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Sheriff mum on botched warrant

Courtney Astolfi • Nov 23, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Three weeks after Huron County deputies busted through his door with a bad search warrant, John Collins still hasn't got any answers from Sheriff Dane Howard how deputies got it wrong. 

Howard appears to be sticking with the story the search warrant was properly served despite obvious errors that occurred. 

And he continues to ignore inquiries and public records requests. 

The search warrant, approved by county Common Pleas Judge Timothy Cardwell, was for “the residence of Robert Lee Hendricks, 114½ Benedict Avenue” for evidence of drug trafficking.

But it wasn't Hendicks' home, and John Collins was not Robert Lee Hendicks. 

Deputies served the warrant on Collins on March 25, cuffed him and forced him face down on the floor, leaving him there while they searched through his home and ignored his warnings they had the wrong place and the wrong guy.  

A short time later, deputies knocked on the door at the unit next to where Collins lives in the triplex home and arrested Hendricks' mother, Patricia Papp, and his brother, Thomas Papp, on outstanding warrants. 

Those arrests were unrelated to the search warrant, however, according to sheriff's Capt. Ted Patrick, who also insisted the search warrant was properly executed even though it was Collins' home — not Hendricks' home — that they searched. 

The warrant appears to have been granted by Cardwell based on bad information from the sheriff's office. 

“Det. Zander and I both observed Robert Hendricks (1/16/73) exit the residence of 114½ Benedict Ave,” Huron County deputy Richard Larson wrote in the affidavit submitted to the court with the search warrant request.

Read the search warrant

That appears to be the only instance in which deputies tied Hendricks to Collins' address, but he's never lived there, Collins said.

Cardwell sealed the warrant after granting it and sealed the order sealing it. The double-gag order was lifted several days later, however, and appears to be riddled with inconsistencies. It also does not match descriptions provided by Patrick and Howard previously. 

Howard has refused to release public records from earlier criminal complaints or incident reports involving Hendricks, his mother and brother, or Collins. 

Howard also has refused to answer questions about the inaccurate information that's already been provided by the sheriff's office, or how he determined that deputies properly conducted the search warrant despite cuffing the wrong person and searching the wrong person's home.  

The only incident report Howard did release concerning what occurred March 25 is incomplete and, in part, nonsensical. It details only the arrest of the Papps. It lists Collins as an “involved party,” but offers no explanation how he might have been involved. 

“I responded to 114 Benedict Ave. I was advised there were two subjects there that had warrants. When I arrived I arrested Thomas and Patricia Papp. Both subjects were handcuffed and the cuffs gapped and double locked. The subjects were transported to this jail without incident,” the report states, in its entirety.

Read the report

A dispatch log in the report also appears to incorrectly state Patricia Papp was at Collins' home at the time of her arrest, rather than her own home.

Howard said April 3 he was working on the Register's records request for the previous, earlier criminal complaints, but he didn't follow through. 

Law enforcement agencies are required to document criminal complaints and make those records available to members of the public when requested. The Huron County Sheriff's Office has made a practice of ignoring public records requests and not complying with state law related to records. 

Sheriff Howard recently agreed to come into compliance, however, saying there was a misunderstanding as to what the sheriff's office is required by law to provide. He's refused to respond to this latest request in the same way the office improperly ignored requests in the past, however, and Howard offered no explanation for backtracking on the promise to take corrective action. 

He has not provided documentation of Collins' complaint that prompted Howard to declare his deputies acted properly during the execution of the warrant.

Additionally, Howard has refused to answer how deputies linked Hendricks to Collins' address.

Howard also has refused to answer questions regarding the sealing of the search warrant by Cardwell.

He has refused to offer details on the execution of the warrant itself, including information about personal property owned by Collins that Collins said was damaged by deputies when they searched his home. 

The sheriff also has refused to say at what point deputies realized they had the wrong guy. 

Two weeks ago, Howard said he hoped to fulfill the above requests “soon.” It's not clear whether he intends to provide the records.

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