The detective who investigated police officer William Martin’s arrest of Jacqueline Craig in December testified Thursday that two high-ranking police administrators acted “unusual” in their handling of the incident, attempting to get Craig released from jail immediately and her outstanding warrants “unconfirmed.”
Former assistant chiefs Abdul Pridgen and Vance Keyes, who were demoted last month for allegedly leaking Martin’s bodycam video and personnel file, also arranged for a second civil rights attorney to respond to Craig’s case, said detective Jake White.
Martin is appealing his 10-day unpaid suspension over the incident, handed down in January by Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, and White’s testimony came during the third day of the hearing at police headquarters. After the hearing, which is expected to last through Friday, independent arbitrator Norman Bennett will decide to either uphold Martin’s suspension or reduce it with back pay.
Whether Pridgen’s and Keyes’ roles in the investigation will factor into Bennett’s decision remained unclear Thursday.
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“Even if you assume there was some impropriety [by Pridgen and Keyes], what I need to look at is how that impropriety could have affected the findings the chief made and testified to,” Bennett told Martin’s attorney, Terry Daffron, during the hearing.
At the time of Craig’s arrest, a cellphone video of which went viral, Pridgen and Keyes were on the command staff and supervised internal affairs.
White said he arrived at the city jail downtown after Craig was arrested to begin investigating the complaint against Martin. When White got there, Keyes was with Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, and had allowed Merritt inside a secured area.
White said it was “very unusual” for lawyers to be allowed inside the secured area. Pridgen’s and Keyes’ arrangement of a second attorney for Craig was “absolutely not” appropriate, White said.
White said it was also unusual that Merritt was allowed to sit with Craig while he interviewed her. Attorneys are typically not allowed to sit with clients during internal affairs investigations, White said.
“I believe that there was a strong likelihood that facts could have been left out of her statement because she was allowed to meet with her attorney before the interview,” White said.
Craig had been arrested on outstanding traffic warrants in the incident. After learning from a judge that Craig couldn’t be released from the jail the night of her arrest, Pridgen said, “They’re only Class C warrants, so let’s try to get those warrants unconfirmed,” White testified.
“I was shocked,” White said. “It’s not something I’ve seen done before.”
Later, as the internal investigation proceeded, Pridgen told White to accuse Martin of violating the department’s “bias-free policing” policy in response to the allegations that Martin was racist.
“There was no evidence to support the fact that officer Martin made any decision based upon their race,” White said.
Earlier Thursday, Gary Ryan, a neighbor of Jacqueline Craig, testified that Craig threatened to kill him and another neighbor before her arrest.
The other neighbor was Itamar Vardi, who was accused of choking Craig’s 7-year-old son.
In testimony Wednesday, Craig denied threatening Vardi and Ryan. City attorneys this week have presented video that appears to show Craig trying to break up a conflict between her cousin and Vardi.
But Ryan on Thursday said Craig and her family had surrounded Vardi, who had first called police that day to complain that Craig’s son littered in his yard.
“There was a lot of loud shouting,” Ryan said. “A lot of abusive language toward my neighbor. I did my best to separate them. They made a lot of verbal threats to him. They were threatening to take his life.”
Ryan said Craig also directed the threats toward him and instructed her children to call him profanities.
“I spoke with everyone there trying to get a little bit of civility,” Ryan said. “It was just impossible. No one wanted to have a civil conversation.”