City Hall Stonewall on Councilwoman Pearce Hardens

By: 
Stephen Downing

Long Beach City Hall information surrounding the alleged DUI/domestic violence incident involving Councilwoman Pearce and her former Chief of Staff Devin Cotter, following their discovery in Pearce’s vehicle by the CHP at 2:35 a.m. on the morning of June 3, remains a dark hole 26 days later.

It is past time that the what, where, when and why of the behaviors between our elected official, her former chief of staff and enforcement decisions made by the LBPD’s executive suite be shared in full with the public they serve.

Councilwoman Pearce herself acknowledged the importance of this kind of openness by those who govern our city when she said “What is incredibly important to me, I have always championed transparency for members of elected office.”

A spot-on acknowledgement– and one that is demonstrably insincere in light of her unwillingness – and that of city hall– to fill in the gaps related to all the questions that are still floating unseen in the ether.

Rather than wait another month – or for city hall to follow its usual M.O. and wait until everything blows over and say nothing – I thought it would be beneficial to inspect what we’ve been told and ask the questions that are bubbling up from the holes from what has been offered thus far.

A key place to start is with the DUI allegations and to understand what the law and the police responsibility surrounding DUI enforcement means.

First the law:

“California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC. ("In any prosecution under this subdivision, it is a rebuttable presumption that the person had 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of driving the vehicle if the person had 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after the driving [this presumption exists despite the phenomenon of rising blood alcohol].")

Multiple sources have reported that Pearce was administered a preliminary alcohol screening (PAC) and it tested 0.06 percent. The LBPD has yet to acknowledge that a PAC was administered, stating only that its officers “did not find sufficient cause for arrest related to … driving under the influence,” and that after successfully completing a field sobriety test, Pearce, who admitted driving the vehicle, “was taken home by a friend.”

The LBPD did not say who (LBPD officers or the CHP) conducted the field sobriety test, where the test was conducted or when – within the timeline of the incident(s) – it was administered. Nor did they say who the friend was, where they met the friend or from what location the friend drove Pearce home (the 710 freeway or LBPD headquarters).

According to Retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Nick Morrow, a court qualified DUI expert, the CHP should have followed a fair and common set of procedures after discovering the vehicle:

  • Run the plate, contact the driver, ID the occupants, run the occupants for warrants. Then warn and advise, or cite the driver for whatever vehicle code violation was appropriate. Take additional action as necessary based upon the facts.
  • If the driver exhibits any signs of intoxication or emits an odor of alcohol, the CHP Officer should have the driver exit the vehicle to conduct the standard field sobriety tests.
  • During this process, a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) device (a handheld field-screening instrument used by officers to assist in making arrest decisions) may be used to get an approximate blood alcohol reading. If that reading is above the legal limit, or the officer opines the driver was intoxicated without it, an arrest would be warranted.
  • All of the above usually takes place in less than 20 minutes from the time stopped.

Although Pearce stated, “I want to be clear that I asked for the presence of the police officers at both scenes and I was not pulled over by law enforcement,” the LBPD’s first press release stated that the CHP discovered the pair parked on the median.

There is no CHP record that indicates Pearce asked for police officers to respond to the freeway scene. However, key to this analysis are the CHP records that reveal the pair was discovered at 2:35 a.m. and that the CHP officer who made the discovery remained at the freeway scene until 4:12 a.m., a total of one hour and 37 minutes.

We know from the LBPD news release that the CHP called for the LBPD to assist at about 2:40 a.m. If that report is accurate then the CHP made the request within five minutes of discovery.

So, the conclusion by the LBPD that they “did not find sufficient cause to arrest related to … driving under the influence” begs the question: At what time was the field sobriety screening administered?

Was it administered in the first 20 minutes of discovery or sometime after the two hours following the time that the CHP officer left the scene?

Based upon anonymous reports (names withheld for fear of retaliation) that Pearce registered a 0.06 percent blood alcohol (0.02 percent below presumptive guilt) on the field PAS device (yet to be confirmed by the LBPD) the time the test was administered will establish whether there was not sufficient cause to arrest for DUI or if the councilwoman received “special VIP handling.”

Again, let’s go back to our DUI expert, Nick Morrow who states:

“Alcohol has a predictable and generally accepted “burn-off” rate. Research shows a .012-.015 percent per hour burn-off as common. “

If the PAS test were administered within 20 minutes of the stop (proper police procedure) then a reading of 0.06 percent would not be sufficient cause to arrest for DUI, absent other objective symptoms.

However, if it were administered more than two hours after the officer began the investigation, Pearce’s blood alcohol level would have been between 0.084 percent and 0.09 percent – both over the legal limit.

