The Corrupt DUI Investigation of a New Port Richey Detective

On Wednesday, I was combing through records for the one-and-only Intoxilyzer 8000 breathalyzer that belongs to the New Port Richey Police Department (NPRPD). The Serial Number of the breath test machine is 80-001064. As I was scrolling through the pages of breath test readings on the FDLE website, I came across a startling discovery – one of the NPRPD agency inspectors gave a breath test to another NPRPD agency inspector during the early morning hours of April 10, 2015. And the second agency inspector, Detective Christopher Denton, blew a .161 and a .151.

I found that particularly interesting since I had both of the agency inspectors under subpoena for a hearing a few days later. The hearing was concerning the lack of substantial compliance for that breath test machine. Were they conducting some kind of highly unusual experiment testing out the machine?

I knew better because a few weeks before that I had learned that Christopher Denton, a Detective in the Criminal Investigations Unit, had been “involuntarily separated” from the NPRPD and a review and grievance request was pending. But no other information was provided to me.

I had already requested the Internal Affairs record from the State Attorney’s Office and the agency – and I was still waiting. But when I saw that breath test reading, I knew the reason that Detective Denton had been separated from his job.

The DUI Cover Up and the Reveal

Only another DUI attorney can appreciate the irony of an agency inspector blowing over the legal limit on the Intoxilyzer 8000 that he maintains.

But anyone can appreciate the problem with a detective (and more specifically, a traffic homicide investigator) allegedly driving his agency vehicle to a traffic homicide investigation while impaired by alcohol. The deceased victim is still lying in the roadway. The other officers have to stop what they are doing and deal with an allegedly impaired detective who should know better.

And how do they deal with it? It doesn’t appear anyone requested field sobriety exercises, video taped the investigation or conducted a proper interrogation to get his side of the story. All they did was obtain a breath test – and the results could not be denied. At least the results could not be denied without a lot of embarrassment since the one blowing also had the task of maintaining the breathalyzer.

That is not even the worse part. What is far worse is what happens next. These officers participated in a cover up during those early morning hours. The alleged drunk driver got a free ride home instead of a night in lock up.

Official Findings Concerning the Administrative Review of Detective Christopher Denton

The New Port Richey Police Department just e-mailed me the memorandum that was dated today, May 22, 2015. It details the official findings concerning the administrative review of Detective Christopher Denton for an incident that occurred on April 10, 2015.

The thing that will be most interesting to criminal defense attorneys in New Port Richey with cases pending with Detective Christopher Denton is what he said. He said he only had one mixed drink and that he had the drink more than three and a half hours before. So either those statements were false or the breath test machine that he was in charge of maintaining was returning a dramatically exaggerated reading. If Christopher Denton was telling the truth – then it is clear that the machine doesn’t work.

These issues are ignored in the memorandum. Instead, it makes much less interesting findings. The memorandum concludes that Detective Christopher Denton violated D-1 Code of Conduct, IV. Prohibited Acts, Section 21, by reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol or drugs to any degree. He was also found in violation of Section 22 by being unfit for duty or having the odor of alcoholic beverages on his breath when reporting for duty.

The “official findings” left out anything about the following issues:

  • whether he was DUI and his fellow officers covered up this fact even after he blew more than double the legal limit; or
  • whether he drove from Tampa (or maybe his home in Wesley Chapel) to a traffic homicide investigation in New Port Richey in a NPRPD vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; or
  • whether he blew a .161 and .151 on the same Intoxilyzer 8000 breathalyzer that he was responsible for maintaining as an agency inspector for the NPRPD; or
  • whether he gave truthful statements when he reported drinking only one mixed drink hours before despite the breath test reading.

Amazingly, the memorandum ends with the Police Chief Kim Bogart accepting Denton’s resignation in lieu of termination. Showing up to work after having consumed a small amount of alcohol is one thing, but driving drunk to a traffic homicide investigation is quite another. The memorandum doesn’t seem to correspond with any of the evidence contained in the other documents attached to the memorandum.

