Judge: Internal police probes private - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:22 am
Judge: Internal police probes private

Add internal affairs investigators to the list of people — priests, spouses, lawyers — you can talk to without fear that your words will be used against you in court.

Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty ruled that a man who was kicked and gang tackled by officers will not be able to refer in court to the Omaha Police Department's internal affairs investigation into the controversial arrest.

Robert Wagner — whose violent takedown prompted the firing of two police officers — has no plans to appeal the judge's decision, his attorney said.

Rather, Wagner, 36, is anxious to show that he did not hit anyone before the officers gang tackled him, attorney Glenn Shapiro said.

"Robert wants his day in court," Shapiro said.

He may get a week in court. His trial on charges he assaulted a police officer is scheduled to begin Monday and could last most of the week, attorneys say.

In May, Wagner had gone to Creighton University Medical Center after learning that his cousin, Jimmy Levering, had been shot and fatally wounded.

As he left the hospital, Wagner got into a verbal confrontation with officers outside Creighton University Medical Center.

A surveillance videotape never showed Wagner hitting an officer; prosecutors allege that happened off-camera.

Videotape did show Wagner recoil from officers, then get tackled, kicked numerous times and stunned with a Taser.

Shapiro said Wagner exchanged words with the officers but never threw a punch.

The attorney had hoped to compare officers' testimony at trial to their statements to internal affairs investigators probing Wagner's arrest. Then-Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes fired Officers Jackie Dolinsky and Aaron Pennington after reviewing videotape of the melee.

Interim Omaha Police Chief David Baker and Deputy City Attorney Tom Mumgaard objected to Shapiro's attempt to use any part of the internal affairs investigation. Mumgaard argued that state law guards the privacy of statements made in internal investigations.

Opening such files to court scrutiny would jeopardize the department's ability to investigate and improve itself, Mumgaard said.

The judge agreed. Dougherty ruled that state law guards certain communications "when the public interest would suffer by the disclosure." Internal affairs documents are among those cases, Dougherty said.

The judge said Shapiro has other means to evaluate a witness's veracity: namely, by taking a witness's deposition before trial.

Mumgaard said the ruling was important to guard the integrity of the process. Citizens who make complaints to internal affairs investigators should be able to do so without fear that their comments may be disclosed.

Internal affairs "isn't there to cover things up or keep things secret," he said. "It's not there to protect the police. It's there to improve the department and serve the public interest."

Contact the writer:

402-444-1275, todd.cooper@owh.com

Contact the writer: Todd Cooper

todd.cooper@owh.com    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Omaha police investigate two Sunday shootings
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Explosion near 29th, Woolworth damages vehicles
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »