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Former Brookneal police chief guilty

Brookneal Police Department Sgt. Brian Carr, 36, of Nathalie was found guilty of one count of grand larceny — not from a person — earlier this month in Campbell County Circuit Court.

The felony charge stemmed from an undercover operation by Virginia State Police prompted by a complaint about Carr.

Carr is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8.

Judge John T. Cook denied two motions from Carr’s attorney, Aubrey Rosser Jr., to strike, before delivering his verdict of guilty at the end of the trial that lasted more than three hours.

Carr, who was acting police chief, was arrested last year on April 26 and has been on unpaid administrative leave from the Brookneal police force ever since.

During an undercover sting operation, Special Agent Troy Kanode of the Virginia State Police instructed Special Agent T. L. Stewart to turn in a wallet containing $544, five lottery tickets, four sheets of written information and a coupon to Carr at the Brookneal police station on April 13, 2010, according to court records.

Detective E. Espinoza was then sent to Carr to report a lost wallet containing those items on April 16. After meeting Carr on a traffic detail, she said he questioned her extensively about providing identificaton before pulling the wallet in question out of his patrol car.

When she opened the wallet, $540 and three lottery tickets were missing. The two remaining scratch tickets had been scratched off.

According to Special Agent Kanode, a missing ticket that was a $20 winner was turned in April 13, but the store’s surveillance camera wasn’t operational to record the transaction.

Rosser repeatedly pointed out that Carr readily produced the wallet and never tried to lie about having it in his possession.

He made a case that the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Carr took the money and tickets.

“Brian Carr is an 11-year-veteran with no criminal record. He took an oath. He’s familiar with testifying in court and knows how to tell the truth,” said Rosser in his closing argument. “Throwing away his career over $540 and a few tickets is not something he’d do.”

The sergeant’s attorney acknowledged that perhaps Carr was guilty of being negligent in some of his actions such as not taking a report on the wallet’s missing money and tickets and keeping the wallet in his patrol car rather than locked up in an evidence locker.

“The Commonwealth didn’t find enough evidence for a crime,” he said.

Carr took the stand in his own defense and maintained that hanging on to lost items for a few days in the patrol car wasn’t that unusual for a small department with only himself and Officer Scott Earhart working 12-hour shifts (at the time). He explained that lost items are often returned to owners within a few hours.

Carr said he laid the wallet on his desk in the department for about four hours on April 13 while he went out on patrol.

When questioned about who had access to the department (which is kept locked), Carr explained that other than himself and Officer Earhart, the only other key he knew of would be the master key that Public Works Director Mike Crews had at the time (while Crews was interim town manager).

He added that others such as the janitor or Clerk/Treasurer Bobbie Waller occasionally came inside.

Carr also said the connecting door was unlocked when he went to the restroom (jointly used by the police department and town hall).
Carr testified that when he returned from patrol on April 13, he spotted the wallet when he returned to the office.

“I saw the wallet on the desk, and it clicked (in his mind); I picked it up to look for I.D. I found several loose ones, tickets, a coupon, papers about an itinerary to Mexico and a paper with names and money amounts beside it. When I went out, I took it with me and put it in the front seat.”

When asked why he turned the wallet over to Espinoza even though she never produced proper identification, he responded that he recognized her voice on a voicemail recording when calling her phone number.

He wrapped things up quickly so he could answer an emergency call for a school bus accident.

Carr testified that he was trying to save the woman’s husband a trip from Charlottesville when she offered several times to get her husband to come to Brookneal to retrieve the wallet.

Special Agent Kanode testified that on the day of the arrest, April 26, the sergeant willingly talked to him and denied taking the money or tickets after he read Carr his Miranda Rights.

“He brought it up,” Kanode said in connection to the missing tickets that Espinoza hadn’t told Carr about on April 16.

Also damning for Carr’s case was the testimony of a friend who said that Carr told her a lie when she asked him about being arrested.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacy Friend pointed out in her closing argument that Special Agent Stewart testified that Carr looked inside the wallet on April 13 when he turned it in at the Brookneal Police Department.

The recording of Carr talking to Espinoza revealed that when she told him about the missing money, the sergeant changed the subject to what type of coupon was in the wallet (steakhouse) rather than offering to take a police report on the missing money.

On the recording, Espinoza is heard asking him “wasn’t the money in there with a rubber band around the wallet?” Carr replies, “This is the way it was brought to me with no rubber band...some money in it...very little.”

Judge Cook said the commonwealth established possession, and some of Carr’s testimony was not believable.

After finding Carr guilty of grand larceny, the judge asked for a pre-sentencing report.

Following the bench trial, Friend explained that Carr would return to court on June 8 where they will present evidence, and the judge will pronounce sentence.