As the top law enforcement officer for the City of New Port Richey, Kim Bogart, somehow ignored all of the other documents attached to the memorandum. He somehow missed the evidence of a moral-character violation.

More importantly, he ignored the fact that his officers gave Denton a free ride home instead of the required 8 hours in a jail cell. A blind eye was turned. The blue wall of silence is intact. Just ignore the other stuff. Move along, nothing to see here.

Allowing Resignation in Lieu of Termination

The letter of resignation, dated May 14, 2015, shows that Christopher Denton was allowed to resign in lieu of termination. Under this agreement, the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJSTC) Form 61, Affidavit of Separation, will designate a disposition in Box 7.E of “voluntary separation or retirement in lieu of termination for violation of agency or training school policy not involving moral character violation…”

That finding made it possible to avoid any showing that a moral-character violation occurred and the corresponding requirement of submitting a CJSTC Form 61A, Affidavit of Separation Supplement. The supplement is not required because the “resignation” is not for any violation of Florida Statute section 943.13(4) or Florida Administrative Code, Rule 11B-27.0011.

Additionally, the NPRPD’s CJSTC Form 78, Internal Investigation Report does not denote any violation of Florida Statute section 943.13(4) or 943.13(7) or a violation of Florida Administrative Code, Rule 11B-27.0011 because no moral-character violation was alleged.

Under the facts contained in the rest of the report – how does an officer escape a moral-character violation finding? Does that mean the breathalyzer can’t be trusted. Why was it ignored exactly? Taking an administrative breath test might be proper if the person were not also DUI. But when several officers saw Christopher Denton driving and sitting behind the wheel at the scene, there is no ethical way to avoid a criminal investigation.

Formal Grievance Filed on Behalf of Detective Christopher Denton

The formal grievance from the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) was filed on behalf of Christopher Denton on April 20, 2015, just 10 days after the incident. The PBA suggested a “compromise solution” that would allow Christopher Denton an opportunity to find employment with another law enforcement agency.

The PBA formal grievance noted that Chief Bogard had disregarded the fact that:

  • no damage had been done;
  • no one outside the Police Department for the City of New Port Richey has observed Denton’s behavior; and
  • the Department created the situation by calling Denton out to a crash scene;
  • Denton initially attempted to refrain from responding by noting it was not his week to be on call, but that the Supervisor told him to respond anyway in reference to a crash; and
  • Denton was intoxicated at the time and perhaps unable to make a better decision than to respond to a directive.

The formal grievance asked for the Chief to give Christopher Denton the opportunity to resign immediately instead of terminating his employment. The PBA noted that allowing the resignation would allow Christopher Denton to seek employment with Law Enforcement elsewhere.

Memorandum From Lieutenant Steven Kostas

In a memorandum from Lieutenant Steven Kostas to Chief Kim Bogart, the Lieutenant details his involvement in the investigation (or lack thereof).

In the memo he discloses that he was called to the scene of a traffic homicide investigation at 0234 after learning that another officer thought Detective Denton had driven his agency vehicle to the scene while under the influence of alcohol. After arriving at the scene, Lieutenant Kostas noticed an odor of alcoholic beverages on Detective Denton’s breath, his speech was thick tongued, and he was swaying from side to side.

Although Lieutenant Kostas told Detective Denton that he “thought he was intoxicated,” Lieutenant Kostas made the decision not to conduct a DUI investigation and arrest Detective Denton for DUI. Instead, Detective Denton’s firearm was secured and he was asked to submit to an “administrative” breath test.

Officer Brett Schambach also participated in this scheme by administering that breath test without performing a criminal investigation. The first reading was .161 and the second reading was .151. At that time, Detective Denton was told he was placed on administrative leave until further notice, but he was not arrested. Instead, Sergeant Engel was instructed to transport Detective Denton home.

