A Las Vegas cop was fired even though his case for arson and insurance fraud ended in a mistrial after video evidence mysteriously became “corrupted,” so it was withheld from the judge and jury.
Firefighters responded to a burning RV in the middle of Tecopa Highway on January 9, 2016, and fire investigators quickly determined that it was intentionally lit on fire, reported Fox 5 Vegas.
Officer Jeff Harper arrived and spoke to Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper McElroy, who was next to his patrol vehicle managing traffic, and the dash camera was recording.
“I think you definitely have reason to be suspicious,” McElroy told a fire investigator.
The Clark County Fire Department stated it had enough evidence to prove Harper intentionally lit his own RV on fire with gasoline and a roll of papers used as a “wick” for igniting the flames.
Investigators also caught Harper lying to his insurance company, trying to get a bigger settlement.
Fox 5 reported on the strange circumstances around the video, which the defense attorney believes was intentionally withheld:
The NHP trooper’s dash camera footage was given to CCFD and LVMPD. At that point, investigators learned that the segment of the video in which Harper arrives went “missing.”
“It wouldn’t play and (Trooper McElroy) didn’t know why,” investigator Michael Doughty testified.
As a result, the lead investigator on the case decided not to turn over the evidence because a portion of it was “corrupted.”
“I did not feel like it had any evidentiary value,” lead investigator Denell Hoggard testified.
“Okay, and why? Why is that?” asked defense attorney Andrew Leavitt.
Hoggard stumbled with her words.
“I don’t — have an answer for it really. I — I — uh — me not turning it over? It was an error. I did not do it intentionally,” she said.
“So if you had to do it over again?” Leavitt asked.
“Absolutely. I would totally turn it over,” Hoggard replied. “It wasn’t anything nefarious. It wasn’t anything calculated. It was just an error.”
“You indicated that you wanted to make sure that you dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s,” Leavitt asked.
“Yes,” Hoggard said. “It was an oversight, sir.”
“I can’t think of a piece of evidence in this whole case that would have more evidentiary value,” Leavitt later argued.
Prosecutors with the Attorney General’s office took the stand and said they were blinded by Hoggard and that they were told there was absolutely nothing on video.
Judge Douglas Herndon said he was “dumbfounded” by Hoggard’s ignorance.
“I just can’t fathom how that can happen to somebody trained to do these kinds of investigations,” Herndon said. “I’ve never had a case before, either as an attorney or a judge, that’s involved multiple agencies that seemed to have dropped the ball.”
“It was intentionally withheld, in my opinion, there’s just no excuse for it,” Leavitt argued. “It’s not a misrepresentation. It’s not a mistake. Somebody is flat out lying in this case.”
Hoggard retired shortly after the Harper’s crimes and now works in real estate. She faces no repercussions for what she did.
Harper was fired on Jan. 11, with no reason given from the PD, so he will probably end up at a different police department before long.