News Operation Sloppy Police Work
posted by September 21 at 13:18 PMon
Judging from the arraignments that are going on right now in the aftermath of “Operation Sobering Thought,” the cases against the bartenders and doormen from the SPD’s big sting seem to be falling apart at the seams.
Here’s how the sting worked: The undercover officers—pretending to have a “Girls Night Out”—had an underage woman use an ID of a slightly older woman (who looked very similar) to get into the club. Once inside the club, the group would order a round of drinks and take pictures of the doormen and bartenders they had fooled.
A few days later, having studied the pictures, the police would show up and get the names and addresses of the doormen and bartenders (under the ruse they needed help on a sex predator case). With that info, the police sent out warrants.
The first problem: The set up led cops to arrest the wrong people. For example, one doorman who got arrested, David Romano, is a 5’8” Hispanic guy. However, the account from the undercover officer in Romano’s incident report describes the doorman as a 6’2” blonde guy with a safety pin piercing in his left eyebrow. Whoops. The judge has already told Romano’s attorney to file a request for dismissal.
More important, it’s not clear that these charges will stick. Defense attorneys think the fact that the door men were fooled is significant. Being fooled with a look-a-like ID isn’t too convincing as a crime. Most crimes involve “intent”; ie, the criminal has to “knowingly” do something.
The police—defense attorneys for the club workers are likely to argue—need to show that doormen actually knew the minor was a minor. And they have to prove this “beyond a reasonable” doubt.
Given that the SPD used a young woman who looked like the slightly older woman on the ID, it’s going to be hard to prove doormen were up to no good.
Although, defense attorney Kirk Davis, who is working for some of the club folks, does acknowledge that the specific law about letting a minor into a place that serves booze does not address “intent.”
Meanwhile, the standard for issuing a liquor board violation (which is the way to bust bars) is lower. Liquor Board agents have to show that the doorman should have known the patron was underage: they didn’t look old enough; they didn’t look like the person on the ID. And they only have to show this with a lower legal standard—”preponderance of the evidence.”
So, we’re back where we’ve been all along: There are laws on the books to hold bars accountable. Let the liquor board do its job. And let the police focus on real problems rather than spending $52,000 in police hours duping local bars.