“He was brought in the following day,” Kaiser told me, though he later clarified that he meant later Sunday (the call happened shortly after midnight Sunday morning). “He was attending the police academy at the time. When they attend the police academy they have to report in that night, Sunday night. I talked with him about the incident. He was told at that point there were no charges brought against him from the homeowners. They didn’t want anything done.”

Kaiser told me that White, who was already on probationary status since he’d just recently been hired, had his probationary period extended because of the incident. I asked Kaiser if there was any documentation of that, and he said it was in his Field Training Record on the front page. I went over those documents with Sheriff Kaiser, and the only indication of the probation was the second date written on the front page of the record:danwhite

I’m not sure how anyone could conclude from that notation that White had been placed on probation. Certainly there is no indication in the file as to why any sort of probation would have happened.

“He also had an alcohol evaluation on his own,” Kaiser told me noting that this would have been documented in the medical section of White’s file, something not open for public records requests.

Kaiser says White has no other disciplinary documentation in his file.

I asked Kaiser if the police academy had been notified of the incident, and he said they were not. “No criminal charges were filed,” he told me. “If he was arrested or if charges were pressed things would have been a lot different.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”It does look bad,” Edinger admitted during our conversation. “There is no arguing that. There is no debating that.”[/mks_pullquote]

I asked if he thought maybe it should have been brought up despite the fact that the homeowner hadn’t wanted to press charges. “Danny White has proven himself over and over again,” Kaiser said in response. “He’s an excellent deputy and does a good job for us. Did I go out on a limb for him and give him a second chance? Yeah, I did.”

I asked him about Larson’s accusations about a cover up.

“The Jamestown Police Department is the ones who were called on that,” Kaier said. “I cannot do anything with that call. I can’t hide that call. There’s nothing that was covered up there at all.”

“It does look bad,” Edinger admitted during our conversation. “There is no arguing that. There is no debating that.”

He told me that he took the absence of White’s name from the subsequent police reports very seriously. “When I found that out I immediately contacted the supervisor and the officer who responded and I made them update that report,” he said. “The fact that this wasn’t updated is not OK. I had them both update the report and I had them update the call for service.”

“The volume for calls for service had a major factor in it,” he said referring to the Running of the Green event, “but that’s not an excuse.”

I asked Edinger if his officers typically contact the sheriff to give drunk people a ride home. “No it is not common practice to contact the sheriff’s department to give somebody a ride home,” he said.

I asked Kaiser if he felt like this is something which should have been made public, or if the public had a right to know about a deputy involved in this sort of an incident. He didn’t really answer, but acknowledged that it would have been difficult for the public to find out about this without White’s name in the incident records.

You can read all of the documents Larson provided me with here.

 

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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