Morrow, further stated that:

“Once an arrest is made (following use of the PAS test), a more accurate breath-testing device is maintained at the jail or police station (a BAC) for more accurate readings to be used in court. This test (or a blood sample) is required by California Law in DUI investigations. “

It is unknown if Pearce was administered a BAC (Intoxilyzer) test at police headquarters. It is also unknown if Pearce’s “friend” drove her home from the freeway or from police headquarters. However, the LBPD’s press release reported that Pearce was “returning home with her vehicle” when she was confronted by Cotter” at about 6 a.m.

That statement when compared to the time the CHP left the freeway scene establishes that Pearce remained in LBPD custody for at least another one and one-half hours before being allowed to “be driven home by a friend.”

Where was she and what was she doing with the LBPD during that span of time?

Several sources have identified the “friend” who “drove Councilwoman Pearce home” to be her new chief of staff – and city employee – Christian Kropff, 26.

We have also been informed by confidential sources that Kropff and his girlfriend were in the car when Pearce arrived back in her neighborhood to be “confronted by Cotter,” and that Pearce, not Kropff, was driving her car.

When interviewed, Kropff was asked at what location he picked Pearce up and at what time – he declined to respond, stating only that, “all questions regarding Ms. Pearce should be directed to her attorney, Michele Dobson.”

I replied to Pearce’s chief of staff stating, “I am not asking about Ms. Pearce, Mr. Kropff, I am asking about you. When did you pick her up, where did you pick her up and why were you not driving the car when you arrived in her neighborhood?” Kropff replied, “Please direct all questions to Michele Dobson.” Pearce’s chief of staff then provided the attorney’s phone number and ended the call.

Seeing that I had reached a dead end in getting to the bottom of the DUI aspects of the case, I choose not to call Dobson and instead directed my attention to Cotter’s alleged domestic abuse by Pearce – as well as Pearce’s surprise allegations against Cotter made this past Tuesday – by calling Cotter’s attorney, Bryan Schroeder.

When asked about the incident and Councilwoman Pearce’s recent allegations that she has been a victim of domestic violence that started late last year, and included “escalating threats, harassment, and stalking,” Schroeder said, “I want to confirm that my client has never been violent and has never committed any act of domestic violence.”

As to the circumstances surrounding Cotter’s 6 a.m. arrest in Pearce’s neighborhood, after being driven home by police, Schroeder stated that his client walked to Ms. Pearce’s home that morning from his parents home, a block or so away, because he was concerned for her welfare and was, “surprised to be arrested at that point.”

I have been informed by multiple sources that Cotter alleged he was a victim of domestic violence when officers arrived at the Hwy. 710 scene and that he had suffered visible injuries to his arm and head.

Asked to confirm those reports, Schroeder acknowledged that Cotter has suffered visible injuries, but declined to comment on the source of his injuries, stating that, “the police department has this matter under investigation and I would not want to interfere with that investigation.”

On June 26, 2017 the Beachcomber’s publisher, Jay Beeler, made a public records request to city hall for the release of the June 3rd booking photo of Devin Cotter taken following his 6 a.m. arrest for public intoxication and a DUI warrant. The LBPD records coordinator, Noor Ismail, responded on June 29:

“This email is in response to your public records request for the release of booking photo of Devin Cotter. The Long Beach Police Department declines to disclose to you such record, as it is exempt from public disclosure under the Public Records Act pursuant to Government Code Section 6254(f). Thank you.

Since receiving the LBPD stonewall, Beeler followed up by asking that the city records coordinator (rather than the LBPD’s) cite the specific language in the government code that allows them to withhold Mr. Cotter’s image, “which would prove or disprove any injuries he sustained at the hands of Councilwoman Pearce.”

At the time of this publication, there has been no further response from city hall.

When asked about the extraordinary city hall stonewall in refusing to release an arrestee’s mug shot to a news organization Beeler said, “We have reason to believe that the mug shot will demonstrate that Councilwoman Pearce injured Mr. Cotter’s face the morning of June 3 and therefore she committed a felony. We also have reason to believe – in its refusal to release the digital photo – the Long Beach Police Department is engaging in a cover-up that may ultimately lead to federal criminal investigations.”

Stephen Downing is a retired LAPD deputy chief of police and a resident of Long Beach.

stephen@beachcomber.news

 

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Comments

The stonewalling by the cabal of Long Beach, aka city hall, has got to stop. Ms. Pearce would do best to follow the actions of Dan Baker, who graciously resigned instead of facing charges. The Los Angeles Times should be interested in this story; it's the kind of investigation they just love to ramp up, so that this type of activity stops.

John Greet likes to comment on every article on another paper and is a former LBPD so of course he is going to try and drag the writer of this article in the mud.

John Greet, run for elected office if you want to be heard on every issue.

The city would be best served were Ms. Pearce resign now, allowing for a special
election. No representation is better than what she could possibly offer. Indeed, the
second district has not have effective stable representation since the late Wally Edgerton. The residents and the city deserve better.

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