Friday, March 11, 2005

Deputy Justin Revnell - Charges Dismissed - Grand Traverse SD

Domestic violence charges against Deputy Justin Reveell [Dec 30, 2004] were dropped when the victim / witness 'disappeared' after Sheriff Scott Fewin [Deputy Revnell's uncle] spoke with the victim on three different occassions.

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Deputy Justin Revnell [Sheriff Scott Fewin's nephew] - Charged with domestic violence

Detective Justin Revnell was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and was suspended from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff Department, in January 2005.

Criminal charges against Detective Revnell were dropped, when the victim / witness failed to appear to testify at a March 2005 hearing.... 

 appeared as though the victim / witness had vanished....

....According to Assistant State Attorney General Erin House, the victim's / witnesses's disappearance was "Concerning....she's taken steps that go well beyond what a domestic violence victim would normally do in a case like this... She stopped speaking to a lot of people that she's been close with over the years."

The Traverse City Record-Eagle disclosed that Grand Traverse Sheriff Scott Fewin spoke with the victim / witness in the case against Detective Revnell on three different occassions, after Revnell was charged with the assault...and before the victim / witness disappeared...AND THAT SHERIFF FEWIN WAS DETECTIVE REVNELL'S UNCLE.

Detective's case raises concerns over conflicts
Traverse City Record-Eagle
March 30, 2005

Say what you want about Julius Caesar, the guy understood public opinion.

When his wife, Pompeia, became entangled in an alleged sordid affair, he divorced her, telling his advisers that while there was no solid proof of her unfaithfulness "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

Fast forward a couple of millennia to Grand Traverse County, where an officeholder somewhat less exalted than emperor - the county sheriff - finds himself in a no-less-embarrassing situation.

Sheriff Scott Fewins is learning the hard way that it's not always good public service to employ a relative, in his case a nephew.

Justin Revnell, 26, is one of his uncle's detectives, and until he was accused of manhandling his ex-girlfriend he was a junior high school liaison officer. He apparently also has more than a passing familiarity with the grape.

The woman told authorities the detective, on one occasion, threw her to the ground during an argument and another time held her in a headlock. She also said his judgment was affected by his drinking. He was legally drunk when state police interviewed him shortly after the alleged incident.

He denied the accusations, saying she was having a difficult time dealing with their breakup.

Fewins, showing a judgment lapse of his own, spoke directly with the woman about her allegations against his nephew. It was an odd situation for the sheriff to allow himself to be placed. Here the sheriff-uncle of the detective-nephew was talking with the ex-girlfriend-accuser of the detective-nephew. Talk about conflict.

Whatever else they talked about, Fewins said that during their three conversations, the woman said she would not testify or make a complaint against Revnell.

Interestingly, that's exactly how the case concluded.

The woman disappeared. Dust to the wind.

The investigative prowess of law enforcement was useless against the wile of a 26-year-old alleged abuse victim.

Not to worry, though, the public was assured there had been an exhaustive search. But because it was fruitless, charges against the sheriff's nephew would have to be dropped. After all, without a witness what could be done?

The whole affair does nothing to instill confidence in the county's legal system, still recuperating from a couple of body blows to its judiciary.

The sheriff should have stayed out of the case against his nephew. It should have been entirely turned over to the state police and the state attorney general's office for a full investigation and detailed report to the people.

"Above suspicion" applies to cops as well as emperors' wives.

Assault charge against detective dropped after witness vanishes
Revnell will be back to work on Monday
Record-Eagle staff writer
March 11, 2005

TRAVERSE CITY - Instead of sitting in a courtroom as a defendant next week, a Grand Traverse County sheriff's detective will be back on the job.

County prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor domestic assault charge against Justin Revnell, a six-year officer and nephew of Sheriff Scott Fewins.

Revnell has been suspended without pay since mid-January, when prosecutors charged him with assaulting his live-in girlfriend.

Prosecutor Alan Schneider said he dismissed the case after consulting with Erin House, an assistant state attorney general who handles domestic violence cases in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Antrim counties.

Prosecutors said their case fell apart when their primary witness, Revnell's 26-year-old ex-girlfriend, left the area and couldn't be located to testify at Revnell's trial that was expected to begin March 16.

