A prosecutor in Ohio has reportedly been fired after admitted to posing as a woman in a Facebook chat with an accused killer's alibi witnesses in an attempt to persuade them to change their testimony.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that former Assistant County Prosecutor Aaron Brockler, 35, insisted during an interview at his Lakewood home that he had done nothing wrong and was wrongfully terminated.
"Law enforcement, including prosecutors, have long engaged in the practice of using a ruse to obtain the truth," Brockler, a county prosecutor since 2006, told the newspaper Thursday. "I think the public is better off for what I did."
County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he fired Brockler for good cause, claiming the former prosecutor's unethical behavior "disgraced" the office.
"By creating false evidence, lying to witnesses as well as another prosecutor, Aaron Brockler has damaged the prosecution's chances in a murder case where a totally innocent man was killed at his work," McGinty said.
Brockler was the lead prosecutor in the aggravated murder case of Damon Dunn, 29, of Cleveland, who was scheduled to stand trial for the shooting death of Kenneth "Blue" Adams on May 18, 2012. But when the opposing attorneys exchanged witness lists in April in preparation for trial, Dunn provided the names of two women whom he said could testify that at the time of the shooting, Dunn actually was on the other side of the city at Edgewater Park.
Brockler said he considered the alibi witnesses crucial to the case, and discussed possible strategies with the lead homicide detective.
"I didn't share my technique with him, but we talked about the importance of breaking the alibis," Brockler told the newspaper. "Unless I could break this guy's alibi a murderer might be walking on the street. There was such a small window of opportunity, I had to act fast."
Brockler said he engaged in Internet chats via Facebook with the alibi witnesses, admitting to posing as a fictitious former girlfriend of Dunn's who had given birth to Dunn's child, which Brockler said caused the women to "go crazy."
Brockler spoke with both of the women the following day, but did not divulge that he had been their Facebook chat partner.
"This is bogus, I'm not going to lie for him," Brockler claims one woman told him.
Brockler claims the other woman also changed her story.
"She said she wasn't at the beach with him and she wasn't going to lie for him," he said. "They both wanted the truth to be known."
Both women, whom are still listed as alibi witnesses by Dunn's lawyers, could not be reached for comment.
Brockler said he told Dunn's defense lawyer, Myron Watson, that his client's alibi had fallen apart. He printed transcripts of the Facebook chats and put them in his file, with no intention of keeping them secret, Brockler said.
Then, several days later he left the office for a two-month medical leave to have eye surgery. While Brockler was away, he received a call from Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Filiatraut, who had replaced Brockler on the Dunn case during his absence and questioned him about the Facebook chat transcripts that he found in the file.
"I told him that was me," said Brockler.
McGinty said he then acted immediately.
"As soon as we learned of Aaron Brockler's actions we removed this office from the case, informed the court and the defense, handed the case off to the Ohio Attorney General's office, and began the disciplinary investigation that this week led to Aaron Brockler's dismissal," McGinty said. "We gave him a chance to make an explanation. He gave contradictory statements. We dismissed him."
Poor demolition work reportedly went uninspected for more than three weeks before the deadly collapse of a building in Philadelphia, raising questions about the city's regulatory process.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mayor Michael Nutter and Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams said Thursday that the city had granted a demolition permit for the project at 22nd and Market streets without any inquiry into the contractor's qualifications for demolition work. The city does not require demolition contractors to establish their qualifications.
Six people were killed and 14 others were injured on Wednesday when a four-story brick wall fell onto an adjoining single-story Salvation Army thrift shop.
The Griffin Campbell Construction Co., licensed for the first time in January, ignored basic industry standards, set forth by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requiring lateral bracing for exterior walls and gradual, floor-by-floor removal of upper stories, the newspaper reports.
An although the city began fielding resident complaints about the Center City project as early as May 7, city inspectors reported no problems at a May 14 visit and did not follow up. Williams told reporters Thursday that the city typically does not inspect demolition work in progress, waiting until projects are completed before surveying the sites for rubble removal, grading, and elimination of any holes or other hazards.
Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the city relied on OSHA to look into safety issues at active demolition sites.
For a second day in a row, a Florida judge is weighing whether to allow certain voice experts to testify at the trial of a neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson is listening Friday to testimony from voice experts about whether witnesses with expertise in speech identification should be allowed to testify when George Zimmerman's trial starts next week.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during a struggle in a gated community. He is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.
Neighbors called 911 during the fight and cries for help can be heard on the recordings.
Martin's family claim the cries came from the teen while Zimmerman's father has testified they were those of his son.