LMPD detective testifies he 'misspoke' when giving false information to grand jury, judge
“It was just a mistake on my part,” Det. Zachary Hoppes testified. “I acknowledge that.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville Metro Police detective testified Friday that he "misspoke" when he gave false testimony to both a judge and Jefferson County grand jury in obtaining an assault and robbery arrest and indictment last year.
Defense attorney Ryan Vantrease has asked a judge to dismiss felony assault and robbery charges against Marcus Brown because Det. Zachary Hoppes repeatedly gave false and misleading statements about DNA tests "positively" identifying Brown.
"This is a complete fabrication from start to finish," Vantrease told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens.
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.
In fact, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office acknowledges that DNA evidence does not match Brown, and that Hoppes was incorrect when he testified in front of a grand jury on Feb. 22, 2015, that Brown’s DNA was found on "items" taken from the victim’s bedroom on the day of the attack in 2014.
But in testimony before Judge Stevens on Friday, Hoppes said he did not deliberately mislead anyone, but mixed up a positive fingerprint match with DNA evidence.
“I own that mistake and we’ve tried to take steps to correct that mistake,” Hoppes testified.
An internal LMPD investigation cleared Hoppes of any wrongdoing this week.
Hoppes also acknowledged that when he asked for an arrest warrant for Brown – on the basis of a positive DNA match - he had not even sent the DNA samples for testing.
Hoppes said this was his first big case and he did not know he was responsible for sending the DNA for testing.
“Not only did they not have a DNA hit, no one had even submitted it yet,” Vantrease said of the information in the warrant used to arrest Brown.
The DNA was taken from a Gatorade bottle the victim said her attacker had drank from, but did not match Brown. The victim also did not positively identify Brown.
Still, Hoppes said there was other evidence, including Brown’s fingerprint on the bottle, and he would have taken out a warrant even without the DNA evidence.
And Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Emily Cecil told Stevens that prosecutors fixed the mistake by dismissing the original case against Brown and re-indicting him with a different grand jury, using the fingerprint on the Gatorade bottle as the key evidence.
But Vantrease said the new grand jury should have been told about the DNA not matching Brown and the detective’s previous false testimony.
And Vantrease accused prosecutors of complicit in allowing Hoppes to initially give false testimony. Cecil fired back, calling the allegation "ridiculous."
Judge Stevens said he would not rule there was any prosecutorial misconduct. But he asked Hoppes to testify to determine whether the he deliberately was misleading.
Hoppes said after learning there was fingerprint match of Brown, he “got it into his head” that it was a DNA match.
“It was just a mistake on my part,” he testified. “I acknowledge that.”
Vantrease argued that, even if it was not deliberate, the mistake was so “egregious” that Stevens should dismiss the case or at least let a new grand jury hear all of the facts.
“Inaccurate, false information was used throughout this investigation,” Vantrease said. “A mistake can happen. But when multiple mistakes happen, the court can step in.”
Stevens said he would issue a ruling soon.
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