Trooper pained over investigating fellow cop before OWI tossed - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Trooper pained over investigating fellow cop before OWI tossed

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WISCONSIN DELLS (WKOW) -- Dispatch audio shows a state trooper pained over investigating a fellow officer after a crash and suspected drunk driving, and one of the trooper's recorded comments contributed to the dismissal of the drunken driving case.

"I've hung out with this guy outside of work and know him personally," trooper Christopher VandenHoven told a dispatcher July 17, 2013, as VandenHoven prepared to investigate the hit and run driving of off-duty Wisconsin Dells Police sergeant Brent Brown.

Audio records show VandenHoven convinced superiors to assign a different trooper to the drunk driving probe, and he investigated Brown's crash into a dumpster and an unattended car, but reluctantly.

"I really hate sticking this guy with everything in the world, it's hard for me to do," VandenHoven told a dispatcher. "But I have to do what I got to do."

The dispatcher's description of VandenHoven's communication brought this response from a State Patrol supervisor: "Ah, you know, get over it."

Records show Brown left the scene of the crash, and because troopers could not find him until three hours later at his home, his breathalyzer result of .14 was legally questionable. Brown also refused a sobriety test, and claimed his drinking took place at his home after his driving.

When a dispatcher asked VandenHoven for a synopsis of events, he added his view of the outcome of the drunk driving investigation.

"I don't know how far this OWI case is going to go," VandenHoven told a dispatcher. "It'll probably get dropped."

"The Trooper's statement that he 'didn't know how far this OWI case is going to go, it'll probably get dropped' is a powerful piece of evidence that would undoubtedly be used by the Defense if this case moved forward towards trial," wrote special prosecutor Jennifer Harper in a successful motion to dismiss the drunk driving case against Brown.

"We have a comment from an investigating officer that's honest, and not only is it honest, it was spot on," Brown's attorney, Jay Englund tells 27 News.

Harper, who is Richland County's district attorney, tells 27 News, there's no record of any follow up investigation by the State Patrol, to fortify Brown's test result with information from possible witnesses to Brown's drinking.

"The officers may have missed an opportunity," Harper tells 27 News.

But Harper says there's no guarantee additional evidence would have surfaced. Harper says Brown's case of claimed "post-driving drinking" is a familiar challenge to prosecuting drunk driving cases, when officers contact suspects away from the scene of the driving.

State Patrol Captain Charles Teasdale has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment from 27 News on why investigators made no effort to locate potential witnesses.

While the first offense drunk driving charge against Brown was dropped, he has to pay fines for hit-and-run, and lane change tickets.

Wisconsin Dells Police Chief Jody Ward tells 27 News he was "surprised" Brown's drunk driving charge was dismissed. Ward says after an internal department investigation, Brown was demoted from sergeant to officer.

Records show Brown's apparent drinking led to a previous criminal charge against him.

In 2002, the year he was hired as an officer at the Wisconsin Dells Police Department, Brown was charged with a misdemeanor in La Crosse County.

La Crosse Police records show an apparently inebriated Brown broke into a business technologies building by throwing a metal Christmas tree through a glass door, and struggled with arresting officers, after they discovered Brown sleeping on the building's fourth floor.

In a plea agreement, the misdemeanor crime was reduced to a forfeiture offense, damage to property.

Ward tells 27 News department officials were aware of Brown's actions at the time of his hire, and notes the case disposition involved no crime. 

 

 

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