Officer misconduct leads to 17 vacated Tampa PD cases

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The state announced Wednesday it has dropped 17 criminal cases involving three officers who were fired after internal investigation into misconduct.

Charges were already been dropped in five cases.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren says 17 cases where prosecutors secured a conviction will soon be vacated.

"These convictions cannot stand. We cannot, in good faith, uphold convictions based exclusively on the word of these three officers," explained Warren.

Warren says after reviewing 225 felony and juvenile cases, his office found 17 convictions that were decided solely on the officers' words - against the defendant.

"As a result, there is no credible evidence to sustain the convictions in those cases," said Warren.

Most of the 17 cases involved drug offenses and firearm charges. In every case, the defendants pleaded guilty to the charges.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan calls the whole thing an embarrassment.

"It's obviously very awkward and embarrassing for me to be here today. The only thing I can do to these officers is fire them and that's what've done," said Chief Dugan. 

As FOX 13 first reported in March, an internal affairs investigation revealed three TPD officers, including Mark Landry and John Laratta, were in trouble for misconduct.

Some violations included failing to file police reports and throwing away drug evidence.

In some cases, body cameras were turned off while people were being detained and questioned.

But Defense Attorney Chip Purcell, who represents two of the fired officers, says the State Attorney’s Office left them out of the process completely and questions why only 17 cases were dropped.

"If they're not credible, why are you picking and choosing the cases? I mean, you pick a handful of marijuana cases and say they're not credible but the armed robbery cases they were involved in, the home invasion cases they've been involved in, the armed trafficking cases they've been involved in, they're credible in those cases? Seems very shady to me," said Purcell.

Warren emphasized the 17 cases were based solely on the fired officers' testimony, without any witnesses or corroborating evidence. 

The department conducted a criminal investigation following a citizen complaint about his treatment during a traffic stop in September 2018. When Tampa police investigated, they noticed Officer Mark Landry turned off his body camera three minutes into a traffic stop — which is a violation of their policy, the agency said. 

Internal affairs started digging deeper, investigating eleven officers -- one cleared -- seven others disciplined and three fired. Chief Brian Dugan said he ended up finding several policy violations including turning off body cameras and getting rid of small amounts of drugs when they stopped people.

“The have embarrassed our police department. They have placed the community's trust that we have in jeopardy,” Dugan said at the time. “They have tarnished our brand, and they have betrayed the oath that they swore to uphold.”

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Their misconduct has already resulted in charges being thrown out in at least five case --- one involving a convicted felon who police accused of being caught with several weapons and drugs in his car.