Pennsylvania State Police official’s probe could be criminal

Published: Saturday, January 08, 2011, 8:21 PM

PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania state police internal affairs investigator’s “serious” and “intentional” omissions on a search warrant affidavit could be evidence of “criminal culpability” and a “vendetta” against the internal affairs boss he has replaced, a prosecutor said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Francis Chardo told state police in the August letter that he declined to file criminal charges against Sgt. Keith Jones. But he told the AP there’s “a reasonable inference from all the evidence” that Jones meant to mislead the judge who issued the search warrant.

“Governance is about choosing. If there’s a problem with removing a problem officer, that can sometimes be more easily remedied through the disciplinary process than prosecuting an officer criminally,” he said.

The state police won’t say whether Jones was ever disciplined internally and, despite Chardo’s conclusions, Jones remains on “full duty status” in internal affairs and is now “acting” commander of the western internal affairs office near Pittsburgh. He has replaced Lt. Jeffrey Shaw, the target of the internal investigation and the search warrant and Jones’ former boss. Though still a sergeant, Jones is drawing lieutenant’s pay in his new position, spokeswoman Lt. Myra Taylor said.

Chardo’s letter concerns allegations in a civil rights lawsuit Shaw filed last year claiming Capt. Willard Oliphant, head of the state police Internal Affairs Division, ordered Jones to investigate him — which Shaw alleges violated policy because Shaw was still Jones’ boss.

Jones told the AP he’s unable to comment because Chardo’s letter relates to Shaw’s lawsuit and a related whistle-blower suit filed last year by retired Sgt. Cheryl Amodei-Mascara.

Shaw’s lawsuit contends he was on restricted duty for most of 2009, removed as western internal affairs chief, then finally fired in May 2010 for his handling of a complaint against a since-retired Uniontown barracks commander. Shaw was rehired June 9, before his union grievance was heard, but remains on restricted duty outside of internal affairs.

[Snip]

Chardo also said Maj. Charles Skurkis, commander of the state police Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards, and internal affairs head Oliphant could be accomplices if they “knew of the unlawfulness of the search warrant application” — which Shaw alleges they did.

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