Lawsuit accuses Boulder City police of altering dashcam recording

Updated June 5, 2017 - 6:07 pm

John Hunt was cited in Boulder City last year for failing to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk, and the ripple effect of that simple traffic ticket has spurred a series of accusations against the local Police Department.

The accusations include claims that police made a wrongful arrest, used excessive force, falsified a police report and altered a dashboard camera recording before turning it over to a defense lawyer. They were detailed in a federal lawsuit the 29-year-old Hunt filed last week against Boulder City, the Police Department and Sgt. John Glenn, the former interim police chief, who arrested Hunt after the traffic stop on multiple misdemeanor charges that were subsequently dropped.

The saga started in June 2016, when police set up a pedestrian crosswalk enforcement sting. The sting involved the use of a pedestrian decoy who would cross the street in plainclothes while officers positioned themselves to ticket motorists who did not yield.

Hunt was one of the motorists nabbed. He claims in his lawsuit that after he received the citation, he decided to protest the sting.

According to the filing, Hunt took issue with the Police Department’s approach because he believed the pedestrian started crossing the street too late to give motorists adequate time to slow down and stop. So Hunt decided to cross the street ahead of the pedestrian decoy in an effort to give approaching motorists fair warning, the lawsuit states.

Hunt crossed the street three times and was arrested as a result.

Two officers “and/or Glenn physically seized Hunt, and attempted to force Hunt to the ground without any verbal instruction. … One of the officers seized Hunt’s neck between his body and crook of his elbow in a choke hold or headlock,” Hunt’s attorneys, David Blake and Stephen Stubbs, wrote in the civil complaint filed Tuesday.

At the time, Glenn had just stepped down as interim chief and was second-in-command of the Police Department.

The Boulder City Police Department referred all questions to the city attorney, Dave Olsen. Olsen did not return a voice mail message left Thursday requesting comment.

Perjury accusations

Glenn arrested Hunt on suspicion of failure to yield or exercise due care to a pedestrian and resisting a public officer. The police report included a sworn statement from Glenn, who said Hunt crossed without checking for traffic and caused one of the drivers to slam on the brakes and skid to a stop.

“Surveillance footage demonstrates the falsity of this statement,” attorneys wrote in the complaint, accusing the sergeant of perjuring himself. Surveillance footage posted online and provided to the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows vehicles decelerating as they approach the crosswalk and stopping to let Hunt pass.

The first misdemeanor count alleged that Hunt “walked or ran into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is nearly impossible for the driver to yield.” In the second, authorities said he “failed to listen to the officer, pulled away from the officer, and then pushed back.”

A week after the arrest, Boulder City moved to dismiss both counts.

Altered audio

The story might have ended there. But during the brief prosecution, the city provided Hunt with an audio recording of his arrest that, according to the civil complaint, differed from what Hunt remembered about the day he was arrested.

“Hunt’s recollection of his interactions with Glenn and other police officers was different from what the audio records demonstrated,” the lawsuit states. Hunt and his legal team sent the recording to two forensic audio analysts, and both determined that the recording was not authentic.

“Selective editing of certain areas did occur in my opinion,” forensic audio expert Arlo West wrote in one of the reports provided to the Review-Journal. “Dialog was removed, and the edits were masked by re-recording (of) the audio.”

West is the president of Creative Forensic Services, a Maine-based forensic analysis lab for audio, video and imagery. His biography states that he has been retained by both prosecution and defense teams in hundreds of cases, including some high-profile investigations, such as the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

The expert highlighted several locations in the dashcam audio at which voices can be heard that may be unrelated to the case. He postulated that the voices were accidentally recorded during a re-recording of the original audio.

“I can say to a high degree of certainty that it is not authentic, original or accurate,” West said in concluding his analysis. “It is, in fact, a copy of a re-recording. The original recording was redacted, re-recorded, paired with video and then burned to a DVD and presented as authentic.”

West also noted that the recording was provided to him in a different format than is customary for audio evidence in a court case.

“All municipal police departments have mechanisms in place to safeguard recorded evidence such as this. … This type of evidence usually comes on a disc with included proprietary software,” he wrote. “This was not the case in the John Glenn DVD.”

Hunt sued Glenn and the Police Department, alleging violation of free speech and due process rights, unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, malicious prosecution, false arrest, assault and battery and negligence.

He is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the nature of attorney Stephen Stubbs’ prior conviction.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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