This week's cover story in New Times is on Elroy Phillips, a convict who says he has gathered the evidence from prison to show he's not guilty. If you've read the story and still aren't convinced, below are bits of the court file, evidence Phillips has collected, and responses from the government.
Elroy Phillips Incident Report
After cops say Phillips sold drugs to an undercover officer, they claim they forgot to fill out a police report. Later, an unsigned and undated report turned up at Phillips' trial.
The report claimed agent Michael Ghent bought $50 in crack from Phillips at 9:30 p.m. April 6, 2001.
Phillips requested time card records of all the officers involved in his arrest. Department policy required them to punch in before work. Only one of the officers worked that day. Ghent, the officer who supposedly bought drugs from Phillips, wasn't on duty.
Investigative Funds Log
Phillips requested the log to see if Ghent had taken out money to buy drugs, as required by department policy. The record showed Ghent didn't take out money until six days after the arrest.
Investigative Funds Log - Second Version
West Palm Beach police later sent Phillips a second version of the log that claimed Ghent had taken money out before the arrest. Phillips believes the record was fabricated to cover the cops' tracks.
Property and Evidence Sign-in Log
Phillips also asked for the log that keeps track of when an officer turns in evidence. The log shows no officers turned in drugs the night he supposedly sold crack to Ghent.
Salary Incentive for Michael Ghent
Because Ghent completed the hostage negotiation class, the department later gave him a $50 bonus.
Michael Ghent Certificate of Course Completion
The night he supposedly bought drugs from Phillips, Ghent was in a hostage negotiation class at Palm Beach State College.
Statement From the Confidential Informant
Cops claim they had a witness who saw Phillips sell drugs to an undercover officer. That witness now says she wasn't there and gave a statement to a private investigator hired by Phillips to prove it. (New Times has redacted the woman's name because she could be the victim of retaliation if it's revealed that she worked for police as an informant.)
Michael Ghent Criminal Case
Ghent, the cop who allegedly bought drugs from Phillips, was later charged with bribery and other crimes. He entered a deal with prosecutors that allowed the charges to remain off his record in exchange for Ghent's serving community service hours.
Appeals Court Order
Phillips appealed his conviction with a claim that his court-appointed attorney had failed to adequately represent him. The appeals court agreed and ordered him to be resentenced. But the judge still gave him 24 years.
Motion to Vacate
Phillips filed this 99-page motion in an attempt to persuade a judge to set aside his sentence. The judge has yet to rule.
Declaration of Janice LeClainche
Federal prosecutors responded to Phillips' motion by taking statements from those involved in the case, including LeClainche, the original prosecutor. LeClainche claims the confidential informant changed her story out of fear that Phillips would hurt her.
Declaration of Jack F. Maxwell
Maxwell taught the class that Ghent attended the night of the supposed bust and gave a declaration that Ghent likely got out of class around 9 p.m.
Declaration of Capt. Kevin Coppin
Capt. Kevin Coppin claimed to retrace Ghent's steps the night of the arrest to prove the cop could have been there to buy drugs from Phillips. But Coppin's statement ignores that Ghent supposedly ran several errands before arriving at the bust, making it impossible for him to get there on time.
Declaration of Linda McDermott
McDermott, manager of the police department's Fiscal Services Department, argued that the payroll system used by the department was unreliable and not an accurate record of the hours Ghent worked that night. McDermott claimed Ghent worked ten overtime hours the week Phillips was arrested, although she offered no documents to support the claim.
Declaration of Sgt. Bradley Emmons
Emmons, like the other cops, claimed that Ghent was "reliable and trustworthy." The statements ignored the fact that Ghent had already been forced to give up his badge after the bribery charge.
Report of Magistrate Judge
In response to Phillips' Motion to Vacate, U.S. District Court Judge Joan A. Lenard asked a magistrate judge to review the case and decide whether Phillips should get a new hearing. The magistrate decided Phillips' motion offered no new information. However, much of the evidence Phillips uncovered came after the magistrate ruled. It's now up to Lenard to decide whether to give Phillips his hearing.
More articles on Elroy Phillips:
• West Palm's "most notorious": Big fish or a small scapegoat in the war on drugs?, September 18, 2003
• After a Decade in Prison, Man Proves His Innocence -- Only to See Inaction From Courts, June 16, 2011
• Don't Believe Elroy Phillips Is Innocent? Read the Evidence He Collected Yourself, August 3, 2011
• Elroy Phillips Dug Up Evidence From Prison, but He Still Might Not Get a Chance to Prove His Innocence, August 4, 2011
• Elroy Phillips, in Jail on a Charge He Says He Can Prove Is Bogus, Will Get Day in Court, September 21, 2011
• "In This Place, Everybody Is Hopeless," Says Prisoner With Evidence to Prove He's Not Guilty, August 3, 2011
Eric Barton is editor of New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Email him here, or click here to follow him on Facebook.
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