The status of hundreds of investigations is up in the air following a Jamestown Police Department Detective's resignation amid evidence tampering charges.
A news conference was held Friday by David W. Foley, Chautauqua County district attorney, and Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief, to discuss Eric Corey, former police department detective.
"At 9 a.m. this morning, Det. Eric Corey submitted his letter of resignation and is no longer an employee of the Jamestown Police Department," Snellings said. "He took this action on his own, and there has been no deal made in relation to the ongoing criminal investigation."
Corey, who has been a member of the Jamestown Police Department for 14 years, is under investigation after the district attorney learned he had tampered with evidence.
"On Aug. 9, I met with District Attorney Dave Foley to discuss a complaint that he had received, which involved a member of the Jamestown Police Department," Snellings said. "After reviewing the information, I advised my staff of the situation, and the detective was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of our investigation."
Foley said he learned from a confidential source that two to three weeks before jury selection for the Eric Chant case was completed, Corey had attempted to purchase prescription pain killers. While that never actually occured, Foley said he did inform Snellings, and an administrative investigation was launched.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley speaks during a Friday news conference announcing the resignation of Jamestown Police Department Detective Eric Corey amid evidence tampering charges.
P-J photos by Liz Skoczylas
"The administrative portion of this complaint is completed, and there will be no further action taken by the Jamestown Police Department," Snellings said.
New York State Police have opened a separate investigation into Corey. During the press conference, it was revealed that Corey had taken Vicodin and Hydrocodone during the time he was custodian of the police department's evidence room. According to Snellings, Corey was the custodian of the vault for two years.
"He was systematically opening sealed evidence bags and was removing a variety of different types of prescription pain killers," Foley said.
Because of the amount of time Corey was in charge of the evidence room, the time period that evidence was being tampered with is unknown. However, Foley stressed that Chant was not given a plea offer based solely from this information.
"It wasn't solely the fact that we found out about this information that prompted this plea offer, it was also the victim and her desire not to have to testify, and her desire for us to extend that plea on the opening day of trial," Foley said.
Snellings refused to comment on the extent of the tampered evidence. He said the department is still working on an inventory of the evidence room, and has thousands of pieces of evidence to check over.
The evidence room, Snellings said, has very limited access. It is manned by the primary evidence custodian, a backup and a lieutenant, who supervises. Currently, it is unknown as to how many cases will be impacted because of this, although it was stated at the press conference that it could be "dozens."
Additionally, because it is assumed Corey was under the influence while working, several cases may be indirectly impacted. If he was taking drugs while collecting evidence, the evidence he was handling could be tainted. Foley said the Bar Associations in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties will be notified.
"It's so early on, I'm not really sure the full impact of this (on future cases) yet," Foley said. "It's not only completing the investigation the State Police need to do, but it's then taking that information and looking at what cases it impacts."
The Jamestown Police Department does not require mandatory drug testing for its employees, other than at the time of their hire.
"This is an unfortunate circumstance from the actions of one individual, and is in no way a direct reflection of the men and women of this department," Snellings said. "When we receive complaints, we do investigate them. When warranted, we take the appropriate action. Our officers are accountable, and I will not compromise the integrity of this agency for anyone."
The investigation of Corey will be ongoing by the New York State Police. Foley said he hopes to determine the next steps in the case over the course of the next few weeks.
Lt. Ed Kennedy of the New York State Police Department, would not comment as to the potential charges that may be brought up against Corey, stating that speculating would be unfair to everyone involved in the investigation.
"It breaks all of our hearts that we have to do this," Kennedy said. "It's very bothersome, it's not easy to do. You do it because it needs to be done."