Recording Catches Another Cop Lying

Recording Catches Another Cop Lying April 2, 2012

Here’s yet another example of why the police should be recorded whenever they interact with the public on the job — because they so often lie on reports and claim that the person whose rights they abused had done something to deserve it. This one is from Florida, where they stopped to help a woman parked at the side of the road, who needed a tow. Things turned ugly while the woman was on the phone talking to Geico, and the company had recorded the whole conversation. The recording, unsurprisingly, shows that not only did the cops lie, they said out loud that they were going to lie on their reports.

According to police reports and the officers’ sworn depositions, Mait told Fernandes and later Stasnek, who arrived as backup, that she was on Xanax, and that she couldn’t move the car out of traffic — but that she did want to drive it the two miles to her home.

Before Stasnek pulled up, Fernandes told Mait to call for a tow, which she did from her passenger seat. But as she waited for a GEICO roadside assistance representative to dispatch a wrecker, things unraveled.

When Stasnek, a four-year member of the force with a clean prior record, approached Mait’s SUV, she repeatedly asked for a driver’s license, the tape shows. Mait refused. In her deposition, Stasnek said she warned the driver repeatedly she “would be disobeying my lawful command and would be arrested for resisting my lawful command.”

At some point, Mait put a hand in the officer’s face to dismiss the request, according to police accounts, which was apparently one insult too many.

The officers hauled her out of her car and tried to arrest her, which they claim she resisted by tensing her body and slamming into Stasnek…

Mait spent a night in jail, charged with felony obstruction and — because officers believed she was impaired by drugs — DUI. The latter charge was dropped when a toxicology test came back positive for only Wellbutrin, a widely used antidepressant, and prosecutors ultimately decided to reduce the resisting charge to a misdemeanor.

And then the tape emerged.

The 17-minute recording features a series of exchanges that Catalano says contradict the officers’ sworn testimony, including this back-and-forth between Mait and Stasnek after the female officer asked for ID:

Mait: “Did you not see me on the phone?”

Stasnek: “Did you not see this uniform I have on? Don’t give me any s— right now. Give me your f—ing driver’s license.”

During her deposition, Stasnek was asked by Catalano — who did not tell the officers the encounter had been recorded — if she had used those words. She twice said no.

Catalano also pressed both officers under oath on whether Stasnek had given Mait notice that the driver was disobeying a lawful command. Both officers testified she had — at least twice. The recording catches no such exchange, although it is possible she did during a short stretch when GEICO had Mait on hold.

Late in the recording, while Mait can be heard sobbing in the distance, the officers say the following:

Fernandes: “I didn’t hear anything you said. I was in the back of the car.”

Stasnek: “I did drop the F-bomb.”

Fernandes, laughing: “I didn’t hear that. In my [internal affairs] statement, I’ll say I didn’t hear that. … Don’t worry, I will put everything I heard beforehand.”

The prosecutor has dropped charges against the woman and is now supposedly investigating the officers for filing false reports. Call me cynical, but I’d bet against any such charges. They’ll get a slap on the wrist, most likely, if they are held accountable at all. But I’d love to be wrong about that.

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  • Gregory in Seattle

    A neighbor of mine is running for the Washington legislature. One of his planks is clarifying state law to specifically permit audio recordings of police interactions: as the law is currently interpreted, both Mait and Geico violated the “two party consent” law, which makes it a crime to record in-person conversations unless all parties to the communication consent. The law specifies that violations is a gross misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both; violations are also subject to civil prosecution. In Washington, the law is routinely used to prosecute people who record their own conversations with the police.

  • Tualha

    I see a market opportunity for someone to manufacture tamperproof digital recorders that digitally sign their recordings, for use by both the police and citizens.

  • jayhawk


    But here there was no intent to record the conversation; in fact she may not even know the conversation was being recorded while it was happening. The police officer was recorded because she interrupted the phone call and did not give the person a chance to end the call before beginning the abuse.

    Now if the state requires consent of parties, the tape probably could be excluded from evidence, but I do not think anyone could be prosecuted because the police officer prevents any action to stop the recording. In effect, she did allow the woman to end the phone call.

    That is how I would defend my Client!

  • jayhawk

    Oh yeah,

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk

    Go KU!!!!!

  • So is there any way for her (or someone in a similar situation) to sue for wrongful arrest? Or to sue the officers personally? It seems like if there was a way to hold the officers directly accountable for their actions we would see fewer incidents like these.