LMPD detective's false testimony to grand jury may jeopardize assault-robbery case
The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office acknowledges there is no positive DNA match at this point and that the officer “misspoke,” according to court records.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville Metro Police detective gave false testimony to both a judge and Jefferson County grand jury in obtaining an assault and robbery indictment earlier this year.
In a motion filed Tuesday requesting a circuit court judge dismiss the felony charges against Marcus Brown, defense attorney Ryan Vantrease argues Det. Zachary Hoppes repeatedly gave false and misleading statements about DNA tests "positively" identifying Brown.
In fact, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office acknowledges there is no positive DNA match at this point and argues that the officer "misspoke," according to court records.
Prosecutors say Hoppes was incorrect when he testified in front on a grand jury on Feb. 22 that Brown’s DNA was found on "items" taken from the victim’s bedroom on the day of the attack in 2014.
Instead, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Emily Cecil wrote in court records earlier this year, Brown’s fingerprints were found on a Gatorade bottle, not his DNA.
"Defense counsel should not anticipate immediately forthcoming DNA results," Cecil wrote.
Vantrease responded in court records that it would be unlikely Hoppes misspoke repeatedly.
In addition to telling grand jurors that Brown’s DNA was found, Hoppes also swore under oath the same information to a district court judge in order to get a search warrant and told the victim about the positive match.
A hearing has been scheduled for January in front of Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens.
Cecil, who is the prosecutor handling the case, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Jeff Cooke, a spokesman for the office, declined to comment.
Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for police, said "we are aware and are looking into the matter."
Without the DNA testing, the evidence presented to the grand jury was weak, Vantrease wrote, with the only other testimony being about "an alleged text message" between the defendant and the victim.
"Therefore, there is no doubt that the Grand Jury put significant weight on the mistaken belief that a DNA match existed and it is entirely likely that many, if not all, of the Grand Jurors based their indictment on that fact alone," he wrote in the motion.
Vantrease wrote that jurors weigh DNA evidence far more favorably for investigators than anything else.
The victim in the case told Hoppes she had seen Brown’s face on social media but "did not recognize him as a suspect in her case," according to a transcript of her interview. She said the name the man had given her was "Jermaine."
Hoppes told the victim that investigators had a "DNA hit on a Gatorade bottle, and it came back to Marcus," according to a transcript of the interview.
While she didn’t recognize her attacker, the victim did say she was positive that the man who texted her was the one who came to her house and eventually robbed and assaulted her on Nov. 15, 2014.
There are no text messages in the evidence provided so far.
Two months ago, the police department cleared a detective who had been accused of giving false testimony to a grand jury in order to obtain a murder indictment against an 18-year-old last year.
Sgt. Scott Beatty was exonerated on a charge of untruthfulness on Sept. 19, according to a letter written by Chief Steve Conrad.
In early February, murder and robbery charges were dismissed against Isaiah Jenkins, who along with Maunyeh Haggard was accused of shooting 31-year-old Andrew C. Key-Roper on Jan. 28, 2015, at the Russell Apartments at the corner of S. 18th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
Defense attorney Julie Kaelin, who represented Jenkins, said her client had nothing to do with a robbery or murder and was only indicted because of "false, misleading and calculated" testimony from Beatty, according to a motion she filed in February, while the case was still pending.
Kaelin called the police investigation "self-serving," as a finding against Beatty "could affect their ability to get a conviction in other cases which involve his work, and would reflect poorly on (LMPD) as an agency."
LMPD issued a statement saying Conrad "determined the investigation was thorough and exonerated Sgt. Beatty.
"We continue to stress that allegations of officer wrong-doing are taken seriously."
Beatty, according to court records, told a grand jury that "both suspects were positively identified through witness statements and photo-packs as being the ones responsible for the victim's death."
"This is simply untrue," Kaelin said in a Feb. 10 motion to Judge Stevens, asking to dismiss the case. "The Grand Jurors of Jefferson County were led to believe that multiple witnesses indicated Isaiah Jenkins was responsible for the victim's death. This is categorically false."
Prosecutors, according to Kaelin, did not have a single witness who "actually makes such a statement or anything even resembling such an accusation."
Beatty also wrote in a police citation that Jenkins "admitted to participating in a robbery of an individual, where an additional victim was shot and killed," Kaelin wrote. "This is absolutely false."
Kaelin called other testimony "absolutely fiction invented by Detective Beatty."
Kaelin claimed every witness involved identified Haggard as the shooter. One witness identified Jenkins as being present but was "just sitting there," she wrote in April.
"The police are not allowed to mislead a Grand Jury or Circuit Court judge, both of which occurred in this case," Kaelin said in her motion.
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