FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Prosecutors dropped charges Friday against nine former Fort Worth police officers accused of lying about when they were working. Attorneys for some of the accused officers said their clients might attempt to get their jobs back now, more than three years after they were fired or resigned.
The officers were all accused in 2010, in a ticket writing scandal then Mayor Mike Moncrief called “embarrassing.”
Officers were assigned to write tickets, as part of the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. It uses federal grant money, to cover overtime pay so cities can target specific traffic trouble spots. The officers though, were accused of writing tickets during their regular shifts, but changing the information to make it appear they were written as part of the overtime shift.
In a note on the motion to dismiss, assistant district attorney David Lobingier wrote that over time, the case had issues.
“These issues were unforeseen upon presentation to the grand jury of the case and include unavailability of witnesses, lack of memory by certain witnesses of the events underlying this offense, and new evidence,” he wrote. “Based upon the Tarrant County District Attorney’s high ethical standards, these cases are being dismissed in the interest of justice.”
Attorney Tom Choy who helped represent officer Robert Peoples, said proving exactly when officers wrote the tickets, proved to be a problem.
“As anyone knows, no one really thinks of receiving a ticket as a real specific event in their life,” he said. “They just know they got one. They’re not going to put a timeframe on it.”
Fort Worth was forced to reimburse the state $231,000 when the officers were accused. The case could prove to be more costly now as some of the officers try to get their jobs back.
Jim Lane, who also worked on People’s case, said his client has always maintained his innocence. The city, he said, owes him his job, and the loss of income over the past three years.
“It’s hard for anybody to recover from this,” Lane said. “You’re indicted on the front page, you’re acquitted by the obituary. So he’ll have to reestablish himself, and he will.”
With criminal charges dropped, Lane said he believed it would be up to police Chief Jeffrey Halstead now to act if he intends to keep the accused officers off the department. Halstead said he could not comment, due to pending litigation.
A statement from the city manager’s office, said simply, “While we respect the District Attorney’s process and decision, it will have no bearing on the employment action taken by the city.”
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