Mimesis Law
22 August 2019

Cop Talk: Don’t Talk, Don’t Talk, Just Don’t Talk

November 8, 2016 (Fault Lines) – I just wrote about this subject involving an off-duty cop who was involved in a car accident. Ken White pointed out that shutting up should be your first instinct. Scott Greenfield emphasized this at his blog, Simple Justice. Criminal defense lawyers do this all the time. And the reason that we do it all the time is because everybody keeps screwing it up. Repeatedly. But as much as we emphasize it, people just keep doing it anyway.

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In the most recent one I’m familiar with, former Temple, Texas police officer Erick French II was convicted of lying to the feds. Wow! Big surprise, isn’t it?

French was questioned twice in March by Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents over allegations that he sent text messages to someone to tip them off to a criminal investigation. The investigation, which was being conducted by Temple PD’s Special Investigation unit, also involved a federal investigation. French, who has been a police officer at Temple for just over two years, is only 24 years old.

The police department suspended him “indefinitely” without pay on July 29, 2016, which is Texas civil service language for “fired” or “terminated.”[1] Since that sounds better than to say they fired or terminated the officer, that is what most Texas departments put in their press releases nowadays.

The feds could prove French lied—think about it, how hard is it to prove that a text message was sent—and he was indicted on two counts of lying to federal investigators[2] and arrested on September 8th. French waived arraignment and pleaded not guilty on September 20th, in the U.S. District Court in Waco. French was then released on an unsecured $25,000 bond.[3]

French was convicted by an Austin jury on November 2, 2016 on one of the two counts, and acquitted on the other count. He faces up to five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on January 20, 2017.

So what happened here? It’s very simple. French was asked by a detective about the brother of a police dispatcher. He mentioned it to her and sent some text messages. Once the local narcotics task force found out, they went ballistic, and French was called into the department for questioning.

He was ordered to cooperate with the investigation, but was also given a Miranda warning by the FBI agents. In all, three people, the dispatcher, her brother, and French, all lied to investigators, but only French was charged, and the government did not want that fact to be brought up at the trial, just as French did not want the offer or result of a polygraph test mentioned.[4]

French’s trial counsel filed a motion to suppress French’s statement based on Garrity, but since he was given his Miranda warning, that motion was denied, as was a motion to quash one of the two charges as being duplicative. That’s normal by the way. Motions to suppress and to quash don’t often work, mainly because courts want to get the information before the jury.

Look, French was going to be fired because of the texts. The narcotics task force had it in for him and he shouldn’t have talked about it with the dispatcher. The department can make him answer their questions or fire him for insubordination, or they can order a polygraph under the same conditions. None of that information is available to the feds, however.

So if you are definitely going to be fired, why talk to the feds? We have discussed this once before, and nothing has changed. The feds are not there to help you, so shut the hell up.

[1] The language comes from the Texas civil service statute, which states “An indefinite suspension is equivalent to dismissal from the department.” § 143.052, Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code.

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

[3] Which means he only has to pay the bond if he fails to appear or flees.

[4] The government filed and was granted a motion in limine on that issue and the defense was granted a motion dealing with any polygraph tests.

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  • JoAnne Musick
    8 November 2016 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Same thing happened to Bazan (see my post yesterday) – the border patrol agent simply lied. Rather than remain silent, he told the story of chasing suspects. But then confronted again, the next day, he admitted it was all a lie. Why? Why does no one know enough to just remain silent? We preach it all the time…yet it falls on deaf ears.