Two individuals, one of them a police officer in Huntsville, Alabama, conspired to pay another police officer $5,000 if that officer would claim a vehicle search he conducted, which resulted in drug-trafficking charges against the driver, was unlawful, thereby making the criminal case against the driver go away.
The driver of the vehicle was on supervised release following a 15-year prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He was pulled over on a traffic stop in July 2014. The officer searched the passenger compartment of the vehicle, found about three ounces of cocaine and took the driver into custody on a charge of trafficking cocaine.
The other officer, Lewis Bernard Hall, 45, admitted in a plea deal that he and another man talked about offering the officer who made the arrest a bribe to tell other law enforcement officers that his search of the vehicle was unlawful.
Hall first offered the bribe to the officer then paid him $1,000 a few days later. In two follow-up conversations they discussed what the officer was supposed to say when asked about the search of the vehicle, the indictment says.
The Huntsville officer who conducted the vehicle search subsequently assisted in the investigation of Hall.
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Deputy Indicted for Rights Violations, Obstruction
Michael J. Ronga 43, of Cape Coral, Florida, has been charged with deprivation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the civil rights charge and up to 20 years in federal prison for the obstruction of justice charge.
The indictment says that on May 5, 2013, while working as a deputy sheriff with the Lee County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office, Ronga assaulted a man causing bodily injury, and also took money and a cell phone from him. Ronga also allegedly lied to law enforcement about his interactions with the man on that day.
An indictment is a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of criminal law. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.