Petersburg prosecutor asks State Police to investigate police de - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

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Petersburg prosecutor asks State Police to investigate police department

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) -

Petersburg's Commonwealth's Attorney has requested Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into the city's police department.

Cassandra Conover made the formal request on Dec. 23. Chesterfield's Commonwealth's Attorney is also serving as a special prosecutor in the investigation.While Conover doesn't state the exact incidents which led to the investigation, she says the request comes "in light of matters that had recently come to my attention, informally through  conversations and media reports."

NBC12 investigators have been following a case involving missing money in the Petersburg Police evidence room. Prosecutors reduced the charge against a burglary suspect in November because the $400 confiscated in the investigation is no longer in evidence. It's part of the $13,356 that was missing from the Petersburg Police evidence room.

The money is connected to three cases against Robert Bruce Taylor. Sources say he was caught by police and on surveillance camera inside the Little Food Market on Halifax Street. Taylor was charged with felony burglary, but the charge was reduced to misdemeanor trespassing, mainly because the $400 he's accused of stealing is nowhere to be found in the evidence room. 

Court documents also revealed details about alleged corruption at the Petersburg Police Department. Transcripts show allegations of coerced confession, missing drug money and planted evidence led to the unusual move of three Petersburg judges stepping aside from a drug case. 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made over the course of two hearings in September and October for Jeffrey Fisher, who's trying to have a guilty plea withdrawn.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 says his office has uncovered several allegations that warrant investigating, in addition to the missing drug money from the evidence room. 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 also 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."

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.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."

"I want to be clear that the decision to make the request for the State Police involvement had been made by me at an earlier time, and should not be considered an accusation of wrongdoing," Conover writes. "However, I wanted to wait until other matters were resolved (which were so resolved on December 10th, 2015), before making this request.  It is imperative that any issues be resolved for the best interests of the community, the members of the Petersburg Bureau of Police,  and the citizens of Petersburg."

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