Friday, July 02, 2010

TOP STORY >> Questions raised about candidate

IN SHORT: Jacksonville mayoral hopeful Aaron has had several scrapes with the law.

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville mayoral candidate Rizelle Aaron has 10 Jacksonville police reports with his name listed as suspect, arrestee or victim.

His opponent, Mayor Gary Fletcher, has two.

The complaints against Aaron run from abuse of family members to harassment to rape. But Aaron says he’s a victim of bad cops.

Aaron has been sentenced to jail for 150 days with 110 of that suspended, had to take anger-management classes, paid fines in excess of $1,000 and spent one year on probation. Fletcher was fined $120 for driving with expired tags.

None of Aaron’s incidents resulted in a felony charge, so he is still able to run for political office.

Aaron, 42, believes the police are systematically after him and used that argument in his lawsuit against the city, which is now on appeal.

However, in his October 2009 ruling, Circuit Judge Brian Miller threw out the racist claim, stating that there was no “pattern or practice” to arrest citizens, “especially black citizens” without probable cause.

The Leader, through the Freedom of Information Act, obtained the last 50 complaints against the Jacksonville Police Department and an 18-month record of citations issued. No discernible pattern of abuse or prejudice was noted in either case.

In reviewing all of Aaron’s police records, also obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — since as a candidate, he is a public figure — the police initiated two of the contacts (once helping Aaron when he was ill and one a traffic stop); calls from other people sent the police to Aaron four times, and he called the police on four occasions.

Aaron said Tuesday that the city didn’t provide all the reports and case files, and that prevents people from knowing the whole story.

Based on the available reports, if the police violated any laws at all, it was in trying to help Aaron after one arrest with the placement of his children. The police gave physical custody of the children to his girlfriend, at Aaron’s request, instead of his ex-wife, who supposedly had joint custody.

n Aaron’s first record of dealing with the Jacksonville Police appears April 20, 2005, and he made the phone call that brought the police out.

Aaron, who was an active-duty National Guardsman at the time, called security police to respond to his on-base home because of a domestic disturbance between him and his wife. He claimed his wife assaulted him. Based on a jurisdictional agreement with the air base, Jacksonville police responded, investigated and considered arresting Aaron and charging him with rape.

However, Air Force security police said they had jurisdiction and instead arrested Aaron for third-degree battery on a family member. Neither law enforcement group charged his wife with a crime. Aaron was released to a member of his unit and apparently nothing further happened in regards to the incident, according to a Guard spokesman.

According to a Guard public affairs spokesman, Capt. Chris Heathscott, the Guard has various types of full-time Guardsmen. Some are under the Uniform Code of Military Justice while others are under civilian law. Aaron’s status placed him under civilian rule, meaning the police department had the right to bring him in.

Even though this was the first documented case of problems between Aaron and the Jacksonville Police Department, it was not the first time Aaron had dealt with the law.
n In 1991, he was arrested by England police and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and public intoxication.

Lonoke County court records show the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges were eventually dropped and Aaron appealed the public intoxication case, but failed to show, forfeiting his fine of $85.

n The next meeting between Aaron and the Jacksonville police was July 3, 2005, and again Aaron called the police. According to the police report, he suspected his ex-wife was guilty of child abuse because she had allegedly whipped one of the children with a leather belt and thrown the child on the floor. The incident was turned over to child abuse investigators.

n In September 2005, Aaron was arrested and charged with four counts of criminal impersonation (impersonating a police officer), four counts of second-degree false imprisonment and one count of first-degree terroristic threatening.

These charges came after Aaron detained four young people with drugs at Dupree Park. The two officers, Bill Shelley and Greg Rozenski, handling the incident decided to release the four young people and arrest Aaron instead. Aaron said it was the harassment from this case that lead him to filing a lawsuit against the city and the two officers in their official capacity and as individuals.

Judge Miller tossed out the portion of the suit against the city and the officers in their official duties because there was no practice or policy of prejudice by the police department or city, but let the portion of the suit against the officers individually remain as a “reasonable jury” might find that the officers acted inappropriately.

Miller’s Oct. 29, 2009, decision has been appealed by the city, which wants all aspects of the suit dropped, to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The officers and city are being supported by legal assistance from the Municipal League. No court date has been set yet.

Court records show that all the charges related to this incident against Aaron were nolle pros, meaning the charges were dismissed.

