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By Jana Peterson
Pine Knot News 

Second police officer identified with legal issues

Sgt. Scott Holman threatens legal action in response

 

May 10, 2019

A second member of the Cloquet police department faced misconduct issues that could affect his ability to be a credible witness in criminal cases.

Sergeant Scott Holman, who is likely to be called upon to testify in court because of his position as both a detective and K-9 officer, was identified in a court document April 30 by defense attorney Kevin Cornwell.

In a motion for supplemental disclosure for client Adam Jackson, Cornwell requested disclosure of “all” materials pertaining to Holman that would fall under the purview of two different Supreme Court cases: Brady v. Maryland and Giglio v. United States. Both cases require prosecuting attorneys to disclose any material that could help exonerate a defendant of guilt, including misconduct findings involving law enforcement officers. Such officers are sometimes called “Brady cops” because the identified past misconduct means defense attorneys can bring up the behavior, and cast doubt on their testimony.

In his motion, Cornwell included disciplinary files for Holman that the Carlton County Attorney’s Office previously made available to defense attorneys. The files appear to be incomplete as they refer to a Jan. 3, 2005, incident for which discipline was imposed but there are no details explaining what happened.

Holman is the second Cloquet officer in the past nine months to be identified by the county attorney’s office with misconduct issues that must be revealed to defense attorneys during certain court cases where a police officer is a witness.

Officer Scott Beckman was the first.

Between July 2018 and March 2019, the Carlton County attorney’s Office dismissed more than 25 cases in which Beckman was a witness, because of the longtime police officer’s past actions. According to city and court records, Beckman lied on a search warrant application in February 2016 and in a separate incident — which also led to discipline — he lied to investigating officers about a 2012 accident he was involved in while off duty. Beckman signed a separation and release agreement with the city of Cloquet in December. It left him “employed” and getting paid by the city through September, but on leave and not working.

In Holman’s case, the disciplinary actions are not new.

The first file details one day off without pay after Holman missed a cold-weather shooting practice after telling then police chief Wade Lamirande he was too sick to go. According to the court files, Holman then went out drinking that evening.

Although Holman admitted the behavior and said he used poor judgment, he grieved the discipline as too severe through his union.

Former city administrator Brian Fritsinger investigated and ultimately supported the discipline.

A written account of his investigatory findings sent to the union is included in the file. That letter also outlined the findings of the Civil Service Commission — the citizen board that helped oversee the police department at the time — on a court incident that occurred Jan. 3, 2005, but which are not included in the file.

The Civil Service Commission found that Holman had violated several codes outlined in the department’s rules of conduct, including:

•Unbecoming Conduct. This applies to conduct both on and off duty that would reflect poorly on the department.

•Truthfulness.

•Intervention. In this case, Holman was ordered to not contact any witnesses, an order that he violated, according to the Fritsinger letter, by contacting then county attorney Thom Pertler and Cloquet police officer Eric Blesener.

According to the letter, the Civil Service Commission initially recommended 60 days off with 30 days suspended. After hearing concerns from Lamirande regarding the effect of such a lengthy suspension on Holman and the department, the commission agreed to a final recommendation of 14 days off with seven days suspended in addition to the one-day suspension for missing the shooting practice.

The second employee disciplinary file refers to a March 2018 verbal reprimand issued by Chief Jeff Palmer for Facebook posts in July 2017 that violated department policies regarding professional conduct of police officers and social media.

What Holman actually did on Facebook is not part of the court documents. Cloquet city administration has repeatedly denied requests by the Pine Knot News for the additional data, possibly in violation of state law, upon the advice of the city’s former employment attorney. Minnesota Statute 13.43 states that the final disposition of any disciplinary action “together with the specific reasons for the action and data documenting the basis of the action” are public data.

Brady/Giglio basics

Ketola previously explained that there are numerous behaviors and actions that can raise Brady/Giglio issues for police officers. She shared a sample Brady/Giglio data sheet from Hennepin County similar to what Carlton County is using.

