Letters of support for former Gary police officer were faked, witnesses say
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2013 5:00PM
David Finley, Gary Police officer. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:44AM
A former Gary police officer’s sentencing has been delayed again by controversy over faked letters of support sent to a federal judge.
At a hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen said he wants to review the transcripts from that day’s testimony. The parties would reconvene Friday, he said, when he will issue a final ruling.
David Finley pleaded guilty in February to selling marijuana a year ago to a friend who was actually cooperating with the FBI and lying when he claimed a gun he bought was for himself when he actually gave it to the friend.
After a short hearing in June, the sentencing was delayed until another hearing Aug. 28. Just before that hearing, however, federal attorneys claimed at least three letters sent to Van Bokkelen in support of Finley had been faked.
That included a letter signed by Desmond Yanders, who identified himself as a Gary police officer. No such officer exists, but there is a Demonte Yanders. Van Bokkelen again continued the hearing to Wednesday, saying he wanted to hear from the people who supposedly wrote the letters.
Judges consider letters of support as part of sentencing and sometimes issue shorter sentences because of the letters. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell has asked that Finley lose credit he had earned for accepting responsibility and have his sentence enhanced for obstructing justice. Finley’s attorney, John Cantrell, has argued there’s no evidence Finley knew about the faked letters and that several of Finley’s supporters might have gone too far in trying to help him.
Wednesday, however, Yanders testified at Wednesday’s hearing in the U.S. District Court in Hammond that Finley had asked him to write a letter, which he did by hand and then left it in his home mailbox for Finley to pick up.
The typed letter submitted to the court, however, contained only portions that he wrote, Yanders said. He never wrote that Finley helped him pass shooting tests to make the Gary Police Department or that Finley, who was with the department for just a few years before he resigned last year, had helped the department get its first K9 officers.
Another letter purported to be from Nona Henderson, mother of Finley’s 12-year-old son.
But when Henderson testified Wednesday, she denied writing a letter to the judge.
“I didn’t want anything to do with (his case),” she said.
The letter supposedly from her stated that she considers Finley one of her best friends and asks for leniency. Henderson also testified that shortly after an FBI agent showed her the letter, Finley called her to say he was going to say he found the letter in his mailbox.
After news about the faked letters came out in public, Finley’s mother sent her harassing tests, Henderson said, and asked her to speak with Finley again. That’s when Finley asked her to write a letter saying she lied to the FBI about not writing the letter because her fiancee was in the room and was jealous.
Henderson refused, however, because it wasn’t true, she said. He then asked her to write a copy of the letter out and date it for New Year’s Eve last year and claim she didn’t remember writing it because she was drunk at the time.
“I don’t get drunk,” she said.
Another Gary police officer, Raymond Robinson, also testified, saying Finley asked him to write a letter but he was too busy so he told Finley he could write one for him as long as it was honest and he read it to Robinson before sending it in.
Robinson said he was read the letter but that the letter sent to Van Bokkelen was incorrect because it claimed Robinson thought Finley was innocent.
“I couldn’t say I knew exactly for sure (if Finley is innocent),” Robinson testified.
Van Bokkelen also heard from Patrick Chapman, the former friend of Finley’s who had gone to police with Finley’s drug activity. Chapman insisted he had told Finley dozens of times he was a felon. Assistant U.S. Attorney has asked Finley’s sentence to be lengthened because he sold a gun to a felon.
Cantrell questioned Chapman’s motives, however, especially in telling the FBI after Finley was arrested that Chapman was scared for his safety. Cantrell argued that those claims were just part of a plan Chapman had to get the FBI to help pay him to move.
FBI Special Agent Nathan Holbrook said he wasn’t sure how much Chapman was paid but that it was likely around $10,000, which included money for services and expenses.