PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Newly unsealed court documents reveal details about alleged corruption at the Petersburg Police Department.
Transcripts obtained from two court hearings reveal what lead up to the unusual move of three Petersburg judges stepping aside from a drug case. Coerced confession, missing drug money and planted evidence are just a few of the allegations made by the Petersburg Public Defender's Office in open court.
The accusations were made over the course of two hearings in September and October for Jeffrey Fisher, who's trying to have a guilty plea withdrawn. His case is based off the execution of a search warrant last year for guns and drugs at his home on Rome Street, which has been in the news several times now after a cell phone video of a police bust outside it went viral.
According to 82 pages of transcripts from the two hearings, Defense Attorney Daniel Hall told the court he never would have told his client to enter a guilty plea. He says his office has uncovered several allegations that warrant investigating, including information that drug money was missing from the evidence room in an area monitored by a security camera. He alleges officers were questioned by Internal Affairs at the Petersburg Police Department, related to allegations that evidence was planted in Jeffrey Fisher's case.
Hall told the judge that the lead detective may have coerced a confession out of Fisher with the "threat of his mother being held in jail over the weekend and held responsible for some of the firearms."
Hall said he interviewed a civil clerk of Petersburg court who "pointed out that people come to her asking where their money is from forfeitures and she tells them there are no forfeitures filed in these cases."
The defense pointed out the wife of the lead detective on the Fisher case was responsible for forfeitures at the department. Now he no longer works there.
Hall said some of his information came from a Petersburg police officer. He alleged the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office ignored the officer's claims when he tried to approach one of the attorneys.
The Commonwealth's Attorney's office accused the defense of a "fishing expedition" and told the judge the allegations are "not based on fact. It's based on one officer that has an issue with another officer which has nothing to do with this case."
However, Judge Dennis M. Martin decided a special prosecutor was needed and later decided so was a special judge. He ruled in October that "the court is keenly concerned about public perception of the fairness of the court system particularly in a city that is majority minority and amongst minorities who generally tend to have distrust of the criminal justice system."
The Judge also told the courtroom his decision in no way indicates he's choosing a side nor is it an indictment of any actions by current and previous police officers. He said a neutral party should look into the case.
A retired Henrico County judge is now presiding over the case. A special prosecutor from the Powhatan Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has been appointed. The next hearing is in December.
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