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City defends internal investigation
Jan 21, 2005 12:00 am
Lebanon's top police official strongly defended a decision to forego an independent investigation into allegations that a high-profile detective could be a thief.
Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks reacted emotionally when asked why the Lebanon Police Department did not call for an outside agency to investigate allegations of a dismissed detective mishandling money intended for use in undercover drug investigations.
"There's no reason anybody shouldn't have confidence in us to handle it, and if anybody does have any questions about it they should stand up and ask them in public instead of hiding behind a newspaper reporter," Weeks said when asked if an outside law enforcement agency might be called into the probe.
Though the internal affairs investigation into former Detective Tommy Maggart – who has been involved in several high-profile cases – was reportedly expected to be complete Wednesday, Weeks declined to discuss the probe when contacted.
"I absolutely refuse to give out a play by play update on this investigation," he said. "We'll do what we're supposed to do."
Maggart, a 10-year veteran of the department, emerged as a central figure in what some doubtless consider LPD's darkest hour – the 2000 shooting death of an innocent man inside his own home.
Maggart was one of the officers who participated in the raid gone awry, in which authorities stormed the home of an elderly man rather than the suspected drug dealer who lived next door. The man was fatally gunned down when he fired at officers as they burst into his home.
Maggart later served as a prosecution witness against the only LPD officer to face charges as a result of the tragedy, though the officer – former LPD Detective Steve Nokes – was acquitted.
Maggart was also the lead investigator in a highly publicized case accusing another city official of theft, resulting in the firing and subsequent indictment of former purchasing agent Johnny Crudup.
With Crudup's case still pending, Weeks was asked if LPD officials are concerned over the status of pending prosecutions which may rely on testimony from Maggart.
"I don't know that he has many cases out there, but there are other detectives involved in them too," the safety commissioner said.
However, Crudup's attorney – who has appealed a decision to deny his client pretrial diversion – indicated he would relish the opportunity to cross-examine Maggart if the case goes before a jury.
"If our appeal is denied you can bet I'll want to call Tommy Maggart to the witness stand," said attorney Jerry Gonzalez, who also filed a federal lawsuit against the city over Crudup's dismissal. "They say they've taken the position they hold against my client (Crudup) because he held a position of public trust, but who holds a higher position of public trust than a police officer?"
The attorney said should Crudup go to trial he would use Maggart's testimony to show not all city officials who fall under suspicion of wrongdoing are treated the same.
"Tommy Maggart executed a search warrant at Johnny Crudup's house when he was under suspicion," Gonzalez said. "But I bet if I ask him on the witness stand, we'll find out nobody has searched Tommy Maggart's house, and there shouldn't be any difference. They're both city employees."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.