Categories of possible Brady/Giglio issues in the sample include the following:

•Abuse of police authority

•Bias against protected class

•Criminal conviction

•Misconduct that reflects on credibility

•Unauthorized access to government data

•Mishandling of evidence or property

•False statement

•Excessive force

•General misconduct that reflects on credibility

•Undisclosed or improper inducements to witnesses or suspects

•Untruthfulness

Ketola explained that the head of every law enforcement department such as a police chief or sheriff, according to law, has “an affirmative duty” to notify the county or city attorney’s office of possible Brady/Giglio issues. That means they are required to proactively notify the city or county attorney’s office when such issues arise.

In turn, the county attorney’s office is required to proactively notify defense attorneys when a “recurring government witness” such as a police officer has been found to have issues that trigger a Brady/Giglio disclosure.

That’s exactly what happened in Holman’s case: the county attorney’s office sent the disciplinary documents to Sixth District chief public defender Dan Lew on March 11, according to the court documents obtained by the Pine Knot News.

It’s complicated

Although the Supreme Court Cases aren’t new — Brady v. Maryland was decided in May 1963 — interpretations of the case have evolved over the years. The Carlton County attorney’s office first implemented a Brady policy under the leadership of assistant county attorney Jeffrey Boucher in December.

After Ketola took office in January, the office hired a consulting attorney with expertise in Brady/Giglio issues to help them conduct integrity reviews of every case in which Beckman was a significant witness. They also examined other disciplinary records that the county attorney’s office requested from all law enforcement agencies that work in the county.

Ketola said her office has to walk a fine line in complying with the requirements of the Brady and Giglio cases. The county attorney’s office previously denied a Pine Knot News request for disclosure of all officers found to have Brady/Giglio issues, as did the city of Cloquet.

“We’re required to file these notices pursuant to discovery,” Ketola said, referring to the release of information to the defense attorneys. “If [the defense] wants more, the court has to order it. That balances the rights of the accused to know things for impeachment versus the officer’s right to privacy.”

For his part, Holman is fighting back. He has hired attorney Mike Padden, who said Ketola’s decision to label Holman a Brady officer is “off base,” alleging that she has a personal vendetta against Holman and a “blatant conflict of interest.”

“Det. Sgt. Holman is an elite, highly accomplished officer with no on-duty complaints in 22 years in law-enforcement,” Padden said. “He, with his K-9 partners, is and has been a star in the war on drugs.”

Carlton County has hired attorney Joe Flynn to represent Ketola and the county attorney’s office as a result of the threatened legal action, according to Flynn, who works with the Jardine, Logan and O’Brien firm in Lake Elmo. Coincidentally, Padden’s office is also in Lake Elmo.

Flynn said Padden has threatened to sue the county, claiming that Holman should not have been designated a Brady officer.

“I can’t speak to the reasons behind that,” Flynn said. “I don’t think they legitimately have any.”

Padden said they have a case, and will “address these matters legally if not voluntarily corrected.”

“Of the three matters alleged, the first one was clearly not one of dishonesty, the second is literally nonexistent and false, and the third is simply an exercise of his free-speech rights, a reasonable effort to defend the integrity of his agency, and only resulted in an oral reprimand comparable to jaywalking if one was doing a crime comparison,” Padden told the Pine Knot News. “No criminal defense attorney could effectively use any of these to prevent the State of Minnesota from achieving its burden of proof of any criminal prosecution in which Holman is a witness for the State.”

Cloquet city administrator Aaron Reeves declined to comment on the issue. Ketola referred the Pine Knot to Flynn regarding the possible legal action.

The Jackson case, which revealed the Holman discipline, involves first- and second-degree burglary charges along with first-degree damage to property for cooperating in breaking open and stealing money from laundry coin boxes. Holman is on the witness list for that case. The next hearing is set for May 24.

 
 

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