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Case against deputy dropped

Prosecutors won't approve judge's ruling dismissing perjury charge against Anthony Gardner


Staff Reporter

Prosecutors said Friday they will not appeal a judge's ruling that dismissed a perjury case against a Mobile County sheriff's deputy.

Deputy Anthony Gardner was charged last year with perjury after a search warrant he filled out in 2001 and presented to a judge included false information.

According to court records, in May 2001 Gardner was working with former Mobile undercover officer Rodney Patrick on a drug task force when an informant pointed out two men from Texas. The pair had just dropped off a load of marijuana at an Eight Mile home.

Posing as a drug dealer, Patrick approached the men and sold them a small amount of fake crack cocaine. After the buy, the men were taken into custody. And shortly after that, they told the officers there was $20,000 in cash hidden in their truck and offered to point out where they had just dropped off about 20 pounds of marijuana.

According to court records, the Texans, after cooperating with Patrick and other officers, were not arrested. Instead, they were told "This is your lucky day" and given enough money for a bus ride back to Houston. Their truck and the $20,000 in cash were confiscated by police.

Later, a search of the Eight Mile home turned up a cache of guns and more than 18 pounds of marijuana.

Based on the Texans' information, Gardner had submitted the search warrant for approval by a district judge. However, the warrant did not indicate it was the two men from Texas who led officers to the Eight Mile home, but the man who originally pointed out the Texans.

In the search warrant, Gardner indicated the informant was a "confidential source" who had given information in the past that had "proven truthful and correct."

Gardner was subsequently interrogated by internal affairs personnel. Believing Gardner's account in the search warrant to be false, police officials later charged him with perjury.

It was during this time that Patrick had also come under scrutiny, suspected of pocketing thousands of dollars in drug investigation money entrusted to him.

Patrick, Gardner, and deputies and officers from other area law enforcement agencies were members of Mobile County Street Enforcement Narcotics Team.

The special unit was later disbanded.

Patrick, a former police officer of the year, went on trial in December, charged with first-degree theft of property and was convicted by a jury. In January, Circuit Judge Ferrill McRae ordered Patrick to serve three years of a 10-year sentence.

As for Gardner, later in January his Mobile attorneys, Arthur Madden and Dom Soto, argued before McRae that their client was forced to undergo an internal affairs interrogation after being threatened that he would lose his job if he did not cooperate.

The lawyers cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling -- Garrity v. New Jersey -- involving an officer who was told that if he refused to answer questions in a ticket-fixing probe, "he would be subject to removal."

The high court wrote that "the option to lose their means of livelihood or to pay the penalty of self-incrimination is the antithesis of free choice to speak out or to remain silent."

The same circumstances applied to their client, Soto and Madden argued.

They told McRae in a written motion that Gardner "was informed (by former Chief Deputy James Mayo) prior to giving his statement that he was subject to discipline or termination if he refused to give a statement."

McRae subsequently granted the attorneys' request to dismiss the perjury indictment against their client.

"Statements which are coerced through the threat of termination of employment are inadmissible in subsequent criminal proceedings against law enforcement officers, " McRae wrote in an order.

Gardner's case, the judge said, falls "squarely within the four corners" of the Supreme Court ruling.

Assistant District Attorney George Hardesty Jr. said Friday his office will not appeal McRae's ruling.

Gardner, who had been placed on administrative leave following his arrest, has been reinstated as an active deputy.

He recently said outside court he never tried to hide anything during the investigation.

"Deputy Mayo told me to go over there and cooperate fully," Gardner said. "I was ordered to do so, and that's what I did."

He said that while he had been mistaken about who the informants were in the search warrant, it did not mean he perjured himself, or lied to officers during the investigation.

"It is baffling to me to think that your life is put on hold for a whole year" Gardner said of his arrest and the investigation.

"But I am happy I got a job; I am happy I am working," Gardner said. "Life goes on."


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