Judge and jury are hearing a case in federal court in Minneapolis that could have played on “NYPD Blue.” MinnPost legal affairs reporter Judith Yates Borger is following the trial’s developments. To read her previous reports on the trial, go here and here.
Ramsey County Sgt. Roland Martinez, a grandfather in a green-grey suit, green and silver tie and glasses, takes the stand. He tells prosecutor Joseph Dixon with a slight Spanish accent that he was born in Ohio and came to Minnesota when he was 13. He started with Ramsey County Sheriff on water patrol, recovering bodies. There’s some confusion over whether to refer to him as sergeant or commander.
“I’m a full stripe sergeant appointed commander of the special investigation unit for Ramsey County,” he explains, adding that the attorneys can refer to him as sergeant.
Under Dixon’s questioning Martinez says that Mark Naylon, information officer, had been at the sheriff’s department long before Martinez. St. Paul Police officer Tim Rehak was loaned to the sheriff’s special investigations unit about the same time Martinez arrived. It was Martinez’ understanding that Naylon, a close friend of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, had arranged for Rehak to join the unit, which Martinez commanded. Naylon was not a licensed peace officer.
“What was Naylon’s job?” Dixon, a young, intense man, asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” Martinez said with a small shake of his head and a rueful chuckle.
Because he was not a peace officer, Naylon couldn’t seek a search warrant. That’s why Naylon asked Martinez to write the request for a warrant on Nov. 3, 2004, the afternoon that Naylon and Rehak entered room 503 at the Kelly Inn in St. Paul. In that request Martinez referred to information from a “reliable confidential informant” that Vinnie Petaglio, a Chicago drug dealer, had left money and drugs in the room and was arrested in Wisconsin before he could get back to retrieve his booty.
Under Dixon’s questioning, Martinez acknowledges that the “RCI” was in fact Naylon. It was common practice in the department to refer to Naylon that way in paperwork.
Warrant in hand, Martinez goes to room 503 with Naylon and Rehak. Martinez first searches the bathroom, where he unwittingly throws a towel over the mirror, blocking the camera that had been placed there by the FBI, who were watching from room 505. But a second camera in the main room captures images of Rehak passing money to Naylon, who slips it into his jacket. Later, Naylon goes to his car after Martinez asks him to fetch a flashlight. Rehak and Naylon then call to Martinez, showing him a black satchel which contains $7,500.
Martinez tells Dixon that as commander he is responsible for the found money. He counts it, signs a receipt that says $7,500 was found in the hotel room.
At about 11:30 that night, Martinez says he’s awakened by a phone call from Naylon and a page from Rehak. They tell him that they found an extra $6,000 in the bed in the room. Groggy, he tells them both the money must be returned and a report filled out in the morning.
The next day Martinez reviews Rehak’s report. There is no mention of the $6,000.
“I told him I wanted more information on the other $6,000,” Martinez says, turning to the jury.
“What did Rehak say?” asked Dixon.
“He said, ‘I’ve written reports for the past 14 or 15 years,” Martinez said.
“You didn’t push it?”
“I let it go,” Martinez said.
Martinez changes the receipt to show that $13,500 was found.
“Did people play practical jokes in the unit?” defense attorney Kevin Short asks Martinez.
“No. Not that I know of,” Martinez replies.
“Did you ever notice Mr. Naylon playing practical jokes?”
“Do you remember telling a group of guys after you left the unit that you were relieved to not be working with Mr. Naylon anymore.”
“No,” said Martinez.
Then Short turns Martinez to the phone calls from Naylon and Rehak.
Short is shouting now. He wants to know why Martinez didn’t ask Naylon and Rehak how they found the $6,000 in the bed after all three of them had searched it thoroughly.
Martinez replies quietly that he was sleepy and “took it that they re-entered the room. I told them they had to write up a report.”
Now Dixon is at the lectern again. “Why didn’t you ask Mr. Naylon how they got the $6,000?”
“I didn’t feel comfortable asking because he had made it clear in the past that he didn’t answer to anyone but his boss,” Martinez said.