Monday, September 10, 2007

Ranger vs. Cop: Cop Wins

In the case of the aggressive park ranger vs. the cop engaging in gay sex in a public park, it looks like the jury has sided with the cruising cop, John Stolpe. Defense attorney Robert Schwartz certainly earned his money on this case by convincing the attentive jury Stolpe's version of the incident could have happened despite the fact that it defied all logic. Schwartz did this by convincing the jury that the arresting officer, park ranger Douglas Kilpatrick was an overly agressive, "wanna-be cop" who would lie just to make an arrest and enjoyed beating on innocent victims.

Now I am not going to defend Ranger Kilpatrick just because he is a fellow park ranger. Some of Kilpatrick's actions definitely weakened this case. Kilpatrick's surveillance of the two men should have been better so that he could have positively identified the specific sexual activity that they were engaged in. This may have been difficult, however, considering the terrain and vegetation in the area. Additionally Kilpatrick should have verbally identified himself as a police officer upon initial contact and after Stolpe fled the scene. I doubt, however, that attorney Schwartz made these items key to Stolpe's defense.

What Kilpatrick did right, was use the force necessary to subdue a fleeing suspect, including pushing the suspect to the ground, using pepper spray and using an impact weapon (collapsible baton). These are the types of actions that attorney Schwartz focused on and was able to convince a jury that a park ranger should not be doing. I doubt Stolpe would have been acquitted if Kilpatrick had been a police officer instead of a park ranger.

I guess people just want park rangers to tell them all about the cute cuddly woodland creatures instead of enforcing laws and arresting criminals. What should a park ranger to do once all of the woodland creatures are scared away by hoards of horny men looking for sex?

Stolpe not guilty on all counts (Press-Telegram)
By Tracy Manzer

HOLLYWOOD - A retired Long Beach police officer and 27-year veteran of the force was found not guilty Monday of exposing himself in public and resisting arrest.

The seven-woman, five-man jury agreed with the defense's argument that retired Long Beach Police Cpl. John Stolpe was falsely accused of lewd conduct by Los Angeles City Park Ranger Douglas Kilpatrick at Griffith Park on April 6, 2006.

As the court clerk read the not-guilty verdicts on both counts, Stolpe exhaled loudly and looked over at the jury, smiling and tapping his heart.

His wife, Assistant Long Beach City Attorney Sandra Stolpe, remained composed but her eyes grew red and seemed to mist with tears. When Stolpe turned to look at her and give her a smile, she smiled in return and put her hand up to her mouth looking as though she might cry.

"Sometimes you have to put your faith in the system," she said once the jury left the courtroom.

"That's hard to do when you're a cop," Stolpe quipped just a few moments later.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney Robert Schwartz focused on destroying the arresting ranger's credibility, calling witnesses that depicted Kilpatrick as irrational and a man who frequently abused
his authority whenever questioned.

"As I said in my closing argument, Officer Kilpatrick is not a credible witness," Schwartz said outside of the courtroom Monday afternoon. "What we presented in court is just the tip of the iceberg."

Prosecutor Yong Sohn tried to paint Stolpe as a man living a double life: on one hand, the defendant was a well-known and highly decorated officer, loving father and husband with political aspirations, but was also driven to extreme risks to fulfill a carnal urge.

The former mayoral candidate, who was arrested about five days prior to the 2006 election, vehemently denied those claims on and off the stand.

Exchanges between Stolpe and Sohn grew heated in a verbal battle over two days.

Sohn argued that Stolpe ran from authorities and lied about his job as a police officer because he knew it would destroy his career, his marriage, his election dreams and, ultimately, his life.

The 51-year-old - who retired not long after his arrest and about two years shy of his full pension - scoffed at Sohn's claims.

Stolpe said it was too soon to know whether he was going to pursue a civil suit for malicious prosecution.

"It's about time that someone took this guy to the mat," he said, referring to Kilpatrick, adding that several people had thanked him for standing up to the ranger.

Conditions in Judge Leslie Swain's courtroom were tough at times due to a faulty air conditioner that resulted in high temperatures and no air flow during the recent heat wave.

A number of jurors on the case looked pained, except for one man who dozed frequently during testimony and another woman who sat expressionless during every moment of the six-day trial.

On the first and only day of deliberations, they convened promptly at 9 a.m. and, except for lunch, declined any breaks. They were had their verdict by 4 p.m.

