Case Against Second Officer Caught Up In POST Scandal Prosecution Dismissed

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed criminal charges against a second of seven sheriff’s department employees charged with involvement in a police training fraud conspiracy case initially filed in March 2011.
Sheriff’s lieutenant Russell Wilke on February 1 was exonerated of the three charges lodged against him on a motion brought by deputy district attorney Dan Silverman before Superior Court Judge Michael Smith. Wilke had been charged with perjury, attempted grand theft and conspiracy.
According to an indictment handed down in March 2011 by a grand jury that had heard from 22 witnesses, retired assistant sheriff Michael Stodelle,  retired captain Hobart Gray, retired lieutenant William Maddox, Wilke, corporal detective David Pichotta, custody specialist Angela Gray, and training specialist Sallyann Christian had involved themselves in the falsification of records relating to Stodelle’s, Hobart Gray’s, Maddox’s, Willke’s and Pichotta’s attendance of classes conducted at the sheriff’s training academy for so-called POST classes.
POST – Police Officer Standard Training – covers a number of professional law enforcement topics, issues and techniques. Officers are required to remain current on these matters. Upon completion of the classes, officers qualify for enhanced professional grading and salary enhancements. According to the indictment, Stodelle, Hobart Gray, Maddox, Wilke, and Pichotta signed their names or arranged to have their names signed on attendance rosters for classes at the sheriff’s training academy that they never attended. Angela Gray, Hobart Gray’s wife, and Christian worked at the training facility and were alleged in the indictment to have assisted the others in falsifying the rosters.
Silverman has been the lead prosecutor on the case since its inception. In July, he dropped all criminal charges against Maddox, after Maddox’s attorney, Michael Scafiddi, provided documentation and information to the district attorney’s office demonstrating Maddox completed all of the training certification courses he was credited with completing. The certification Maddox received for having completed a dispatch class was validly based upon, Scafiddi said, Maddox opening a dispatch center in the desert, an effort which required him to coordinate  with other agencies throughout the state and researching both technical and procedural issues.  Sheriff’s academy staff informed Maddox, Scafiddi said, that his research on the topic qualified him to “audit” the dispatch class and that he was instructed by his captain to apply for the advanced certificate ten months later. Maddox was retired from the department when he was charged.
Wilke, also a lieutenant, was still employed by the department when the indictment was handed down. Like the others that were still employed with the department when the charges were filed – Angela Gray, Christian and Pichotta – Wilke was placed on administrative leave. After the sheriff’s department’s professional standards division, also known as internal affairs, completed an investigation into the matter, Wilke was cleared and returned to duty with the department, despite the charges still pending against him. By September 2012, the district attorney’s office’s internal assessment of the case against the six remaining defendants led it to conclude that obtaining a conviction against Wilke would be problematic, given the outcome of the professional standards investigation and information  indicating Wilke had not participated in falsifying his training attendance record. Reportedly, that investigation uncovered training certifications of several other sheriff’s officers, including ones higher ranking than Wilke, that were as or more questionable than Wilke’s. None of those officers has been charged by the district attorney’s office. Proceeding to court against Wilke would have likely led his attorney, Chuck Nacsin, to enter the professional standards report into evidence as well as call several witnesses who would have shed further discredit on members of the department and called into question the motivation of the sheriff’s captain, Steve Dorsey, who investigated the case and recommended the filing of the charges.
Previously, Nacsin, referred to the consideration that “Internal affairs brought him in and they cleared him to go back to work” as an “oddity about this case.”
The district attorney’s office delayed more than four months in dismissing the case, looking for a propitious time to do so. That timing occurred when Pichotta, who is married to former sheriff Gary Penrod’s stepdaughter, accepted a plea deal that called for the three felony perjury, grand theft and conspiracy charges against him to be dismissed in return for his agreement not to contest a single grand theft charge that had been reduced to a misdemeanor.
Silverman said the charges against Wilke were being vacated in the interest of justice. The charges against the four remaining defendants are active.

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