Target 8: When cops lie, criminals can walk

Target 8

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The driver didn’t see the oncoming Kent County sheriff’s cruiser as he pulled out from a red light in March.

He cut off the deputy at 4 Mile Road and Plainfield Avenue NE — never a good thing, especially with $1,000 worth of heroin in your pocket.

The deputy was searching the driver when a second deputy showed up and spotted the baggie of powder dangling from a pocket of the driver’s sweatpants.

Busted — a four-time felon — facing likely prison time.

A file photo of Deputy Kenyatta Weaver.

This was a solid case, except for one thing: the deputy who made the stop was Kenyatta Weaver Jr., who already had a record of lying to his own department.

And there was no dash-cam video to back up his stop of the heroin suspect.

The suspected dealer’s defense attorney, Jeanne Reed, filed a motion to dismiss the heroin case, arguing the only evidence was “the testimony of a habitual liar.”

Last month, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker agreed.

“All we had was the deputy’s testimony and given his past history, we felt we could not trust that, so I made the decision to dismiss the case,” Becker said.

“Obviously it makes it very difficult,” he said when asked about having an untrustworthy deputy on the street.

Weaver’s trouble started in June 2019, when he threw punches and pulled a gun in an off-duty brawl at a trailer park in Byron Township. He lied to responding deputies about the fight and the gun, according to police reports.

While Weaver wasn’t criminally charged, Kent County Sheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young suspended him without pay and placed him on a last-chance agreement.

It also landed Weaver on the prosecutor’s list of 13 officers in Kent County with what are known as Giglio letters in their files — cops with histories of documented dishonesty whose credibility is questioned whenever they appear in court.

“It’s a calculated risk, certainly, but it’s something that we monitor very, very closely,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young said.

The sheriff defended her decision to keep Weaver on the street, despite the dismissal of a heroin charge.

Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. (File)

“I still believe that a young officer deserves a chance and deserves an opportunity to rise to the occasion,” she said. “I don’t regret leaving him on. I do regret that he didn’t use that opportunity to really make better circumstances out of it, and he eventually lost his employment with the sheriff’s office.”

The sheriff fired Weaver for a second lie after he ditched his car in a hit-and-run crash in July. He told police he wasn’t the driver, just to “see if I could get away with it.”

Giglio letters are named after the case of John Giglio, who appealed his bank fraud conviction in the 1960s.

It led to a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to notify defense attorneys of anything they know that could impeach the credibility of prosecution witnesses, including police officers.

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office released the Giglio letters for the 13 officers to Target 8 in response to a public records request.

They include 11 Grand Rapids officers: Among them, then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick and Officer Adam Ickes, of the Grand Rapids Police Department, were suspended and made the list for “knowingly making false statements” in the highly publicized November 2016 wrong-way crash of then-Assistant Prosecutor Josh Kuipers.

Cops call it being Giglioed.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said he recently dismissed a drug and weapons case and separate assault charges after finding the officers involved were dishonest. He refused to identify the officers, their police departments or the suspects.

“There are difficult decisions that have to be made throughout the criminal justice process and having people involved whose credibility has been called into question just complicates it even more,” Getting said.

In one case, it was video, including body cam footage, that contradicted the officer, he said.

“When we watched it, we saw something else happened vs. how the officer interpreted it,” Getting said.

The officers were later fired.

“This is about doing what’s right, and it’s never OK for us to pursue a criminal case based on information or witnesses who we have questions about whether or not they’re telling the truth,” he said.

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