New appalling evidence from documents obtained by the Alabama Justice Project exposes that a Dothan, Alabama Internal Affairs investigation was covered up after it revealed a group of officers had been planting guns and drugs on black men for years to ensure felony convictions.
The heads of this practice, which has been occurring since the 1990s, are both currently higher-ups: Lt. Steve Parrish, the Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, the Assistant Director of Homeland Security for Alabama. Both individuals, along with the dozen officers who participated, are allegedly members of a Neoconfederate organization that wants blacks to return to Africa and believes African-Americans possess a lower IQ (in other words, they’re straight from the 1800s).
According to the Henry County Report, “there are currently nearly a thousand wrongful convictions resulting in felonies from the 20th Judicial District” tied to the disgusting tactics of these officers; many of the men affected by this still reside in jail, while many of the officers have risen to leadership positions.
Allegations concerning police behavior first came to light in 1996, though instructed to be ignored by Police Chief John White. By 1999, they had accumulated enough to warrant a formal internal investigation by the Internal Affairs Division. Testimonies of marijuana, cocaine, and weapons being planted on suspects were witnessed by several police officers, who were the original group to follow up on the complaints. Officer Michael Magrino, in particular, had 50 cases against him, and the head of Internal Affairs, Sgt. Keith Gray, noted that Magrino “was in violation of departmental procedures.” Conclusions from the investigation advised that Magrino, along with other officers, should be dismissed and prosecuted— unhappy with the situation, Magrino urged District Attorney Doug Valeska to intervene.
Valeska, along with Police Chief White, worked to halt the investigation and bury all the documents that exposed what had been occurring. Valeska continued to serve as the prosecutor on dozens of cases where he knew evidence had been manufactured.
Henry County Report states that, “The original group of officers were dismayed that the investigation was covered up. Even more disturbing, the officers responsible were then promoted in the department. They allege the practice of planting drugs continued for years on black men by those who were part of the group.”
The positions in law enforcement those officers now have are shocking: in addition to the leadership roles Parrish and Hughes hold, previous Police Chief John White is now a Troy University criminal justice professor, and Captain Carlton Ott commands the department’s Criminal Justice Investigation Division. Even more disturbingly, Ott and Parish have both attended the FBI academy.
The officers who witnessed the planting of evidence and subsequent cover up have come forth and spoken up, asking the United States Department of Justice to intervene and hold the law enforcement officials involved in the cover up responsible, as well as overturn the convictions of potentially hundreds of wrongfully accused black men.
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