The Chaffee County Times, chaffeecountytimes.com
BYLINE: Ryan Fitzmaurice, Leadville Herald
Lake County, CO
Former Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeffrey Hartman was sentenced on Feb. 4 to two years of supervised probation for official misconduct and two years deferred judgment and 100 hours community service for embezzlement of public property for removing an assault rifle from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department evidence room in 2014.
The sentences are concurrent, and Hartman cannot possess firearms during the probation period. Hartman, who served as an evidence custodian, pleaded guilty on Jan. 21.
“My top priority as the district attorney is to ensure confidence in public officials and law enforcement, most of whom are honest professionals who protect us and our system of government,” said Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown.
In April 2014 a scheme to sell guns out of the sheriff’s office evidence room was discovered when a citizen complained that he had paid former Sheriff’s Deputy William Berry for a .38 semi-automatic handgun but had not received it. The citizen’s complaint alerted officials to a possible theft of evidence triggering an investigation coordinated by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The weapon had been seized as evidence during an unrelated domestic violence investigation Berry initiated as the responding officer. Berry later coordinated with Hartman to remove the seized firearms from the evidence room and involved the wife of the accused in the domestic violence incident into transferring ownership to him for $500 in cash. Berry auctioned the Colt handgun for more than $2,300.
Hartman was found in possession of an assault rifle that Berry had given to him. The rifles were to be destroyed when they went missing.
“Preservation of evidence is critical to the legitimacy of our judicial system, and law enforcement officers are angered when they hear of a colleague who abuses the privilege to serve our community,” Brown said.
All four of the missing weapons were recovered and returned to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office during the course of the investigation.
On May 15, 2015, Berry was found guilty of embezzlement of public property and official misconduct, and sentenced to three years of supervised probation on the embezzlement charge and three years concurrent probation and 100 hours of community service for official misconduct.
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