City of Fort Myers responds to allegations of compromised police investigations

UPDATE

The City of Fort Myers has responded to accusations of sex and tainted arrests at the Fort Myers Police Department.

Two people, once convicted of dealing drugs, say Detective Donald Weathers and his superiors ignored salacious behavior by a confidential informant used for undercover drug buys.

Chania Ware and Eugene Hunter were convicted of selling drugs to a woman who was working as a confidential informant for police.

In another undercover drug deal, the informant claimed the suspect forced her to perform oral sex before the buy.

That sex act, while working for the police department, violated rules and compromised the investigation.

However, the department may have misstepped, according to the suit. Several members of the department, including detectives and senior staff, knew about the sex act, but didn’t stop using the woman for drug buys.

A judge vacated Ware and Hunter’s sentences because police didn’t make defense attorneys aware of the problems with the informant before conviction.

The apparent cover-up was discovered when the department conducted a massive audit in 2016. When confronted, the department claimed that detective Weathers lied about his knowledge about the sex act, and was ultimately fired.

The city claims the current chief is cleaning house and not taking these type of things lightly.

In an email, a city spokesperson pointed out everything laid out in the lawsuit happened before Chief Derrick Diggs took over. Diggs fired the detective at the center of this. [Read the full statement from the city below]

However, there are four active duty members of the department named in this lawsuit and the city’s statement doesn’t address them.

An attorney for Detective Donald Weathers told WINK News that Weathers disputed his termination, claiming that he never lied about the situation with the drug buy.

The state attorney’s office said it would not comment on pending litigation.

Chania Ware, Eugene Hunter and their attorney also did not respond to WINK News.


Explosive claims against City of Fort Myers, FMPD officers

New accusations are dividing people whose tax money pays a police department’s bills.

There are new accusations of sex and tainted arrests at Fort Myers Police Department Thursday.

A 148-page federal lawsuit details how two people were wrongfully arrested and sentenced for what they did. They say the person who was used to prosecute them was compromised.

Dr. David Thomas, who has a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, told WINK News the only thing separating the police from the bad guys are rules, and the rules were not followed in this case.

FMPD is entangled in alleged wrongdoing again.

“The blue wall of silence is real,” Thomas said. “And it happens, and that’s what you’re seeing here.”

The federal civil lawsuit claims two people were wrongfully arrested and sentenced because of a compromised, confidential informant used by FMPD.

What the two plaintiffs claim:

  • A woman arrested for prostitution became an informant and wore recording equipment during several undercover drug buys
  • During one of those buys, the lawsuit said she performed a sex act on a suspect

That’s when their attorney said things should have ended, and Thomas agrees.

“The sexual act becomes a way to induce somebody to commit a crime,” Thomas said. “As soon as those rules are broken, that’s it. The whole thing is compromised.”

But they allege FMPD’s special investigations group kept her. And the two plaintiffs were arrested in recordings by the same compromised, confidential informants.

“The only thing that separates the police from the bad guys, the rules,” Thomas said. “As long as you play by the rules, nobody is ever mad at you, and nobody can come back at you like they’re doing now.”

The two plaintiff’s charges were later dropped, but they said they should have never been arrested.

It’s something that people can see both sides too.

“Once she committed the crime, they should have just let her go,” Chris Yazbek. “They should have tried to get the people another way.

The defendants in the lawsuit have 21 days to respond.

“You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes,” Sue Ellen Stevens said. “It’s for the greater good. you sacrifice a little bit. You bend a little bit to make a big arrest. I absolutely agree with that.”

Full response from the City of Fort Myers:

Events surrounding the federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday by Chania Ware and Eugene Hunter happened prior to Chief Diggs joining the Fort Myers police Department, and prior to the Freeh Group’s evaluation of FMPD.  

The Freeh Group was brought on by the City Manager to evaluate police department procedures and allegations of improper conduct. With Chief Diggs’ leadership, and following the recommendations of the Freeh Group, the department moved forward and set forth a structure for internal affairs investigations and how allegations are addressed, including a procedure for anonymous complaints. The new structure is working; Donald Weathers’ employment with FMPD was terminated as a result of findings of an internal affairs investigation ordered by Chief Diggs. 

The process does not happen overnight. All allegations and investigations, including internal affairs investigations, take time and can initiate additional investigations when an impropriety is discovered, and all are investigated thoroughly.  In 2017, the Freeh Group suggested it could take five years or more to correct past challenges within the department.  

Non-adherence to FMPD policies and procedures is taken very seriously and will not be tolerated. FMPD takes every allegation of misconduct seriously and investigates complaints following General Order 7.1 for accepting and processing complaints. It is the policy of FMPD to investigate all complaints to include anonymous complaints.

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
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