House said the woman has taken "extraordinary" measures to avoid testifying in the case, and that authorities have been unable to locate her to serve a subpoena compelling her to testify.

"It's concerning ... because she's taken steps that go well beyond what a domestic violence victim would normally do in a case like this," House said. "She stopped speaking to a lot of people that she's been close with over the years."

Because domestic violence victims are sometimes uncooperative with investigators, prosecutors are allowed to use "hearsay" evidence such as 911 calls or previous statements made to police. But Schneider said there was insufficient "third-party" evidence to pursue the case.

"We were depending on the victim coming around," Schneider said. "She's just not going to come through."

Revnell, 26, was charged following a Dec. 30, early-morning complaint taken by Michigan State Police. The woman told troopers she was pushed to the ground after confronting Revnell about his alcohol use.

During that interview, she also told police she was assaulted a few months earlier when Revnell put her in a "headlock" and knocked her feet from under her and put her face-down on the floor. That alleged incident prompted the charge.

Revnell told troopers there was no argument and denied the woman's accusations. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Schneider said there was no effort to deter his office from pursuing the case.

"I don't want anybody to think there's any pressure coming from somewhere else," he said. "He was charged rather ambitiously ... we tried everything we could to put this case together."

Fewins accused prosecutors of pursuing the case too aggressively. On Thursday he said he believed Revnell was charged because he was a police officer.

"Nobody else would have been charged, based on what I saw," Fewins said. "I never felt charges were justified."

House disagreed.

"The facts of this case are similar to facts we charge on everyday," she said. "If it was unfounded, we never would have charged him."

House said the woman also may have been influenced by the media attention to the case, and by members of Revnell's family.

"I know she talked with them about what could happen to (Revnell)," she said.

House also said the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charge could be re-filed if the woman is found.

Revnell's attorney, Clarence Gomery, said his client and family had nothing to do with the woman's disappearance.

"My client or myself have no knowledge as to her whereabouts, or her reasons for lack of contact (with prosecutors)," Gomery said.

A police report indicated that when troopers interviewed Revnell, a preliminary breath test indicated his blood alcohol level was .08 percent - legally intoxicated in Michigan.

Revnell underwent an alcohol assessment after being charged, Fewins said, and has taken daily breath tests over the past two months but hasn't been ordered to attend alcohol counseling. The sheriff said he's satisfied Revnell does not have an alcohol problem.

"Absolutely," Fewins said. "I would be shocked if he had a drink in the last 60 days."

Fewins said Revnell will be reimbursed for almost two months of back pay and will be assigned to the department's detective bureau upon his return to work Monday.

Revnell had worked as a school liaison officer at Traverse City West Junior High School but won't return for now; the current school officer will finish out the year, Fewins said.

Officer's trial date set for March 16
He allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend
Record-Eagle staff writer
February 5, 2005

TRAVERSE CITY - A trial date has been set for a Grand Traverse County sheriff's detective charged with assaulting his former girlfriend.

Justin Revnell, 26, has been scheduled for a jury trial in 86th District Court on March 16. He faces one count of misdemeanor domestic assault after he allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend at the couple's home a few months ago.

Revnell pleaded not guilty to the charge during his arraignment before Judge Thomas Phillips on Jan. 12.

State police took a complaint from Revnell's ex-girlfriend on Dec. 30 after she told police Revnell pushed her when she confronted him about his alcohol use. During the interview, the woman told police months earlier Revnell had put her in a "headlock" before knocking her feet out from under her, then pushed her face into the floor, prompting the misdemeanor assault charge.

The day after his arraignment, Revnell was removed from paid administrative leave and put on unpaid suspension from his post as a school liaison officer at Traverse City West Junior High.

"That is probably where this will stay until the criminal part of this is over," said Sheriff Scott Fewins, also Revnell's uncle, after the suspension. "Then we will close our internal investigation at that time and make a decision if there are any other sanctions that need to be imposed."

As a condition of bond, Phillips ordered Revnell to surrender his personal firearms, restricted him from contacting the alleged victim, and ordered him to submit to daily alcohol tests.

Jury selection is scheduled for March 14. If convicted, Revnell could face a maximum of 93 days in jail and fines.

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