A village’s new police chief is already under heavy scrutiny after an alleged improper arrest and other reported activities.
New Vienna Police Chief Darnell Pate Jr. appeared Tuesday in Clinton County Municipal Court, where Judge Mike Daugherty questioned Pate’s recent actions in a case involving Francis Music of Martinsville, who was also in court before the judge along with his attorney, Shaun Peterson.
Music had four charges of misdemeanor soliciting and one count of misdemeanor restraint filed against him on January 31. All charges were dismissed in April.
Pate was promoted to police chief on Feb. 1 after serving as interim chief.
During the hearing, it was indicated that Music was arrested by Pate and NVPD Sgt. Robert Peters in Wilmington — outside of NVPD’s jurisdiction — several days before charges were officially filed, meaning there was no warrant for Music, nor apparently did Pate have reason to believe a crime was in progress at the time of the arrest.
Pate was asked about two weapons owned by Music — which were returned eventually — that were stored in evidence, and about Music’s car, which was ordered by NVPD to be towed and impounded.
The latter resulted in Music paying $505 in cash to get the vehicle released, with Music adding he was told if he did not pay the money — in cash — within 10 days, the vehicle would be forfeited.
Music paid the $505. Pate denied that Music was told he had to pay in cash.
When asked about these and other aspects of the case, Pate responded in court by stating, “This was not my investigation”, but that it was the investigation of NVPD’s Peters.
Daugherty finally told Pate, “All investigations are your investigations when you’re the chief.”
While stating he does not yet know all the information in this case, Daugherty said in court that the NVPD’s arrest process in this case is “certainly a questionable process.”
“The more it unravels, the more questions it raises,” he said. “I see absolutely no reason for anyone to seize [Music’s] vehicle or any reason to arrest him. There was no probable cause and no warrant.”
As the hearing was coming to a close, Daugherty advised Brett Rudduck — Wilmington law director who also serves as village solicitor for New Vienna — to contact whatever entity provides the village’s liability insurance provider, “Because this is a problem,” Daugherty said.
The News Journal reached out for comment via email to Pate, Mayor Kathi Stone, and Rudduck.
Rudduck provided a statement on behalf of the village: “The village of New Vienna is well aware of the issues related to the January, 2022 arrest (and property seizure) of a certain individual within the city of Wilmington by officers of the New Vienna Police Department. Once the village was made aware of said events, it took immediate action to forward its concerns to the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.”
It continued, “Additionally, the village of New Vienna formally requested the CCSO conduct an internal investigation related to the above-referenced events. The investigation is ongoing, and consequently, the village feels making a comment at this time, officially or otherwise, would be inappropriate.”
The judge scheduled a hearing for Monday so the court can gather more details and hear from NVPD’s Peters, and so the NVPD can collect any receipts and paperwork related to the case.
Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein of Friedman, Gilbert and Gerhardstein in Cincinnati told the News Journal Wednesday that, “If a crime is committed in front of an officer, jurisdiction may not matter. But if you arrest someone without probable cause, it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment to be free of reasonable search and seizure” and a violation of a state tort for false arrest.
“The chief can be liable for damages to the suspect if a court determines there is no probable cause and there is no conviction,” said Gerhardstein. As chief, he binds the municipality in criminal law. “There are only a few instances where we can sue and get judgment against a local government; one is when a local government, through police practices and policies, violates the Constitution.
“An accepted way to prove municipal liability is if a policy maker commits a violation. The chief is a policy maker; this puts the village on the hook for his actions.”
Mt. Healthy incident
On March 27, the Mt. Healthy Police Department in Hamilton County was called by a citizen on a complaint.
According to a letter dated March 31 from Mt. Healthy Police Chief Vincent Demasi to New Vienna Mayor Kathi Stone — which was provided to the News Journal upon a public records request to Mt. Healthy — “The complainant reported an unmarked police vehicle patrolling the parking area ordering bar patrons into the vehicle and transporting them to unknow [sic] locations.” wrote Demasi. “The vehicle was described as a late model Ford Explorer with no license plates or police markings. Mt. Healthy officers responded and found a Darnell Pate Jr. operating the vehicle. Mr. Pate told officers he was employed as a security guard by Reminisce Bar, a liquor establishment located within the Hilltop Plaza. He also told officers he was the Police Chief of New Vienna, and he was operating his take home police vehicle to conduct security operations for the bar.”
The letter continued, “The Hilltop Plaza has been a location our department responds to frequently for various criminal and order maintenance issues. I wanted to confirm Mr. Pate’s employment as a member of New Vienna law enforcement and if he is so employed, to make you aware of his activity with the Village of [New] Vienna property.”
The MHPD incident narrative states that an employee of the bar said the Ford Explorer, “has been picking up patrons of the bar and releasing” them after “sitting stationary for a short period of time.”
No charges were filed regarding the incident.
Village of Addyston
According to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts website, on March 7 Pate filed a civil administrative appeal against his previous employer — the village of Addyston, Ohio — in Hamilton County Common Pleas Civil Court.
The News Journal has requested public records regarding the employment of Pate; a village representative said the village will provide those records this week.