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This is a six-month review of the most-read crime stories in Collier County on naplesnews.com from September 2018 to February 2019. Vonna Keomanyvong, vonna.keomanyvong@naplesnews.com; 239-213-5380

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A Marco Island police officer whose credibility is so tarnished that the local state attorney's office refuses to call him as a witness is facing termination due to his inability to perform the duties of the job.

A pre-determination hearing for Officer Tige Thompson was held Tuesday after originally being slated for March 22.

In a memo to Thompson dated March 18, Police Chief Al Schettino advised Thompson that he was tasked by City Manager David Harden to determine if his inability to testify rendered him unfit for duty. Upon reviewing Thompson's history and the qualifications of the position, Schettino recommended his disqualification.

"Unfortunately, your designation by the SAO as someone whose credibility is so compromised that its prosecutor's office refuses to use you has a witness for any of its cases has rendered you unable to fully and faithfully perform the duties of the position," Schettino wrote.

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Thompson's credibility as a witness has been in question since 2011 when he was found to have provided inconsistent and untruthful testimony in a DUI with property damage case that resulted in the state attorney's office having to drop the charges.

As a result, the state attorney's office placed Thompson on its do-not-subpoena list, sometimes referred to as a 'Brady list,' which tracks officers with a history of dishonesty or who can be impeached if called as a witness.

The "Brady List" stems from the Supreme Court's 1963 decision in the case Brady v. Maryland, which established that prosecutors were required to disclose any exculpatory evidence, including evidence that would impeach a witness.

On Nov. 25, 2013, Assistant State Attorney Richard Montecalvo sent a letter to then-Chief Don Hunter in which it was stated that "we can longer utilize Officer Thompson as a witness for the prosecution of criminal cases."

Montecalvo cited Thompson's dismissal from the Collier County Sheriff's Office as well as his testimony in the DUI case, where other police officers contradicted Thompson’s account.

Thompson was taken off patrol and reassigned to investigations briefly but returned to patrol in 2015 even though Montecalvo wrote that the State Attorney's Office's position remained unchanged.

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While the Marco Island Police Department initiated an internal affairs investigation into Thompson's conduct that found he violated three policies involving integrity, truthfulness and non-compliance with directives, it could not impose discipline due to the internal affairs case surpassing the 180-day window to impose discipline after misconduct is alleged.

Once the internal affairs investigation was complete, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also opened a perjury case into Thompson.

Perjury or making false statements are among the offenses that can result in suspension or revocation of credentialing due to violating the standards of professional compliance.

Despite Thompson’s false statements, FDLE "no caused" the perjury case last year.

In comments entered in its automated training management system, the investigator assigned to the case noted that evidence containing comments of the 911 caller reporting the alleged DUI could not be located and there was no GPS data to ascertain Thompson’s exact position. The FDLE case file also noted Thompson was not interviewed as part of the internal affairs investigation.

Since Thompson returned to patrol in 2015, records show he was involved in 12 felony, 30 misdemeanor and 67 criminal traffic cases, none of which have gone to trial.

With the exception of about one-third of cases avoiding prosecution due to a pretrial diversion or early intervention program, the remaining cases have primarily not been prosecuted due to insufficient evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Asked to explain why Thompson was on patrol despite his inclusion on the Brady List, Harden wrote in a Feb. 19 email to the Eagle that  "Chief Schettino removed him from investigations out of concern that every case he touched would be tainted. Chief Schettino placed Officer Thompson back in road patrol because, in his opinion, he did not  have anywhere else to place him."

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Reporting by the Eagle on Thompson's involvement in recent high profile cases, including one where the state attorney's office did not prosecute a man who barricaded himself in his home with a cache of weapons and allegedly made threats against officers, ultimately led to a reevaluation of this employment as well as the city placing Thompson on administrative leave last month.

"The Department has no control over the SAO's Brady List, but the SAO's determination has nevertheless fatally undermined your ability to perform your job," Schettino wrote. "The reason being, the SAO has stated that you cannot testify. By extension, an officer who cannot be counted on to testify also cannot be counted on to make arrests, investigate cases, or carry out any other police functions that might lead to being a witness."

After the meeting was held, Harden advised the Eagle that he would take several days to make his decision. Until that decision is made, Thompson will remain on administrative leave.

 

 

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