Due to the Week Online's absence the last two weeks while we were organizing and attending the Out from the Shadows conference, this week we have two winners in the Corrupt Cop of the Week Competition. The first winner is the Lawrence, KS, Police Department's star drug cop Officer Stuart "Mike" Peck. Peck was named Officer of the Year last year by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and is well-known among local defense attorneys for his role in numerous drug busts in recent years. But he was slapped down last week by Douglas County District Court Judge Michael Malone, who found that Peck lied about informants in order to obtain search warrants in drug cases.
Now Peck has been suspended from duty pending further investigation, and local prosecutors are starting to drop cases in which he was involved. "As far as we're concerned, this officer is not available to testify on criminal cases at this time," District Attorney Christine Kenney told the Lawrence Journal-World on January 28. "More than a dozen" cases will be dismissed, said Kenney, adding that the situation was "unfortunate" and would "cause a lot of hardship" -- presumably for prosecutors, not defendants.
Peck's methods aroused the Judge Malone's ire after Peck assured the judge that the credibility of an informant he used in an affidavit to obtain a search warrant was "unquestioned," when the informant actually had a lengthy felony criminal history and was -- gasp -- a known drug user. Peck's testimony led to the court approving a November 3, 2001 search warrant against local resident James D. Hawkins. On January 24, Judge Malone suppressed the evidence -- including marijuana, cocaine and paraphernalia -- seized from Hawkins' home, saying he had no choice because Peck had lied.
In seeking the 2001 warrant, Peck assured the court that the anonymous informant was "credible" and that his criminal record included only a few "traffic-type things, driving on a suspended license... a lot of domestic-type things. A lot of failure to appears or failure to complies. There was a theft." But Judge Malone later found out that the informant had three drunk-driving convictions, two felony theft convictions, a forgery conviction and a bad check conviction. Malone also found that Peck had engineered the dismissal of speeding tickets and a domestic violence charge for the informant, and had failed to arrest him when he was found with marijuana during another traffic stop.
Defense attorneys were cheered by the ruling. "As chairman of the Douglas County Criminal Defense Bar Association, I can assure you that, as a group, we've been concerned about Officer Peck's work for quite some time," said attorney Jonathan Becker. "But for now, it appears that Officer Peck quite clearly crossed the line. You don't lie in an affidavit that's submitted to the court," Becker said. "That's a very, very big deal."