Stolpe told the jury he was hiking in a canyon in the park near Zoo Drive when he came upon two men in a clearing just off the trail who were fondling one another.

Stolpe testified that he told the men to stop and that one of the men pulled up his pants and ran but the other stayed put, looking irritated.

It was while he politely chastised that man that came upon the pair and accused both of lewd conduct, he told the jury.

Kilpatrick testified he could not see much through thick brush surrounding the clearing, but that he saw the buttocks of one man - who he identified as Stolpe - and could see another man standing directly in front of him.

The ranger said he ordered both men to stop and sit down. Stolpe, he said, made a run for it and pushed the ranger out of his way as he tried to flee down the rocky and narrow path.

Kilpatrick told the jury that in his haste, Stolpe lost his footing and fell a couple of times. The ranger said he also tried to keep Stolpe down with his foot, used pepper spray on him and hit him once in the arm with his collapsible baton.

The weapons had no effect on the defendant, who was about Kilpatrick's height but about 50 to 70 pounds heavier, and Stolpe eventually fled up into the hillside, forcing Kilpatrick to call for backup.

About half a dozen rangers and public safety officers as well as the Los Angeles Police Department's helicopter unit responded.

Stolpe was found within about 15 minutes and never identified himself as a police officer or told anyone that he had caught the real culprits, authorities testified.

One officer said the defendant lied and told him he was unemployed, which Stolpe confirmed on the stand. Stolpe also confirmed officers' testimony that he claimed he was dropped off at the park. The defendant explained that he didn't want his car impounded or the officers to find his gun, badge and other property.

Stolpe never identified himself as a fellow officer because it wouldn't have done any good, he testified, and because he knew they would eventually find out after he gave them his name and driver's license number.

Stolpe also testified that Kilpatrick told him to head to the street and when he brushed up against Kilpatrick on the narrow path that he was shoved.

Stolpe said he also picked up a little speed as he headed down the steep trail.

That is when Kilpatrick pushed him face-down the ravine, Stolpe testified, knocking the defendant about 8 feet down a ditch. Stolpe said he was pushed again, stomped on by the ranger, pepper-sprayed twice and hit about three times with the baton.

The defendant said he chose to flee and hide so that he could wait for other officers to arrive. He figured that Kilpatrick would be less likely to continue beating him if there were witnesses, Stolpe testified.

Testimony in the six-day trial focused as much, if not more so, on Kilpatrick as it did on the defendant.

Schwartz argued his client was a well-respected police officer who had worked some of the most dangerous and highly sought assignments in the Long Beach Police Department and who was known for his professionalism. Kilpatrick, Schwartz said, had an authority complex and a history of false accusations.

"(Kilpatrick) was described by the prosecutor ... as an officer who goes by the book," Schwartz said. "I think it would be more accurate to say he writes his own book."

To bolster his claims, the defense lawyer called two Los Angeles men to testify about their experiences with Kilpatrick.

The men cited by Kilpatrick testified that they were stopped by Kilpatrick on numerous occasions, detained and eventually arrested on minor charges such as drinking in public and riding a bicycle in a prohibited area of the park.

Both men testified Kilpatrick had wrongly accused them and lied on citations he issued them. Both said it was their questioning of Kilpatrick that led the ranger to fly into a rage and abuse his authority. A third man, who witnessed several of the confrontations, also testified.

Kilpatrick told the jury that both men were detained when they became belligerent. One was taken into a local jail to be cited because he didn't have any identification, while the other was arrested after he lost control and began fighting with the ranger, Kilpatrick said.

At one point, the ranger testified that he found red or purple residue in a cup one of the men had, and that it appeared to be wine or a mixed drink, prompting him to cite and arrest the man for drinking in public.

Schwartz showed Kilpatrick the ticket he had issued and where the ranger had written down that the cup contained beer.

"He's a frustrated cop is what he is," Stolpe said. "He's a wanna-be cop and he should be sticking to being a park ranger."

Kilpatrick ended up testifying over three days of the trial, more than any other witness, and was grilled extensively.

Sohn noted as much, pointing out to the jury that Schwartz's lengthy closing argument was devoted almost entirely to destroying Kilpatrick's credibility.

