Milwaukee, WI–In the amazing story below, a woman sought a restraining order against a police detective who was investigating her boyfriend for a string of burglaries. It’s a clever way for a suspect or possible co-conspirator to derail a police investigation. And of course, since we have very little judicial oversight on restraining orders, the judge just went ahead and rubberstamped the order anyway.
The writers, Cary Spivak and Dan Bice, see the story as humorous, but it’s no joke to all of the innocent men who are tossed out of their homes by false restraining orders. Spivak and Bice can be contacted by phone at (414) 223-5468 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their blog is www.jsonline.com/links/spiceblog.
The judge was Court Commissioner David Pruhs. The story is a couple years old. Thanks to Mark, a reader, for sending it.
Woman enlists court to ditch the law
Cary Spivak and Dan Bice
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 15, 2006
There are many ways to avoid the cops: Some folks run, some lie and others hide. But one creative Milwaukee woman came up with a novel idea, one that police hope never catches on.
She got a temporary restraining order in family court against a detective.
“I”ve had suspects talk about doing this before, but this is the first time I ever saw it,” Milwaukee County sheriff”s Detective John Davis said last week. “I was somewhat amused by it, but it was a little aggravating.”
The creative strategy was tried by Latoya Anderson, a west side resident who Davis said is the girlfriend of a man he wants to question about a string of burglaries. The first time Davis went to Anderson”s home, the man — whom he declined to name — wasn”t there. But Anderson reached him on her cell phone. Not surprisingly, the man declined to stop over to chat with the detective.
The next day, Davis and a Milwaukee detective returned. This time nobody would let them in, even though Davis said it looked like somebody was home.
Anderson”s response: She rushed to the courthouse, filed a petition accusing Davis of harassment and received a temporary restraining order banning him from harassing her or coming near her home. Thousands of similar orders are issued annually.
Anderson”s petition actually makes a pretty compelling case for why she needed protection from what sounded like an abusive ex.
“John came over banging, knocking, kicking at the door,” she wrote. “He was looking through my blinds. He took the plates off my car. He also had my car towed. He was calling my house asking for someone who does not live there.”
Davis” plea — guilty.
“All of those things were accurate,” Davis said. “But she left out the part that I was a detective with the Sheriff”s Department, and I was with a detective from the city.”
(Actually, it was the city cop who had the car towed because the license plates were from a different vehicle.)
Guess the devil is in the details.
Anderson”s omissions left Court Commissioner David Pruhs in the dark. He quickly signed the order and set a hearing for two weeks later.
“It seems to me there would have been a totally different result if I had had a whiff that he was a detective,” Pruhs said. “Those are things that people would do in harassing situations.”
Give Anderson, who could not be reached for comment, an A for effort but an F for execution.
County lawyer Tim Schoewe rapidly filed a motion to quash the restraining order, and Pruhs held a hearing — this time with Davis testifying — two days after it was issued.
“It was an interesting way to try to derail an investigation,” Schoewe said.
When Pruhs found out what Davis does for a living, he tossed the restraining order, noting that the “court finds she (Anderson) was intentionally misleading.”
And Davis, a cop for more than 30 years, is still working the case and hunting for Anderson”s boyfriend.
“I”ve done some surveillance on the house,” he said.
And if the man comes back to Anderson”s home?
“If I think he”s there, we”ll bang on the door.”