Vinton Police Chief Rick Foutz kept asking Bramblett "to come in and clear his name" every time he was interviewed by a newspaper or TV reporter or in press conferences he called. This was a clear violation of Bramblett's Fifth Amendment Rights.
Foutz and Brown knew too much on important and powerful people in the Roanoke/Vinton area so they were never prosecuted for any of these crimes.
After the Virginia Supreme Justice Christian Compton (now dead, thank God) praised the police for such an awe-inspiring job, this item broke in the Roanoke Times, the daily paper. The Grand Jury found that Foutz and Brown (now dead, thank God) had been running their own loan business with Town funds they collected for doing fingerprint cards. Taking bicycles that were meant for needy children and giving them to friends and the children of the police officers in their command. Taking guns from the evidence room for their own use and taking property from people without charging them with a crime.
METRO EDITION, Roanoke, VA
HEADLINE: EXCERPTS FROM GRAND JURY REPORT
Here are excerpts from the special grand jury's report on the Vinton Police Department, which says that former chief Ricky Foutz and Lt. Bill Brown mishandled money, guns, drugs and other evidence:
Drugs 'sent to the wind'
"... Brown exercised total control over all drug investigations, drug evidence and destruction of drugs that were seized. A number of officers testified that Brown ordered them to place confiscated drugs on his desk or inside his door if he wasn't present to receive them. This violated proper police procedure and compromised the integrity of the evidence.
"Many current and former officers testified it was their understanding that Brown destroyed all the drug evidence. According to Brown's testimony, drug evidence that was no longer needed for court was 'some flushed, some burned, some sent to the wind.' Brown testified that he would occasionally destroy drugs in a 'burn barrel' at his home. There was not a procedure f or destruction of drugs and no witnesses were used to ensure that they were actually destroyed.
There was no evidence that destruction orders for drugs were ever sought from the courts by the VPD (Vinton Police Department) during the administration of Foutz and Brown. The Code of Virginia, 18.2-25.3 requires that a court order be obtained prior to the destruction of any drugs. Both Brown and Foutz claimed that they did not know that there was such a law (which has been in effect since 1973) requiring a court order ... "
Gun seizures 'likely' a violation
"The handling of firearms by the VPD was another cause for concern. Guns were stored in a most haphazard manner. About 40 guns appeared on top of a table in the evidence room shortly after the SP (state police) began this investigation.
The officer in charge of the evidence room was never told how the guns suddenly appeared or from where they had come ...
"Brown testified that all of the guns that suddenly appeared in the evidence room had been stored at all times in his locker in the department. If he testified truthfully concerning this matter, it is yet another example of mismanagement ...
"Firearms and other property were seized by Brown ... without criminal charges being placed, likely violating the rights of the owners. Brown made a habit of giving individuals the choice of surrendering their property or being charged, even in instances where no crime had even been committed."
Officers 'unsuitable and unqualified'
"We find that Foutz and Brown are unsuitable and unqualified to have the positions of authority and trust that they hold. Neither have the leadership ability or the management skills required for the positions of Chief and Assistant Chief of Police for the town of Vinton. Foutz generally stayed in his office if he was present at the police department. ... His support of Brown was blind and misplaced. With rare exceptions, he depended on information provided by Brown in making decisions about the VPD without attempting to determine the truth for himself. The numerous complaints made to him about Lt. Brown's conduct were disregarded or ignored."
REPORT: VINTON'S EX-TOP COPS 'UNSUITABLE AND UNQUALIFIED';
24-PAGE GRAND JURY REPORT RELEASED
BYLINE: KIMBERLY O'BRIEN THE ROANOKE TIMES; STAFF
WRITER ZEKE BARLOW CONTRIBUTED TO
Marijuana burned in barrels and flushed down toilets. Stolen weapons recovered but not returned to owners.
Bikes for needy children given to the police department's families and friends.
Slush funds. Unlawful arrests. Intimidation of witnesses.
The list goes on, but that's what a special grand jury investigating the Vinton Police Department found. The details, made public Friday in a 24-page report, paint a picture of two cops who the jury described as "unsuitable and unqualified" to have held the positions they did.
The details also, according to the report, back up the decision of Vinton town officials to force the resignations of Chief Ricky Foutz and Lt. Bill Brown shortly after the investigation began last fall.
"Neither have the leadership ability or the management skills required for the positions of chief and assistant chief of police for the town of Vinton," the jury wrote. "In our opinion, town officials would have been derelict in their duties had they permitted either Foutz or Brown to remain at the VPD in any capacity."
Town officials said Friday they were "thankful" and "relieved" that the report had been made public. Town Attorney Buck Heartwell said the report should make clear to the public why council had to take the actions it did in asking for the two officers' resignations.
The special grand jury began meeting in November to investigate allegations about possible wrongdoing in the police department. After more than three months, the jury released a report showing evidence of improper handling of public funds, drugs and weapons.
The jury also pointed to Brown as the source of the department's problems for ruling by "fear, intimidation and retribution." And while the investigation centered on Brown, the jury said Foutz, described as an "apathetic chief," was also to blame for choosing to blindly ignore complaints.