Schwartz told the jury the case clearly came down to the two officers and which man was more believable. The witnesses that testified against Kilpatrick undoubtedly planted that crucial seed of doubt in the jurors' minds about the ranger's credibility, Schwartz said after the trial.

"We see this as a vindication and an exoneration of John Stolpe," Schwartz said.

A prosecutor from the Los Angeles City Attorney's office called to fill in for Sohn on Monday declined to comment.


Anonymous said...

I have never been a victim of a crime, BUT I HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF PARK RANGER DOUGLAS KILPATRICK, along with so many others.

I had a frightening run in with this Rogue/Wanna-be-cop Forest Ranger and lived to tell about it.

He does not uphold the rule of law, is on a crazed power trip and will lie just to strut about his latest arrest, even under false pretenses. His is judge, jury and executioner and you can kiss your rights goodbye if you run into this maniac.

If the city doesn't take action against his recklessness soon and boot him, I see big civil lawsuits in their future. Douglas Kilpatrick is an embarrassment to all well intentioned peace officers that actually protect our city.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat in Griffith Park comes dressed in a Park Ranger uniform.

IloveLA said...

I agree. Park Ranger Douglas Kilpatrick has a very long record of abusing park visitors. He also has a VERY long file of citizen complaints against him.

I wonder what the cost has been for innocent citizens to combat the false charges he issues. The legal costs just to prove your innocence is more than the average Joe can handle.

Douglas Kipatrick not only abuses his authority, the rule of law, but give our very good public servants a black eye. I don't know anyone willing to risk enjoying Kilpatrick as long as he'd left unchecked!

Anonymous said...

Douglas Kilpatrick has had more citizen complaints (10+ in recent years) than the city should tolerate. Why he'd left to terrorize and abuse his authority on innocent citizens of LA is infuriating.

You cannot take an oath to uphold the law, when you trample all over it time and time again. He has no credibility. I wish someone within the city would take note -- he is among the greatest threats running unchecked!!!

B. said...

Does he go to bed with his finder on the pepper spray can and Forest Ranger socks?

My girlfriend and I had a run in. He smelled 'alcohol' on our breath as we picnicked. Wrong.

I stood up to see what this was about and he did a neanderthal chest bump to prove his power over me. Ok Dude, you hold the power.

He didn't find any alcohol but left with a stench of over-aggressiveness all over the place. He has something to prove so I'd just say BE CAREFUL IF YOU RUN INTO THIS DUDE!

Anonymous said...

Local cops don't even approve of this Park Ranger on a mission. The word is he will arrest under false pretenses for an arrest to build himself up. What about justice?

The local cops aren't fooled. They see him overcharge for no reason just to reel one in for the night. Ask any local cop... they say he's the biggest embarrassment to the first line in the rule of law.

Dan99876 said...

Yogi... BooBoo... run for your life! There is an out-of-control park ranger and his name is Doug Kilpatrick.

You find someone who hasn't had a bad run in where your rights were violated, and I'll say you're a rare breed in this city.

Anonymous said...

Its been a while since this post but I felt obligated to make a statement. I recently ran into this Mr. Kilpatrick while having a picnic at Griffith Park. Having just had a picnic the weekend before in North Hollywood, with two actual conversations with officers in that area about rules, we were surpirsed to find out that you were unable to consume beer in the park. We had checked online ahead of time, but there was no posting about said rules.

Mr. Kilpatrick came upon our group, who mind you were calmly tossing a frisbee between each other, snatched my drink from my hand and tossed it on my feet. Myself and the two others cooperated with the officer giving out names and addresses. He still felt it necessary to summon two other officers to "help with the citations". We pleaded with him that we had just had a picnic in a park north of griffith and had spoken with officers about drinking at the park adding that the officers there stated it was no problem unless there was a complaint. Even after we stated we hadnt realized the rule and would gladly hand over any alcohol to the rangers he continued to write us up a $200 charge seems that being a nice person is not in the job description for such rangers. Therefor myself and my family and friends will no longer visit any park in the greater Los Angeles area. Seems its illegal for a person to enjoy a sunny day during these harder economic times.

Disappointed1 said...

It's no coincidence so many well meaning park visitors have had HORRIBLE, sometimes frightening encounters with Officer Doug Kilpatrick. It's the same scenario over and over for years. He's over an aggressive, power-hungry Park Ranger with on a major authority trip. I won't go back either as a result of this crazed 'peace' officer.