“This suit is not about a bad police department, but it is about the one percent that should not be officers,”Aaron said Tuesday.

n In December 2005, Aaron went to the prosecuting attorney’s office requesting charges be filed against Officer Shelley. According to Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, his office found no potential crime and refused to prosecute the police officer.

n On Nov. 19, 2007, according to police records, Aaron allegedly attacked a juvenile who had sexually assaulted his daughter. One version has Aaron dragging the juvenile down a flight of apartment stairs, while another version has Aaron defending himself from the juvenile who wanted to start a fight.

Aaron was found guilty of third-degree battery in circuit court and sentenced to one-year probation.

n On Jan. 26, 2008, Aaron was charged with third-degree battery and third-degree assault on a family member. These charges netted Aaron 150 days in jail, however 110 were suspended due to his completion of anger-management courses. Court records also show he was fined $675.

It was this incident that caused Aaron to file suit against the city for the 2005 arrest in Dupree Park.

“These officers thought they were doing right by doing something bad to someone they thought was the enemy,” Aaron explained. He said they thought he had already filed a suit against the city, but he hadn’t.

The police report states Aaron’s daughter called the police, who then responded to Aaron’s Jacksonville home based on the domestic-disturbance report.

The police said he had been drinking, slammed the front door and grabbed one of his children by the shirt, tearing it. Aaron also supposedly hit his son and his ex-wife. Both Aaron’s mother and girlfriend were present at the disturbance.
Child-abuse investigators were called.

Once Aaron was arrested, his ex-wife, the report says, went to the jail with clean clothes for him and paperwork showing she and Aaron had joint custody, but that Aaron had primary custody of the children.

Rather than turn over the children to their mother, Aaron’s mother or state officials, police, at the request of Aaron, let his girlfriend take physical custody of the children for the duration of Aaron’s stay in jail. Apparently, the children suffered no harm while in the care of Aaron’s girlfriend, for if they had, the police and city might have been liable, according to one legal opinion.

The next morning Aaron was still in jail, but got sick and stated that his chest hurt and that he needed medical attention, then he passed out. He was transported to the hospital, treated and was returned to jail. He passed out again later and the paramedics were called and treated him at the jail.

n On Nov. 7, 2008, Megan Jones filed a complaint of a suspicious incident that listed Aaron as the suspect.

Jones was one of the four young people whom Aaron had detained at Dupree Park in 2005. According to Jones, Aaron got her number from her father by allegedly posing as someone who had a job for her. Aaron supposedly told her to meet him at the Workforce building on Main Street.

When she did, Jones recognized Aaron from the Dupree Park incident. He did not have a job for her but told her she needed to testify in court for him in his civil suit against the police, and she was not to tell anyone that he contacted her.

Police made no arrest, but did tell Jones to see the prosecuting attorney. She did that three days later and the prosecuting attorney’s office sent Aaron a warning letter that suggested no further contact be made with Jones.

n Jones filed another report on July 3, 2009, saying that Aaron again harassed her. Jones said she had changed her phone number since the last incident, but that Aaron convinced her grandfather that he really needed her number, called her and again told her that she needed to go to court.

Even though there was a warning letter, it was not a no-contact order and the police made no arrest, but referred Jones back to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
More than a month later, on Aug. 12, Aaron called police and said the report filed by Jones was false. He filed a report that charged Jones with filing a false police report.

In that report, Aaron stated he had obtained the police recordings between Jones and the police officer that wrote the report and on the recordings Jones allegedly said there was a no-contact order and Aaron said that was false. He said there was no order and he had not been harassing her. According to Aaron, she had committed a crime by saying so.

• On Oct. 22, 2009, Aaron once again contacted the police and this time charged that an e-mail he received from Alderman Bob Stroud was harassing communications because “he felt threatened by Mr. Stroud due to his view of African Americans, his wealth and influence in the community.”

Aaron was told to contact the prosecuting attorney’s office and did so. Aaron was told that one e-mail did not constitute harassment and there was nothing the prosecuting attorney could do.

According to court records, in March, Aaron was cited for parking in a handicapped parking spot and fined $250. The judge suspended $100 of that, leaving Aaron to pay $150.

What are the police contacts that Mayor Fletcher has had with the Jacksonville police?

• Fletcher has a ticket for driving with expired tags from June 23, 2005. Fletcher was not mayor at the time, but was an alderman. The ticket states he was wearing his seat belt, making him eligible for a $5 fine reduction. Court records show that Fletcher paid a $120 fine.

• In a police report dated Nov. 11, 2008, Fletcher is listed as the victim in a theft of property report. Fletcher reported that someone took $75 worth of CDs from his unlocked vehicle while it was parked in front of his house.