CALDWELL, Idaho — Joseph Hoadley took an oath to serve and protect the people of Caldwell and uphold the law. A federal jury of his peers found he violated that oath.
Former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said charging law enforcement officers for these types of federal crimes doesn't happen often. Following a federal trial for a potential civil rights violation, Olson said this is the first time she's seen a conviction against a law enforcement officer in Idaho.
“Law enforcement officers - once they become law enforcement officers and they have the authority of the law behind them - also have the trust of the people behind them. If they can't live up to that trust it's hard for anyone in the community to have faith that they're willing to serve and protect,” Olson told KTVB.
A judge sentenced former Caldwell Police Lieutenant Joseph Hoadley to three months in federal prison and one year of supervised release Monday morning.
Hoadley was found guilty of falsifying records in a federal investigation, witness tampering and destroying records. He was found not guilty of deprivation of rights, which is a civil rights charge.
Court documents show prosecutors asked for a sentence of 3 years, 5 months as well as a $150,000 fine. Hoadley's defense asked for probation.
"This case is about an officer who criminally violated the oath he took to uphold the law," said U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit in a news release following Monday's sentencing. "In falsifying reports and tampering with a witness, the defendant offended the principles of the Caldwell Police Department and of law enforcement officers everywhere. This case shows that we will not hesitate to hold accountable police officers who violate the law — just like we do for everyone else. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that this investigation occurred because several Caldwell Police Officers refused to tolerate the defendant's violations and stood up to his abuse of power. The integrity and bravery of these officers is something that the community can be proud of."
Referring to Hoadley's case, Olsen said that providing untrue information following a crime further undermines the system. "If we can't have law enforcement officers who are going to be truthful in the reports that they make, if they are going to intimidate the people who are going to participate in the process, the process simply doesn't work,” Olsen said.
In handing down the sentence in federal court on Monday, Judge Scott Skavdahl said, "this was an offense of arrogance, defiance and stupidity... It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, it takes a moment to destroy it."
An emotional Hoadley said through tears that he does not want to lose his 10- year-old son. Judge Skavdahl – who is visiting from Wyoming – said he factored that in to his decision.
The judge also took the former lieutenant's community involvement and contributions into account, which were outlined in 65 letters in support of Hoadley filed with the court.
“Officer Hoadley, before these charges, was a very well-respected law enforcement officer and did work that was considered to be good work by the people and the prosecutors and other law enforcement,” Olson said, “And then he did these things now that he's been convicted of, then the other instances with which he was charged that he wasn't convicted of, and sometimes it's really hard to reconcile those two parts of a person.”
Judge Skavdahl gave Hoadley three months in federal prison and one year of supervised release.
He recommended Hoadley serve at an institution in Sheridan, Oregon. Idaho does not have a federal prison.
“In the scheme of things three and a half months doesn't seem all that long,” Olson told KTVB. “We'll know whether it was enough the next time a police officer is confronted with a situation where he may have done something he shouldn't have and he has the decision to make about whether to be truthful in the reports or not.”
Judges factor several pieces into their decisions, Olson said, including what both parties recommend, what the probation department outlines, what federal code says about sentencing for these types of crimes, the nature of the crimes, the defendant's background, and the message the sentence sends to others.
“It will always be hard for federal judges to send law enforcement officers to prison for a lengthy period of time. It's just that for those of us who worked in the criminal justice system it's still a bit of a hurdle to get over to think that someone else who works in that system would intentionally sort of manipulate its outcome,” Olson said.
Among those who wrote a letter supporting Hoadley was current Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor.
He admitted he used the official prosecutor's office letterhead to write it. Taylor testified on the stand Monday, saying Hoadley is a good man.
Olson thinks it is unusual that an elected public official would make statements in support of a defendant during their sentencing.
"As a prosecutor I would not have exercised my discretion to walk into a court and make statements supporting someone who had been convicted of the kinds of crimes Officer Hoadley had been convicted of, and who had been accused of in the scope of his duties - not treating the people of canyon county properly," Olsen said.
All Canyon County law enforcement leaders sent KTVB a joint statement Monday night saying they were "dismayed" by Taylor's comments. The statement is signed by Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue, Middleton Police Chief Jeff Smith, Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff, Wilder Police Chief Dusty Tveidt, Caldwell Police Chief Rex Ingram, and Parma Police Chief Robert Topie.
The statement reads in full:
“On behalf of all Canyon County law enforcement chief executive officers, we are unified in our dismay as we learned that our duly elected Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Bryan Taylor, testified in support of a defendant in a federal sentencing hearing. The citizens of Canyon County expect their leaders in law enforcement to advocate for the community, for victims, and for justice. Today, we believe Mr. Taylor displayed quite the opposite when he advocated for leniency on behalf of an individual that was lawfully convicted of serious crimes. We are particularly troubled because the crimes Mr. Hoadley was convicted of reflect poorly on our profession and on Canyon County law enforcement.
Police legitimacy is predicated upon public trust and requires a mutuality of confidence between law enforcement and the community. The erosion of that trust continues to be a national concern due to actions by a select few. We believe testimonies such as Mr. Taylor’s weaken the confidence that our community has in the criminal justice system, as well as in their leaders.
Today, we as leaders of our respective agencies, profess publicly that we will work diligently to strengthen and restore that community trust, and that we will use our platforms to promote the betterment of the whole, and not just the individual, regardless of any personal or professional relationships that may exist between us and those who harm our communities.”
Olson said Hoadley's conviction and prison sentence sends a couple messages nationally.
“It sends the message that juries will be receptive when there's really clear evidence of misconduct,” Olson said, “and then I think it sends a message that law enforcement officers lose a lot when they get convicted of a crime. And they may not spend as much time behind bars or in prison as people were convicted of other kinds of crimes, but they won't be able to be law enforcement officers anymore.”
Under Idaho Administrative Rules, a felony conviction is a mandatory decertification by Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) once the agency receives the conviction and sentencing orders, meaning Hoadley can no longer be a law enforcement officer in this state.
A spokesperson for POST says they have to give 14 days for Hoadley to potentially appeal his sentencing before they can more forward with de-certification.
Hoadley will report for his sentence in early April. He has two weeks to let the court know if he wants to appeal the sentence.
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