Riverfront Times — April 9, 2015
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Hide and Seek

In most small-quantity weed busts, it’s normal for the defendant to plead guilty, pay a fine and move on. Case closed.

However, Patrick M. Luchtefeld, a 32-yearold Trenton, Illinois, resident, believed that Highland police officer Charles Allen improperly arrested him for marijuana possession back in September. Today, because authorities bungled the handling of the arrest video, Luchtefeld is a free man.

Allen pulled over the 1992 blue Honda Luchtefeld was riding in for a having a loud muffler and no rear registration light.Luchtefeld claims that Allen berated him for his piercings and tattoos.

“This officer, he straight tells me, ‘You’ve been a piece of shit your whole life, why don’t you just take the hit?’” he says. “I do have a lot of tattoos, some facial piercings, and this cop seemed more like a farm boy. In the interrogation he asked me, ‘What are you doing around here?’”

The officer allegedly found a small baggy of weed near the car’s passenger seat and charged Luchtefeld, who was not driving, with possessing between 2.5 and 10 grams of marijuana.

Luchtefeld didn’t take the charge lying down. He got a lawyer and filed a request under Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the dash-cam footage of the arrest. He received four Cds containing the video several days later.

During the trial last month, Madison County prosecutors revealed they had no idea that a recording of the arrest even existed.Even stranger, Allen testified that his patrol car’s camera equipment was malfunctioning and there was no tape.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, after Allen gave testimony, Luchtefeld whispered to his lawyer, Thomas Maag, that the officer was wrong and that he actually had the recordings. By law, a defense lawyer in Maag’s position should have had been given the footage. It shows the officer questioning Luchtefeld near the rear of the vehicle, searching near the passenger seat, and then arresting Luchtefeld.

After hearing about the missing and then suddenly found tape, associate Judge David Grounds dismissed the charge against Luchtefeld, citing the case’s “disturbing” circumstances.

“The very existence of a video appears to have been kept from the State’s Attorney’s Office,” Grounds said in his ruling, according to the BND. “For what reason? Oversight? I don’t know. Because the State’s Attorney’s Office had no knowledge of such video, it was not produced in discovery, as requested by [defense counsel].”

Although the acquittal cannot be appealed, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons voiced his disagreement with the judge’s ruling, insisting that Luchtefeld and his lawyer had all the evidence they needed.

“He did have the videos,” Gibbons told the newspaper. “He had more of the evidence than we did.”

“My lawyer made that cop look like an idiot on the stand,” says Luchtefeld, an airplane mechanic. “It’s embarrassing on them. I guess they forgot that they gave [the recording] to me.”

He denies that he ever had drugs in the car.

“There’s a reason they didn’t give the video to the State’s Attorney,” says Luchtefeld.

At the moment, Luchtefeld is weighing his options. He says he wants to sue but doesn’t have the money to pay legal costs.

“[The police] do what they want to keep themselves out of trouble, and it’s bogus if you ask me,” he says. “If they don’t like you or they don’t want you in their town, they’ll do whatever they want.”

Gibbons tells Daily RFT that the the dashcam footage was, at least initially, saved in the Highland Police Department computer system. Things went haywire, he says, when a staff member transferred the files from the department’s normal evidentiary system to the separate system that holds files requested under the state’s FOIA law.

According to Gibbons, the entire situation was basically a bureaucratic screw-up, and he maintains the the dash-cam recordings were misplaced, not intentionally hidden. He says officers are not responsible for transferring their own dash-cam footage to their departments’ computer systems.

“This is really unique, I’ve never seen something like this,” Gibbons says. “The officer wasn’t disguising or hiding anything, it just got taken and put somewhere else.”



It was the early morning of November 21 when Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, two members of the St. Louis chapter of the New Black Panther Party, allegedly bought what they believed were three pipe bombs, according to court documents.

Unbeknownst to Baldwin and Davis, both 22 years old, the contact who arranged the sale was an undercover agent. The two men were arrested later that same day on weapons charges stemming from a different plot — buying three pistols from the Cabela’s in Hazelwood and giving them to an unnamed felon.

Citing anonymous sources, local and national media trumpeted headlines about the attempted pipe-bomb purchases. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Baldwin and Davis planned to blow up the Arch and assassinate St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch and then-Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson. At the time, law-enforcement officials refused to confirm or comment on the alleged bomb or assassination plans.

We now know that the multiple federal and local law-enforcement agencies did in fact engineer a sting operation on Baldwin and Davis. A federal indictment filed April 1 formally accused the men of trying to buy the explosives and use them to “damage and destroy, by means of explosives, a building, vehicle and other property.”

While the indictment doesn’t list specific targets, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Richard Callahan tells Daily RFT that Baldwin and Davis posed a clear danger to public safety.

“I have not commented on, or will even discuss, the many different targets that these individuals considered or voiced at one time or another. A lot of their ideas were totally unrealistic and impractical, and we didn’t include [in the indictment] all the things they rambled on about, to not sensationalize the case or make it more than it is,” he says. “That being said, the disruption of this plot...without a doubt, this saved some lives. Probably some protester lives and some law-enforcement lives.”

The investigation against Davis and Baldwin pulled resources from the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, and St. Louis County and city police departments.

According to the indictment, during the first week of November both Davis and Baldwin told an undercover agent that they wanted to buy explosives.

Several days later, on November 12, Callahan says the agent showed Davis a video of what appeared to be a bomb detonation, a demonstration of what kind of explosives were available for purchase.

Baldwin allegedly told the agent, “We need ’em, we need ’em.” Baldwin, Davis and the undercover agent made contact again, and the two would-be bombers repeatedly stated they were interested in buying the explosives, court documents say.

On November 18, the indictment continues, Davis paid a deposit on the supposed pipe bombs and told the agent, “I need it ASAP, brother. I need that motherfucker ASAP.”

The timing of the November 21 arrests was significant, says Callahan. It was the same day many officials expected a grand jury to finally announce its decision on whether to file charges against then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. At the time, Callahan says, the the possibility of violence breaking out in Ferguson made it all the more vital to quickly get Baldwin and Davis into custody.

“No matter what happened, we were going to take them off the street just for public safety,” he says. Baldwin and Davis have been jailed since their arrest.

Messages left with the St. Louis and national chapters of the New Black Panther Party were not returned. After the initial arrest, Chawn Kweli, the NBPP’s national chief of staff, posted to Facebook that the weapons charges were a “BOLD FACED LIE and FRAME UP,” though he added that if the allegations against Baldwin and Davis proved true they “would be expelled from our ranks and membership terminated into perpetuity.”