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Worthy releases list of 51 untruthful police officers

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that former Detroit police homicide investigator Michael Russell retired from the department. The circumstances of his departure were incorrect in a previous version.

Detroit — Former Flint police chief and Detroit police official James Tolbert is among the 51 cops or ex-cops on a list released Monday of officers who have been found to be untruthful.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy in July said she planned quarterly public releases of the "Giglio list" of officers who have been found to be untruthful, either in court or after internal investigations.

James Tolbert

Police officers who have been found guilty of lying are called "Giglio-impaired" after Giglio v. United States, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted a man a new trial because prosecutors didn't inform the defense about a deal they'd negotiated with a witness not to prosecute him in exchange for his testimony.

Monday's list was issued a few weeks later than its scheduled release at the end of the third fiscal quarter. 

Worthy said in a statement Monday: "Because trials are scheduled to resume in January, we thought it was important to send this out to our prosecutors and defense attorneys.

William Melendez

"In advance of this release WCPO has notified all police agencies who have a current or former officer on the list," Worthy said. "We are continuing to take the additional step of releasing the list to the public because in an era of criminal justice reform, it just makes sense. We plan to review, update and release this list on a quarterly basis."

All of the 51 officers on the list have been separated from the agencies they worked for when they were deemed untruthful. Most of the officers on the list came from the Detroit Police Department, although Inkster, Highland Park, Lincoln Park and Harper Woods also are represented.

It's unclear if any of the officers on the list are still employed as cops. Thirteen of the ex-officers on the list are in prison.

Tolbert is the most prominent name on the list. He was a longtime Detroit police official who ascended to the rank of deputy chief before becoming Flint's police chief in 2013. He was fired in February 2016, a few months before Worthy publicly accused him of committing perjury.

Worthy said Tolbert had lied to Michigan State Police investigators about who drew a map of a crime scene involving a 2007 quadruple homicide in a Detroit drug house. The interview came during an MSP investigation into the case of Davontae Sanford, who was 14 at the time of the crime, and 15 when he was sentenced to prison for second-degree murder. 

Although police obtained a confession, and Sanford pleaded guilty, his attorneys contend he was tricked into admitting to the murders. Sanford's advocates also say officials tried to cover up the fact that two weeks after he was sent to prison, hit man Vincent Smothers admitted to the crime, providing accurate crime scene details that included where one of the murder weapons was stashed.

After he was fired as Flint's police chief, Tolbert was appointed a deputy chief in Highland Park. After multiple protests, Tolbert resigned last year. 

David Hansberry

Tolbert, who also was accused in lawsuits of trying to quash the Detroit police investigation into the April 2003 murder of exotic dancer Tamara "Strawberry" Greene, declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday.

Tolbert's co-defendant in Sanford's ongoing federal lawsuit, former DPD Homicide investigator Michael Russell, also is on the list, which said he gave a "false statement." Russell retired from the department.

"I don't have anything to talk about," Russell texted Monday in response to a phone call seeking comment.

 Also on Monday's Giglio list is William "Robocop" Melendez, a former Detroit, Highland Park and Inkster police officer. While on Inkster's police force in 2016, Melendez was sentenced to 13 months in prison for the beating of motorist Floyd Dent. 

Melendez served 10 months in prison before his January 2017 release.

Bryan Watson

Former Detroit narcotics officers David Hansberry, Bryan Watson and Arthur Leavells, who are serving out federal prison sentences after their 2017 extortion convictions, also are on Monday's Giglio list. An ongoing DPD internal investigation into alleged widespread corruption in the narcotics unit sprang from the extortion case.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN