Las Vegas police Detective Bryan Yant is under investigation for apparently lying about drugs he didn't seize and actions he didn't take during a 2009 police raid that never happened, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.
Yant, a 10-year veteran of the department who remains on paid leave, last week was cleared by a coroner's inquest in the fatal shooting of Trevon Cole, 21, while serving a drug warrant in June. In seeking the search warrant, Yant made gross misstatements about Cole's criminal history.
The department's internal affairs unit is investigating that case and is questioning Yant's actions in at least one other drug probe.
In January, Yant and fellow officer David Goris said they sat in a car outside a northwest valley home while a confidential informant bought drugs from a man they identified as William Sigler. That alleged drug buy was used to justify a nighttime search of Sigler's home 12 days later. Police arrested Sigler and his girlfriend and seized prescription drugs, marijuana and cocaine from the home.
But Sigler's attorneys and prosecutors now agree that the informant did not buy drugs from Sigler, who was dealing cards at a poker tournament in the Bahamas in January.
Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure threw out the case last week. Clark County District Attorney David Roger still can seek an indictment by a grand jury, but he said Wednesday he has not decided whether he will do so.
Investigators also question why Yant tore up and left three documents at Sigler's home during the January raid. In those documents, obtained by the Review-Journal, Yant describes a different raid of Sigler's home, one that never took place.
Yant, in a "declaration of arrest" form, describes detaining suspects and photographing evidence at the Sigler home. The form is dated December 2009, but the day of the month is left blank. He also filled out and signed a "preliminary field test checklist" affirming that evidence seized in that nonexistent raid was positive for cocaine but did not list an amount or the specific date.
It's unclear why Yant filled out paperwork describing events that never happened.
Deputy Chief Joseph Lombardo, who oversees the department's narcotics section, said the documents pertain to a prior case that went nowhere.
Yant in December said he used department money to buy drugs from Sigler and obtained a search warrant for Sigler's home, Lombardo said. But Lombardo confirmed that no search was conducted in December, and it's unclear why the search warrant signed by Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman was never executed.
No December drug buy plays any role in any case against Sigler.
Yant never should have completed paperwork in advance of an anticipated raid, Lombardo said, and leaving those papers in Sigler's home a month later was "inappropriate."
Yant's certification that he had seized cocaine before a raid that never even happened raises "serious questions," said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
He said Yant's completion of the form without having the drugs in his possession in particular went "beyond mere laziness and sloppiness. It goes to a process that is totally phony.''
Sigler's attorneys, John Wright and Jason Weiner, said their client found the torn-up papers in his home after the January raid and pieced them back together. They said that when they asked prosecutors for copies of the department's marked bills and inventory of drugs bought in January, they inexplicably received only Yant's paperwork from December.
Weiner said that if the informant really did buy drugs in January, there should be a paper trail. Roger said that his office never received that information from detectives and that his case is based only on the evidence allegedly seized in the January raid.
Sigler's attorneys challenged that evidence, saying it was obtained through a flawed warrant.
"The money had to go out of Metro and the drugs had to come in, and there is no record of that happening by Metro despite our repeated requests," Weiner said, adding that, "The bottom line is, our guy was in the Bahamas."
Lombardo said the department does have records of drugs bought in January. It's unclear why the records were never given to prosecutors or the defense.
In the Trevon Cole case, Yant in a search warrant affidavit confused Cole, a small-time marijuana dealer, with a man by the same name who had a long history of drug arrests in Houston and California though that man is described as seven years older, at least 3 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter. Yant and his supervisor, Sgt. John Harney, who is also on paid leave, are under investigation for the way that search warrant was carried out. Goris' duty status was unclear Wednesday.
The investigations are part of the fallout from police work that district attorneys at last week's inquest described as "sloppy."
After the Cole shooting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie ordered narcotics detectives to stop serving their own forced-entry search warrants, leaving them for SWAT officers. After the inquest, he extended that order to cover all raids pending a departmental policy review.
In what officials call an unrelated move, the captain overseeing narcotics, Capt. Brett Zimmerman, was recently transferred to the crimes against youth and family bureau, and that bureau's Capt. Vincent Cannito was sent to narcotics.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.