Character letters faked; ex-cop’s sentencing delayed
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org August 28, 2013 5:57PM
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:15AM
A federal judge delayed sentencing a former Gary police officer after hearing evidence that at least three letters written in support of the cop were faked and contained blatantly false information.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen said that along with wanting to hear directly from the people who claim they did not write the letters, he also wants to hear from the man who originally told police that David Finley Jr. was dealing drugs.
Finley, of Merrillville, was set to be sentenced Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Hammond after pleading guilty earlier this year to one count each of dealing marijuana and lying when he said a gun he bought was for himself. He actually gave the gun to a friend, whom he also sold the pot that same day.
However, FBI Special Agent Nathan Holbrook testified at the hearing that after reading the 25 letters of support sent to the court on Finley’s behalf, he noticed that some of the letters contained the same phrasing and spelling and grammatical errors, including spelling “no” as “know.”
He started looking into the people who supposedly wrote the letters, including a Gary police officer by the name Desmond Yanders. However, the department has no one named Desmond; instead, there is an officer Demonte Yanders.
When shown the typed letter sent to the court, Yanders laughed, Holbrook said, and told officials that he had hand written a letter that he gave to Finley and that portions of that letter were in the typed letter. However, other sections that claimed Finley helped Yanders learn how to shoot in order to pass police entrance requirements, that Finley helped create the department’s crime suppression unit and that he helped get the department’s first K-9 officers not only weren’t written by Yanders but never actually happened.
At least two other letters were also faked, Holbrook said.
Gary officer Raymond Robinson also told the FBI that he did not write the letter purported to be by him. He did say that most of what it said was true except for a portion that claimed Robinson believed Finley is innocent.
Robertson also disputed a letter supposedly from the mentoring group S.O.A.R. saying Finley co-founded the group. S.O.A.R. is actually Robertson’s project and Finley had nothing to do with it, Holbrook testified.
Finally, Nona Henderson, who dated Finley about 12 years ago and is the mother of his son, told the FBI that she never wrote a letter in support of Finley that claimed he was still her best friend and that she gave him full custody of their son last year. Henderson said that along with not writing the letter, she never gave Finley custody of their son.
Federal attorneys in the case filed a brief last week that said some of the letters had been faked. Holbrook said after this was filed, Henderson told him Finley had called her, first asking Henderson to write a letter saying she had lied to the FBI about not writing the letter because her boyfriend was in the room. When she refused to do so, saying she didn’t want to lie to the court, Finley then asked her to claim she wrote it in December when she was drunk, which is why she didn’t remember the letter.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell has asked that Finley lose credit for accepting responsibility and also have his sentence lengthened for obstructing justice.
Finley’s attorney, John Cantrell, argued, however, that there was no evidence Finley wrote the faked letters or even knew about them. Instead, Cantrell said, several of Finley’s family members and friends helped collect the letters and one of them might have gotten overzealous. He added that it didn’t make sense that Finley, who worked with Yanders, wouldn’t know Yanders’ first name.
“David did not write that letter,” Cantrell said of Henderson’s faked letter.
Even if Finley didn’t write the letters, though, he was in possession of them and should have known when he read them that they contained lies, Bell said.
“This is ludicrous; it’s outrageous,” Bell said. “It’s stunning.”
Van Bokkelen said he was concerned about ruling on a sentence without hearing directly from the witnesses because, if true, Finley’s sentence could see a steep enhancement. The judge said this was the first time he knew of that someone sent him faked letters.
“I take (the letters) seriously,” Van Bokkelen said. “That’s my concern.”
Van Bokkelen said he also wanted to hear from the government witness who originally went to Hobart police a year ago about Finley dealing drugs. The man claims he told Finley he was a felon long before Finley bought the gun for the man. Finley’s sentenced could be increased even more if he knowingly gave a felon a gun.
The next hearing is set for Sept. 11.