Mountain Xpress, Asheville Citizen-Times, Carolina Public Press, mountainx.com
BYLINE: Jake Frankel
District Attorney Ron Moore released a 2011 audit of the Police Department Evidence Room June 19, revealing more details about missing drugs, guns and money that caused a major scandal. In 2012, several media outlets, including Mountain Xpress, filed an unsuccessful joint lawsuit to press Moore and the city of Asheville to release the document.
In the wake of the June 19 release, several of those media outlets reported on what the 15-volume audit brings to light.
Here’s an excerpt from the Carolina Public Press:
The audit reveals an evidence room in deep disarray when it was shut down for the audit in 2011, with haphazard records, a failure to destroy items after cases were cleared, two separate software systems that weren’t well understood, a lack of space and a failure to properly organize the space. …
“The facility would have been difficult for an APD supervisor to audit,” auditor Mike Wright noted in the summary report for the 15-volume set of tomes comprising his assessment.
An initial audit of the evidence room by a former APD officer couldn’t find nearly a fifth of the items it sought. However, Wright later managed to find many of those missing items, which were mislabeled or stored incorrectly. For example, about $31,000 in cash that couldn’t be located by Wright was later found to have been forfeited to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Wright’s audit lists no less than 20 major areas where the evidence room had significant issues, ranging from record-keeping and storage. In many cases, items were entered as destroyed when they remained in the evidence room. While a 2011 audit by former APD commander Ross Robinson was unable to find 115 missing items, Wright’s team was later able to locate 82 of these.
From the items listed under the computer system the APD was using since 2005, 729 drug items including paraphernalia, 62 gun items including holsters and ammunition, and 48 cash items totaling $8,872 were missing. Additionally, 13 cash items with a value of $4,375 were released supposedly to the Clerk of Court but were never recorded by the clerk.
Here’s an excerpt from the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Moore said he did not recall any Superior Court felony cases in which charges were permanently dismissed because of lost evidence. He did say about 50 District Court misdemeanor were dismissed or pleaded down because the DA’s office did not want to wait a year to settle the cases while the evidence room remained closed for the audit and reorganization.
Initially, an internal audit by former Asheville police Deputy Chief Ross Robinson suggested 20 percent of items out of a sample were missing, but Moore said the Blueline audit was able to locate about 75 percent of those items.
Moore also released the report to Asheville City Council and city staff Thursday afternoon. They had previously received recommendations from the Blueline audit, which included purging the existing inventory in the old evidence room, providing adequate staffing of four-six people and ensuring that those employees have specialized training in property and evidence management.
“The recommended changes have already been implemented, and we’ve taken the action necessary to deal with the gap that we had before the audit,” Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “Other than implementing the changes that were recommended, I don’t know that there is anything else to be done with it.”
She added that the city manager’s office will review the audit “in total to see if there’s anything else we need to do.”
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