LMPD officer indicted on charges of theft and official misconduct

Posted: Feb 11, 2014 3:59 PM
Updated: Feb 11, 2014 9:21 PM
By Jason Riley – bio | email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A Louisville Metro Police officer has been indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on charges of official misconduct and theft by deception, endangering dozens of criminal cases the officer handled.

Officer Chris Thurman has been under investigation for months for allegedly falsifying his time sheet and claiming overtime he didn’t work, according to court records.

Steve Schroering, Thurman’s attorney, said Tuesday that Thurman “maintains his innocence of these charges” but declined to comment further.

Thurman, who is not in custody, will be arraigned Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court.

Paul Richwalsky, division director of the Jefferson County Attorney’s DUI unit, said Schroering has already told the office that Thurman will not testify if subpoenaed in any of the more than 100 pending criminal cases he was involved with.

Richwalsky said prosecutors will evaluate each case to determine what other evidence can be used without involving Thurman, but he acknowledged that in some cases, especially where Thurman is the only officer, “obviously you are going to have problems.”

Defense attorney Paul Gold, who has a few DUI cases with Thurman, said in an interview that prosecutors have to be able to show a reason why someone was pulled over, which will be nearly impossible without Thurman. And Thurman would be the officer doing the field sobriety test, which provides probable cause for the arrest.

“I think the commonwealth is going to have a very difficult time going forward” with the DUI cases, Gold said.

The indictment of Thurman alleges that between Jan. 1, 2011 and Sept. 19, 2013, Thurman “falsely reported overtime activity” and stole more than $10,000 from the city by “creating or reinforcing a false impression.”

Thurman was paid $27,894 in overtime in 2011 and $27,446 in 2012, when his regular salary rate was $49,753, according to city records. In 2013, his salary went up to $52,166, and he was paid $21,472 in overtime.

Dwight Mitchell, a police spokesman, said Thurman is on paid administrative reassignment.

The investigation of Thurman put on hold many of his criminal cases and prompted prosecutors to notify defense attorneys about the officer’s situation, because it could affect his credibility at trial.

Late last year, the police department implemented a new policy of tracking officers whose conduct could be problematic in future cases. Thurman is one of more than two dozen officers who have had their names and disciplinary issues turned over to prosecutors – and then possibly to defense attorneys at some point.

Thurman, a drug recognition expert and DUI instructor, has dozens of pending cases in which he is the lead officer, including at least three cases involving charges of manslaughter or murder, including the second-degree manslaughter case of Christopher Purcell, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher charged in an August 2012 wreck in which Tracey Blevins, a passenger on a motorcycle, was killed.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Leland Hulbert, a spokesman for the office, said the circuit court cases Thurman handled are being “re-evaluated” because of his indictment.

“It’s up to each prosecutor to assess the strength of their case now that (Thurman) has criminal charges,” Hulbert said, adding that the prosecution will “move forward” with the case “if they can.”

Hulbert said defense attorneys have been notified of the situation.

Richwalsky, with the county attorney’s office, said prosecutors may be able to use other evidence to salvage the drunken driving cases, such as the in-car police video or other witnesses.

“We don’t like to dismiss cases,” he said. “It hurts.”

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