DA Parks Miller talks grand jury report
State College police usually investigate other people, but the tables were turned in a grand jury report released Friday by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
The grand jury alleges that former police officers Tom Dann, Erich Kessinger and Ken Ferron were involved in leaking information to assist defense attorneys and their clients. The grand jury did not recommend that Dann, who was named several times in the report, face charges.
An audit of the police department’s records management system allegedly revealed unusual activity by Dann and Ferron who did not have legitimate connections to any of the named cases in the grand jury report.
Detective Christopher Weaver testified that the department first became aware that someone was “illegally disseminating confidential and privileged police information to outside parties” during its 2015 investigation of Justin Alexander who was sentenced in 2016 to two years of probation after pleading guilty to falsely imprisoning a 19-year-old woman.
Weaver told an attorney, Andrew Shubin, that hiring Kessinger to confront the woman during an active investigation was similar to hiring someone to do Alexander’s harassment for him, according to the report. Weaver testified that Shubin apologized for Kessinger contacting the woman.
An internal investigation revealed that Dann allegedly provided Kessinger with information on the case and withheld information from the department that would have identified the suspect. Dann was charged in 2015 and sentenced in 2016 for stealing drugs from the department’s evidence room.
Dan allegedly admitted to providing information to Kessinger, “whatever he asked for,” from the fall of 2014 through April 2015, per a state trooper’s testimony.
The internal investigation also revealed unusual searches and that Ferron allegedly provided Kessinger with confidential information.
In another case, Ferron allegedly accessed records in 2014 to assist an unnamed defense attorney and unnamed defendant during an active rape investigation according to the report.
The grand jury recommended that Kessinger, who was terminated in 2010 after 14 years with the department, be charged with 20 felony counts of unlawful use of a computer, 4 felony counts of unlawful duplication, 12 felony counts of criminal use of a communication facility, 20 misdemeanor counts of obstructing administration of law, 20 counts of unlawful access to stored communications and 12 counts of detective act licenses.
Recommended charges against Ferron, who retired during the grand jury investigation, include 13 felony counts of unlawful use of a computer, 13 misdemeanor counts of obstructing administration of law, 13 counts of unlawful access to stored communications and 2 felony counts of unlawful duplication.
This story will be updated.