Telling The Truth Is Hazardous Business
[My opinion: Heh. To the extent anyone pays attention to this story, it is ultimately going to work to Greg Ahlemann's favor. Dismissing tickets is a widespread practice, and Mr. Ahlemann inadvertantly, by simply telling the truth, caused his opponents for the sheriff's seat to take untenable knee-jerk public positions which anyone familiar with the workings of law enforcement will immediately recognize as BS. Mr. Ahlemann apparently did a fine job making his case more clearly on all of the local television news outlets this afternoon. This is the type of story that is only effective if it does not have the opportunity to percolate in public consciousness. Once people begin to think about it, they realize the guy telling the truth is on the much more solid ground. The Post sprang it a week too early.]
[Mr. Ahlemann also stated today: "Any voters who don't want to hear their Sheriff telling the truth shouldn't vote for me."]
Yesterday's attempted October surprise on Loudoun County Sheriff Candidate Greg Ahlemann by reporter Bill Brubaker of the local "we try harder" publication has, unsurprisingly, turned into another signature boomerang piece by the Washington Post.
Discerning readers might have gathered from the original story that the contention of supposedly "experienced" Loudoun sheriff candidates Mike George and Steve Simpson that they never dropped tickets or asked for them to be dismissed does not quite ring true. As two officers interviewed in the story stated, it is a common practice. How could Mr. Simpson and Mr. George, with such long service records, have avoided the practice?
Former Loudoun County sheriff's deputy Dave Price (2001-2006) has an explanation: "Total hogwash."
"Dropping tickets" is, according to Mr. Price, "very commonplace."
Regarding the Washington Post reports of the statements by both candidates Mr. Simpson and Mr. George, Mr. Price said any law enforcement officers "read that, they know he's either straighter than any straight arrow they've ever known - or else he's lying."
Mr. Price said his father, a police officer for over three decades, confirmed he "did not know of any that haven't taken a call" to drop tickets.
Mr. Price recalled an incident in which he ticketed a teenage girl for speeding. Soon afterwards, a Fairfax County Police Department lieutenant asked Mr. Price to dismiss the ticket because the girl was on the local softball team. Mr. Price complied - which he said is the practice nearly all the time.
Another incident precipitated Mr. Price's resignation from the Sheriff's Office, about three weeks before he left.
On that day in 2006, Mr. Price was manning radar on River Creek Parkway in Landsdowne, where residents had been complaining of frequent speeders in the 35 mile an hour zone. He clocked a vehicle traveling at 55-60 miles per hour, and proceeded to pull it over. The driver became "belligerent with me, cursing me up and down," Mr. Price relates.
"He would not calm down. Finally his friend in the passenger seat told him to 'shut up, let's just go to court.'"
After writing the ticket, as he drove away, Mr. Price got a message from Sheriff Steve Simpson asking him to call Mr. Simpson's personal cell phone number. According to Mr. Price, Mr. Simpson asked him to drop the ticket, saying "The guy is some building contractor the county is trying to schmooze to get some building built. He said you were very professional with him. He has had lots of tickets and is worried that his insurance will go up. Would you mind getting rid of the ticket?"
Mr. Price agreed to drop the ticket and reports this is when he begain looking for another job.
The Post's Mr. Brubaker elected to just now release a story that would have been breaking news in January of this year.
At that time, former deputy and candidate for sheriff Greg Ahlemann issued a press release detailing an incident that took place in September, 2006, when Lt. Colonel Randy Badura pressured a deputy to agree to drop charges against Bruce Zurschmeide, who the deputy had charged with the triple misdemeanors of DUI, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and attempting to elude police. The deputy was asked to agree to the charges, which might have resulted in a sentence of year in prison, being dropped to a petty "drunk in public" which only carries a $50 fine.
Sheriff Simpson reportedly backed Mr. Badura in seeking the reduced charges.
Mr. Ahlemann took an interest in the incident as symptomatic of corruption which was hurting morale within the Sheriff's Office. He proceeded to investigate the details, some of which were divulged in the press release.
He was interviewed by Mr. Brubaker months before he won the nomination.
The Post reporter elected to sit on the story until this past Friday, October 26, when he called Mr. Ahlemann with some follow up questions.
Today, Mr. Ahlemann released to the media some background data which adds a layer of important information to the story. First is an audio recording of Mr. Ahlemann's interview with an internal affairs investigator.
The interview is worth listening to a couple times through, because it demonstrates the IA investigator is not investigating at all, but is in fact attempting to fix the story of what happened to match what would be in Mr. Badura's and Mr. Simpson's best interests. The investigator attempts to ascertain from Mr. Ahlemann that Mr. Ahlemann has not let out any information that would be damaging to the department.
Another interesting note is that the Zurschmeide family now appears to be actively promoting the false idea that the arrest of Bruce Zurschmeide was invalid (the IA interview above affirms the "arrests were good," putting the lie to the Zurschmeides' contention). A recent e-mail circulated from a member of the family argued:
Last Fall my brother was erroneously arrested on his own property by the current Sheriff's department for a DUI. After investigation, the Commonwealth Attorney reduced the charge to a misdemeanor.
In an effort to support his platform, Mr. Ahlemann claims and recently reported in the October 28th issue of the Washington Post that my brother received special treatment "by a high-ranking sheriff's official". The truth is that the arrest took place on private property and after an unsolicited investigation, the Commonwealth Attorney decided to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. My brother does not have a relationship with any high-ranking official from the Sheriff’s office, nor has he ever met Sheriff Steve Simpson. At no time did Ahlemann bother to speak to the arresting officer or to my brother about the facts of the arrest. Instead he chooses to falsely cite this incident as a platform for change.
The data - in particular the IA interview - accompanying this post, clearly shows the Zurschmeide family should have let this story die.
Regular, non-connected residents of Loudoun County know that for similar behavior they would be behind bars.
So while the Post's front page story attempted to paint Mr. Ahlemann as engaging in unusual practices, the truth of the matter strongly appears to be that Mr. Ahlemann is the only one telling the truth. Mr. Simpson - by advocating for lessening charges that would have any normal citizen facing extended time in detention - has some explaining to do in the case of Mr. Zurschmeide.
As the former deputy Mr. Price noted about Mr. Ahlemann, this entire story should "put Greg up higher because he's actually being honest about it. What's the point of lying about it?"
Supporting the original press release from Mr. Ahlemann, below the fold are copies of the original complaints in the Zurschmeide case filed by the arresting officers.
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