The three officers at the scene that interacted with Detective Denton were then asked to write memorandums detailing their actions and observations.

A copy of all of Denton’s radio transmissions were preserved from when he went into service at 0127 hours until his arrival at the scene at 0218. That 51 minute time period also goes along with the text message that Detective Denton send to Detective Sergeant Michael Anderson. That message read: “Called out at 1240am for THI [traffic homicide investigation]. Not on call, coming from TPA [Tampa]. Not my on call week WTF.”

Lieutenant Steven Kostas found that:

Detective Denton drove his department issued unmarked vehicle, while impaired, at least 26 miles from his home in Wesley Chapel to the crash scene in New Port Richey….  Detective Denton reported to duty while under the influence of alcohol…, Detective Denton had an odor of alcoholic beverages on his breath and provided a breath sample of .161 and .151…. Detective Denton’s actions compromised the efficiency of the department. An active traffic homicide investigation was underway with a deceased person lying in the road, road closures and power lines down…. Detective Denton’s actions reflected poorly on the Department which had a tendency to destroy public’s trust and confidence in our Department and himself.

So what was missing from that? Maybe that the officers gave Denton a free pass. They skipped the criminal investigation completely and hoped that no one would notice?

Conclusion

When a law enforcement officer commits a crime while on duty, that crime should be investigated. When probable cause exists for a DUI arrest, then an officer that allegedly commits a DUI should be arrested. If those are the standard operating procedures then the officers should apply them across the board.

Officers shouldn’t neglect conducting a DUI investigation just because a friend or fellow officer is involved in the crime. The fact that a DUI prosecution is embarrassing or inconvenient to the employer should not factor into the decision of whether to arrest a law enforcement officer for DUI while on duty.

In this case, it was obvious to the officers that a fellow officer was allegedly DUI. But these officers did nothing required by the situation and their own standard operating procedures.

The main difference when investigating a fellow officer is that a Garrity warning must be read instead of (or in addition to) a Miranda warning before an interrogation can take place. A DUI investigation can proceed even when an interrogation does not. It happens all the time and officers are training on how to conduct a DUI investigation and preserve evidence without an interrogation. But selectively enforcing a law and letting a fellow law enforcement officer break the law with no arrest (and a free ride home) is corrupt.

It is not the crime of DUI that will destroy the public’s trust and confidence in the New Port Richey Police Department, it is the cover up of that crime. The destruction of public trust occurs when the officers selectively enforce the law in a way that protects their own.

Christopher Denton DUI Text


Article Updated on May 23, 2015

For those that might be interested, we just uploaded three years worth of data on that breathalyzer 80-001064 obtained through a public records request to the New Port Richey Police Department. Click here to find the agency records for the Intoxilyzer 8000, Serial Number 80-001064. The records show that in 2014, the machine was sent out for repairs twice and was out of service for much of the year.

When it was in service in 2014, numerous problems were uncovered during monthly inspections including repeating tests more than once, missing forms that should have documented failed monthly agency inspections, controls outside of tolerance, pen and ink amendments without a date, problems with the Alcohol Free / Mouth Alcohol test, the failure to upload data properly, and the destruction of 6 weeks worth of COBRA data from late October through the middle of December. Christopher Denton performed the agency inspections in October and November when many of the most serious problems occurred.

Read more about DUI Attorneys for New Port Richey, FL.

One Comment

  1. bill
    Posted May 27, 2015 at 19:55 | Permalink | Reply

    I know all to well about Pasco county I grew up there. I remember the antics of judge Rasmussen one of the greediest and corrupt counties in Florida. I am surprised that Florida has not had a civil unrest like Baltimore. Florida has one of the worst legal systems in the nation corruption greed and politics at the core. I do not condone what has happen in Baltimore with peoples behavior. What they do not understand it is not all about cops but it starts at the top. With America at the top with the most people in prison we are far behind in justice reform starting with Florida.

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