Lawsuit: Indicted Detroit drug cops executed search from false affidavit

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VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS, MIKE BOENING PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Via Flickr Creative Commons, Mike Boening Photography

A pair of Detroit police officers who were indicted as part of a federal probe into the city's scandal-plagued narcotics unit have been named in a civil lawsuit, alleging the cops wrongly detained a Detroit resident after illegally searching his home with a warrant based on false statements.

The lawsuit, filed in November by Anthony and Elaine McCallum, initially named two Detroit Police Department officers involved in the raid. But an amended complaint filed Thursday added Lt. David "Hater" Hansberry and Officer Bryan "Bullet" Watson, among several others, as additional defendants.

In April, Hansberry and Watson were indicted on accusations of stealing drugs, extortion, and carrying out fake arrests. 
 
The McCallums say officers executed a search warrant in 2013 on their home that was based on false statements given by a Detroit law enforcement official in a sworn affidavit, according to the complaint.

The officers — "particularly [Sgt. Stephen] Geelhood and Watson" — physically assaulted Anthony and threatened Elaine "for no reason," according to the complaint. It's unclear what role Hansberry played, but the complaint says the officers named as defendants "executed the search warrant in bad faith, knowing that the information requesting the warrant was false."

Upon entering the couple's home, the officers assaulted Anthony McCallum, handcuffed and arrested the 47-year-old "without probable cause," and wrongfully pursued prosecution, according to the complaint.
 
As a result of the April 2013 search, Anthony McCallum was charged with intent to deliver and manufacture marijuana, intent to deliver and manufacture less than 50 grams of cocaine, firearms possession by a felon, and felony firearms, court records show — but all charges were eventually dismissed when issues surrounding the warrant arose.

McCallum was convicted in 1997 of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, according to the Michigan State Police sex offender registry.

The issues surrounding the raid of the McCallums home began from the onset.

Police obtained the search warrant based on an affidavit signed by Officer Amy Matelic, according to a court transcript from an Aug. 8, 2013 hearing on the charges brought against Anthony McCallum, who initially plead not guilty on each count.

In the sworn affidavit, Matelic — who's also named as defendant in the complaint filed Thursday — stated she received a tip from a confidential informant that cocaine was being sold and stored within McCallum's home. The informant provided tips in the past that led to arrests and generated cases in 3rd Circuit Court and 36th District Court, according to the transcript.

The problem? According to the transcript, Matelic had no direct conversation with the informant or personal knowledge of the tip; another officer, Gil Hood, actually received it. But, for unclear reasons, Hood didn't sign the affidavit.

"So the affidavit I mean really just cannot be described as anything other than false in that respect," said Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, during the 2013 hearing.

The only thing "honestly averred in the affidavit," Hathaway said, is that Matelic and Hood conducted surveillance of McCallum's property.

"That in and of itself does not provide probable cause for the warrant," Hathaway said.

In his parting words, Hathaway offered this to Anthony McCallum: "You have dodged a bullet. It is highly unlikely that this will ever happen again. And I strongly urge you to clean up your act."

The case and charges against McCallum were dismissed following the hearing in Hathaway's courtroom.

"The conduct of the [police officers] wrongfully imprisoned and prosecuted Anthony McCallum," the three-count complaint filed in Wayne County Circuit Court stated.

The allegations were first reported by MT in March.

Thomas Kuhn, the McCallums' attorney, couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday. Messages were left for attorneys representing Hansberry and Watson seeking comment.

The McCallums demand a jury trial and seek compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, and attorney's fees and costs. The complaint claims several civil rights violation, malicious prosecution, and says the city of Detroit — which is also named as a defendant and hasn't yet responded to the complaint — is liable for failing to adequately train officers.

The couple accuses the city of "routinely concealing, covering up, and hiding evidence of wrongdoing by law enforcement officials." 

The city's narcotics unit was disbanded last summer by Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Since August, it has been the focus of an FBI probe

The trial for Hansberry, Watson, and an alleged associate is slated to begin in August. 

A third officer charged in connection with the probe, Arthur Leavells, pleaded guilty in connection with the alleged conspiracy earlier this year. 

Leavells allegedly distributed cocaine from June 2010 until he was suspended in October 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He has since resigned from the department and faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. 

No specific incidents are cited in the charge brought against Leavells, but his name appears in documents related to a disputed raid of a Warren home in December 2013 — first reported by MT — where Detroit narcotics officers seized over 70 marijuana plants.

The raid has since become the focus of a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

According to the complaint filed by Warren couple Timothy and Hatema Davis, members of DPD's narcotics squad forcibly entered their home, demanded to know if they had any money, and seized nearly fifty marijuana plants. Timothy Davis was legally licensed to operate a marijuana grow facility, the complaint says.

Davis was then taken to a seemingly abandoned building and questioned for several hours, according to the complaint.

It was Leavells' surveillance of the home that led Detroit officers across city limits to conduct the raid, records show.

In a sworn affidavit for a search warrant, Leavells said he received a tip that "large amounts of marijuana" were located inside the Davis' home.

On Dec. 22, 2013, Leavells set about surveying the property. In the affidavit, he says he witnessed Timothy Davis leave his house in a white vehicle, drive to the intersection of Dresden and Bringard on Detroit's northeast side, and park. Soon after, he continued, a black Dodge Magnum appeared and the driver, a thirty-something male, entered Davis' car.

"[T]he passenger stayed a short time and then exited the target vehicle carrying a plastic bag, returned to the Magnum, and [left the] location," Leavells wrote, adding he witnessed similar scenarios occur in the following days.

Leavells said the alleged transactions gave sufficient "probable cause" to execute the search warrant. A Wayne County magistrate judge signed the warrant at 11:24 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2013; the raid commenced the following afternoon. Police seized $275, 77 marijuana plants, and a 2005 Cadillac from the property, records show.

The criminal indictment filed against the alleged ringleaders — Hansberry and Watson — says the group failed to log evidence money and drugs seized during searches of homes. Instead, they sold the drugs on their own and split the profits, the indictment alleges.

Leavells reportedly recorded conversations using a wiretap to assist the FBI in its investigation. He has since resigned from the department. 

Sgt. Geelhood, who was involved in the search of the McCallums property, also participated in the Warren raid, according to a copy of the Warren Police Department's incident report obtained by MT


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