Des Moines policemen Joshua Judge and Tyson Teut resigned last month after an accusation that the two planted drug evidence on a suspect. As of yet, no charges have been filed against the officers. A press conference was held by the Des Moines Police Department to announce allegations against the former officers. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, who confirmed the conviction overturning to media outlets is quoted saying, “It's just flat-out wrong, and we're not going to condone anything like that.” The suspect, 23-year-old Kyle Jacob Weldon, was sentenced to 31 days in jail after the pair allegedly planted meth on him; he was arrested in January 2015. According to court records, a clear container was found in Weldon's pant pocket with a rock-like substance inside. The substance tested positive for meth, a guilty plea was entered and Weldon was convicted.
DA Judge Gregory Brandt vacated Weldon's possession conviction, wiping the charge from his record. The exoneration comes after a motion was filed by the case's prosecutor, who cited "improperly obtained evidence and misconduct by law enforcement." The Office of the State Public Defender handled Weldon's case following the motion. His exoneration marks the first victory for the Office's wrongful convictions division since its founding in October 2015.
The division was established after an admission by the FBI that its experts gave flawed testimony involving hair analysis in cases nationwide. Both Weldon and his attorney have declined interview requests, however, his attorney did release a statement, saying in part, "Along with our partners at the Innocence Project of Iowa and the Midwest Innocence Project, we stand ready to further investigate other cases involving these officers, if and when it becomes necessary."
Police Sgt Ryan Doty stated, "We feel your pain, we do a lot within this community to foster trust.” The Police Department is said to be "disgusted" by the allegations of evidence planting on the part of its officers, having handed over the case to Polk County's Attorney Office. Doty added that "we are talking hundreds and hundreds of cases here." Judge and Teut face possible criminal charges, pending an active investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Exonerations for misdemeanor charges are far rarer than exonerations for felony, murder, or sex abuse charges. The National Registry of Exonerations logs just 72 misdemeanor exonerations out of their 1,966 cases, many of those pertaining to drug dealing and possession. Naturally, the Project must prioritize cases in which the wrongfully convicted face life-altering prison sentences. Nevertheless, wrongfully convicted misdemeanors remain a pressing problem due to their prevalence and tendency to be overlooked. University of Michigan Law School professor Samuel Gross, who edits the registry, called it "the leading disgrace in the criminal justice system." According to Gross, "millions" are affected each year because there is little "fact-finding [done] in misdemeanors. It's what the police say."
Despite not carrying long prison sentences, misdemeanors can still be very stigmatized and negatively affect an individual's housing and job prospects. If you are charged with drug possession or require criminal defense in the state of Washington, contact skilled defense attorney Steve Karimi, who will explain your legal options in the clearest terms and fight for your rights in the courtroom.