WILMINGTON — The investigation of Village of New Vienna Chief of Police Darnell Pate Jr. is complete.
It concludes that: the chief and his sergeant were insubordinate; the two “put the village in a very bad position legally”; “Chief Pate is a liability for the Dept.”; it recommends “disciplinary action be taken up to and including termination”; and it recommends the opening of a criminal investigation.
Pate has been on the job just over four months; he previously served as interim chief.
The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office undertook the investigation of Pate after the CCSO was requested to do so by the village. The report includes findings/opinions from CCSO Major Brett Prickett and Clinton County Deputy Prosecutor John Kaspar.
The investigation came in the wake of a warrantless arrest and seizure of public property, and an admonishment by a judge in open court, as well as other issues.
The News Journal previously reported that Pate appeared twice in Clinton County Municipal Court in early May, and Sgt. Robert Peters appeared once (during Pate’s second appearance).
During Pate’s first appearance on a Tuesday, Judge Mike Daugherty questioned Pate’s actions in a case involving the arrest of Francis Music of Martinsville, who was also in court along with his attorney, Shaun Peterson.
Music had four charges of misdemeanor soliciting and one count of misdemeanor restraint filed against him on January 31; all charges were dismissed in April.
During the first May hearing, it was indicated that Music was arrested by Pate and Peters in Wilmington — outside of NVPD’s jurisdiction — and several days before charges were officially filed, meaning there was no warrant for Music, nor apparently did Pate have reason to believe a crime was in progress at the time of the arrest.
Pate also ordered Music’s vehicle to be towed and impounded; Music had to pay $505, with Music adding he was told if he did not pay the money, the vehicle would be forfeited.
Daugherty had scheduled a hearing for the following Monday so the court could gather more details and hear from Peters, and so NVPD could collect any receipts and paperwork related to the case in question.
Peters confirmed to Daugherty that Music was arrested in Wilmington by his department. When asked about a warrant, Peters advised there wasn’t a warrant at the time.
Peters said the “common pleas (court) prosecutor” gave the authority to perform the arrest. When asked to specify which attorney, Peters advised it was Melvin Planas, a felony assistant prosecutor for the Prosecutor’s Office. He advised Daugherty that this was an in-person conversation with the attorney.
Daugherty asked Peters to confirm if prosecuting attorneys could approve a search warrant and the removal of a subject’s personal property. Peters advised they couldn’t.
Daugherty said the two officers should have known that any search warrant or arrest warrant comes from a judge — not an officer or an attorney.
“Yet here we are,” said Daugherty, adding he doubted the attorney approved the actions.
The judge went on to ask why the car was towed. Peters advised it was because the business where the arrest took place wanted the vehicle removed.
“We had a warrantless arrest, we had a warrantless seizure (of property) … gentlemen, this is not how we do business in Clinton County, ” said Daugherty. “You don’t arrest someone and take their property without filing a complaint … that’s fundamental constitutional law.”
Peterson advised that his client, Music, received a reimbursement for the car fee and that they were satisfied — except for Music’s civil liberties allegedly being violated.
When asked about these and some other aspects of the case, Pate stated in his first court appearance before Daugherty, “This was not my investigation”, but that it was the investigation of Peters.
Daugherty finally told Pate, “All investigations are your investigations when you’re the chief.”
Pate was promoted to police chief on February 1.
The judge had added in May that the NVPD’s arrest process in this case was “certainly a questionable process.”
The following day, Village of New Vienna Solicitor Brett Rudduck said in a statement from the village that New Vienna had asked the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the department.
The CCSO report on the Music case listed four findings: “1) That Chief Pate and Sgt. Peters did not follow the instructions of the Prosecutor’s office that were given concerning the Music case; 2) That they were out of their jurisdiction when an illegal warrantless arrest was made. 3) That they took control over Mr. Music’s property without appropriate authorizations; and, 4) “Under Garrity Chief Pate and Sgt. Peters were asked for a copy of the bodycam being worn by Sgt. Peters, and to this date 6-2-2022 I have not received it. Which under the rules of Garrity constitute insubordination.”
The CCSO also investigated a case involving the arrest of William Cluxton of New Vienna in which a command to Cluxton to move his car within 24 hours led to him being: approached “in a very aggressive manner” by Pate on Cluxton’s property; struck twice by Pate’s Taser; “thrown to the ground” by Peters; and being handcuffed — all without any explanation by Pate despite many requests by Cluxton.
This incident happened on February 1 — Pate’s first day as chief after serving as interim chief.
Cluxton told investigators that Pate gave him two options: “you can go to jail right now or he would take me to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation” where “they will keep you for 3 days.”
His vehicle was impounded, but Pate decided not to arrest Cluxton, who paid $180 cash and was given a receipt to retrieve his car.
Findings in the Cluxton case include that, “It is apparent that there was no basis for Mr. Cluxton’s arrest which causes everything else that occurred to be null and void, which opens Chief Pate to possible criminal charges and Chief Pate and the Village of New Vienna to possible civil litigation.”
It adds that, “… after telling Mr. Cluxton he was under arrest, fighting and tasing him, Mr. Cluxton was released and never charged. I can’t even begin to understand this thought process.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Pate is administrative leave, and the investigation of Peters is not yet complete, according to Village Solicitor Brett Rudduck.
Also, both Pate and Peters qualify as Brady officers, Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Kaspar noted.
A Brady officer is, essentially, one which may have a history of dishonesty and/or credibility issues who could not effectively testify for the prosecution.
Mt. Healthy incident
Also previously, the News Journal reported that the Mt. Healthy (Hamilton County) Police informed New Vienna Mayor Kathi Stone by letter dated March 27 that Pate had allegedly been using his New Vienna police vehicle to work as a security guard at a local bar, allegedly using an “unmarked police vehicle patrolling the parking area ordering bar patrons into the vehicle and that Pate had been “picking up patrons of the bar and releasing” them after “sitting stationary for a short period of time.”
No charges were filed regarding the incident, which was also part of the CCSO’s report.
A CCSO investigator met with Chief Eric Pennekamp of Pate’s previous employer, the Village of Addyston in Hamilton County.
The report states that Pate was placed on unpaid administrative leave in May 2021 for an incident involving a Taser despite “no basis for the arrest”, the chief said. It was also recommended that Pate receive additional use-of-force training and other training.
Another report in Addyston was that Pate allegedly “represented to businesses in the area that he had a K-9 that is working for the village of Addyston, and had received dog food and grooming from area businesses. This was done without the authorization from the Chief or counsel of Addyston.”
According to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts website, on March 7 Pate filed a civil administrative appeal against the Village of Addyston in Hamilton County Common Pleas Civil Court.