"It troubles us that the problems were apparent to almost every single member of the VPD, with the notable exception of the chief," the report states. "He either willfully chose to ignore these grave problems, or was so oblivious and incompetent that he was not even aware of them.
"Either alternative justified his departure."
The problems ranged from charging for fingerprint services to maintain a "personal slush fund" to partially smoked marijuana cigarettes, one with lipstick on it, found in Brown's desk drawer by State Police investigators.
Brown testified that the joints were either turned in to the police department or found in an ashtray. He said he kept them so he could demonstrate - by lighting up in his office - what marijuana smelled like to parents.
According to testimony of current and former officers, Brown exercised "total control" over all drug investigations, drug evidence and destruction of drugs that were seized. But his methods, according to the jury, often violated police procedures.
For example: He told officers to place confiscated drugs on his desk or inside his door if he wasn't there. He occasionally destroyed drugs in a "burn barrel" at his home. And there was no evidence that destruction orders for drugs were ever sought from the courts.
State law requires that a court order be obtained prior to the destruction of any drugs. Both Brown and Foutz testified, however, that they did not know there was such a law. It has been in effect since 1973.
But Brown testified that drug evidence no longer needed for court was "some flushed, some burned, some sent to the wind."
The jury said Brown's involvement with the seized drugs was "very suspicious."
"The manner in which he operated with regard to other people made many enemies for him and also made it easy for others to suspect him of drug use and other criminal activity," the report read.
At the same time, the jury said they were giving Brown the benefit of the doubt "in light of his strenuous denials of wrongdoing."
The jury also found irregularities in the way firearms were handled. Shortly after the investigation began, about 40 guns appeared on a table in the evidence room, and no one knew where they came from. Brown later testified the guns had been stored in his locker at the police department.
When the state police did an inventory, they found 90 weapons that didn't have any documentation, some of which had been in the room for more than 20 years. Two of the weapons had been reported stolen but never returned to their owners, and at least four were taken from individuals who were not charged with crimes.
One weapon, turned in by Foutz when he resigned, was determined to be stolen about 10 years ago. According to the report, the weapon will be returned to its owner by the state police.
Both Foutz and Brown admitted that the handling of evidence at the police department was "a joke," the jury said.
Finally, the jury found mishandling of public funds - including money from the annual Haunted House and a fund used to help needy families.
One year, a bike-a-thon sponsored by a local radio station and the Marine Corps donated extra bikes to the Needy Family Fund. There were a number of bikes left over, but they were given to police department employees and their friends rather than being kept for the next holiday season, the report said.
Neil Vener, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, said Monday he was not pursuing criminal charges. Although there were irregularities in the handling of drugs, weapons and public funds, none rose to the criminal level, he said.
Still, the jury said that in some instances, illegal conduct did occur. But, they wrote, the statute of limitations had passed or the statute violated did not provide for a penalty.
Supporters of Foutz said during a town meeting Tuesday that the allegations against the former chief came from a few former disgruntled employees. And Brown's lawyer said in a statement Friday that the special grand jury was biased and refused to hear from witnesses on behalf of Foutz and Brown.
But the report cited the testimony of 53 people that included former and current officers from the Vinton Police Department as well as from residents and officers from other departments.
According to the jury, Brown's "severe lack of judgement in the conduct of police activities and his acute lack of management skills have created a climate of suspicion of criminal, unethical or illegal behavior on his part. The suspicion is held by the majority of the police officers currently employed by the VPD and citizens and police officers outside the department."
The jury concluded its report by suggesting that a new chief be hired from outside the Vinton Police Department, that the town council establish a more active role of oversight, possibly by designating a committee to supervise it.
Lisa Foutz, the former chief's wife, said the family was still digesting the report. She said Foutz would make a comment next week.
Cliff Massengill, a 30-year-old resident who said he is a friend of Foutz's, said he is disappointed with what he read and had a hard time understanding it. Like many of the 15 or so residents who showed up to look at the report, Massengill looked dejected after finishing.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I didn't understand how these things could happen."
But like town officials, Massengill said he thinks Vinton would bounce back from the scandal that has pitted neighbor against neighbor.
"Vinton's a small town and it will recover," he said. "It's got a lot of good people."
Vinton Police Report
The special grand jury that investigated the Vinton police department says the former chief and his top lieutenant mishandled money, drugs, guns and other evidence. Among the highlights, the report found:
Drugs were improperly disposed of without court order. In some cases, Lt. Bill Brown said he burned drugs at his home, without witnesses. Other drugs were "sent to the wind."
Among the guns in the department's possession were several that had been reported stolen by their owners, but whose recovery had never been reported either to them or to state police.
The officers admitted their handling of evidence was "a joke." Drugs were sometimes left on Brown's desk or in his office.
The officers gave away bicycles and toys left over from the Christmas toy giveaway to department employees and friends, rather than hold them for next season.
The officer charged for fingerprints and put the cash in a "personal slush fund."
Such poor records were kept on the department's charitable activities that $3,179 remains unaccounted for, leaving open "the possibility of misuse of these funds."