Former Gary cop gets 30 months; faked letters to judge, court finds
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ email@example.com September 13, 2013 5:42PM
David Finley was sentenced to 30 months in prison on drug and weapons charges. A federal judge also found Finley had faked letters of support that were sent to the judge. | Provided
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:30AM
A former Gary police officer will spend 30 months in prison after a federal judge found that he played a role in sending fraudulent letters of support to the court.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that (David Finley) had some involvement with these letters,” U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen said during Finley’s sentencing hearing Friday afternoon.
Finley pleaded guilty earlier this year to selling marijuana and lying when he bought a gun, saying it was for himself when he immediately gave it to a friend who turned out to be working for the FBI as an undercover informant. Finley resigned from the police department shortly after he was arrested a year ago.
Earlier this summer, Finley submitted more than 100 pages of letters of support, which judges consider when coming up with a sentence, from about 25 family members, friends and former co-workers. Many of the letters described Finley as a “super cop.” However, federal officials discovered at least two of the letters had been faked and another was written by Finley with a friend’s permission.
“The real travesty in that is this court relies on those letters,” Van Bokkelen said. “I’ll never again read them the same way.”
The judge added that future defendants could be harmed by this and that he might change his policy on how he handles character letters, including making the letter writers take an oath that they actually wrote them.
One of the faked letters, which had the wrong first name for Finley’s former fellow officer Demonte Yanders, had portions added to the original letter that Yanders did write. The faked portions claimed Finley helped Yanders at the gun range and helped get the Gary Police Department’s first K9 officers, neither of which is true. The second letter was supposedly written by the mother of one of his children; that letter claims Finley is the woman’s best friend. The woman, Nona Henderson, testified in court that she never wrote the letter and that Finley later called her asking to say she did.
Finley’s attorney, John Cantrell, said Henderson couldn’t be trusted because she wants custody of their child. As for the letter from Yanders, Cantrell said that Finley was upset by the letters he got back because they didn’t say enough positive things. Cantrell thinks one of Finley’s family members added to Yanders’ original letter to make it look better and help Finley. He argued it wouldn’t make sense for Finley, who knew Yanders’ correct first name, to get it wrong. Cantrell asked for a sentence of probation or home confinement.
Van Bokkelen disagreed, however, saying that Finley played an active role in working to get the letters and would have known the ones he turned in were faked. The judge not only took away Finley’s credit for taking responsibility for his crime but also added to his sentence because by faking the letters, Finley obstructed justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell argued that Finley should serve 42 months in prison, a year more than the federal sentencing guidelines recommended. He noted that not only did Finley abuse a position of trust by breaking the law as a police officer, but also that he broke the court’s trust in character letters, something that Bell said he has never heard of happening before.
“We can’t have fake information being submitted to you,” Bell argued. “You need to tell this defendant and others, ‘Give me accurate information.’”
However, Van Bokkelen said he decided to go with a sentence of 30 months because Finley has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Cantrell claimed the bipolar disorder, which Finley says stemmed from when he injured his foot in a car crash while on duty, caused him to be manipulated by the undercover informant into committing his crimes.
Finley was ordered detained immediately after the hearing to start serving his sentence. Cantrell said his client does not intend for now to file an appeal.