n Transcript reveals threatening phone call originated from retired Rockford Police Deputy Chief
Winnebago County States Attorney Paul Logli stood by his statement last summer that he has no plans to investigate a possible witness tampering case, even though recently released closed-session transcripts reveal the witness said I got a threatening phone call.
Logli said because the witness has not stepped forward to complain, his office will not initiate an investigation. Retired Winnebago County Sheriffs Deputy Rob Humphries June 30, 2003, testimony concerning former Rockford Police Officer Steve Johnsons disciplinary hearing showed Humphries was pressured by family and friends to not testify on Johnsons behalf after receiving a threatening phone call. Humphries testified about the execution of search warrants.
Logli added he spoke with Humphries last summer, and Humphries did not express interest in pursuing a possible complaint against retired Rockford Police Deputy Chief John Genens. Logli said the complaint must be generated by Humphries before he could pursue a case against Genens.
In an interview Jan. 27, Humphries said he had no intentions of filing a complaint against Genens.
Humphries also said he did not know how Genens learned he was to testify, nor did he know what motivated Genens to place the call to Humphries brother.
Genens was not available for comment.
Rockford Police Chief Steve Pugh said during a July 2003 interview, as he understood the sequence of events, Genens placed one initial call to Humphries brother, who passed the message to Humphries son, who gave the message to Humphries. Pughs version is supported by the closed-session transcripts from Pugh and Humphries testimonies.
Genens is reportedly married to Humphries sister. How Genens learned Humphries was scheduled to testify and why Genens placed the call to Humphries brother is not known.
After learning about the call, Pugh said he advised Genens to contact Humphries brother and ask him not to call Humphries. However, according to Pugh, by the time the second call was made by Genens, Humphries had already received the message from Humphries son.
According to Humphries testimony, the message said, dont testify, youll be arrested and whatever. Humphries was asked by Johnsons attorney Dan Cain, Whats whatever mean? Humphries said he didnt know and had no clue.
Rockford Police and Fire Commissioners said last August that Johnson was fired for alerting a former friend that he was wanted on an outstanding warrant after officers had been dispatched to apprehend Jeremy Jones.
Johnsons supporters counter the commissioners firing of Johnson was punitive rather than progressive discipline, which may violate the police unions contract with the city.
Johnsons supporters also allege Johnson was fired because of his fathers investigation into Rockford Police Department administrators activities and alleged problems with the citys police communication system. Johnsons father is Rockford Alderman Dave Johnson (R-4), who is also Winnebago County Clerk (see Commissioners action punitive or progressive? article in this issue).
The following are transcript highlights from Cains questioning of Pugh.:
Cain: …is your understanding that this high-ranking member of your department [Genens] attempted to persuade a prospective respondent witness [Humphries] to not testify?
Pugh: Thats correct.…
Cain: Is it your understanding that Humphries complained or stated that he was being intimidated or coerced not to testify by this high ranking officer of – -
Pugh: He complained he was being intimidated but didnt know by whom at that point.…
Cain: Did the officer in question, high ranking officer in question, offer to resign based upon this? Did he resign?
Pugh: Well, theres intermediary things that happened prior to that but, yes, he has resigned.
Cain: Because of this incident?
Cain: And if this high-ranking officer in your department had not resigned, would you have taken steps to discipline him?
Pugh: Yes. He was told he would be at minimum removed from the deputy chief rank and that I was initiating a full-scale formal investigation.
Genens reportedly resigned hours before Humphries testified for Johnson on June 30, 2003.
Cain later questioned Humphries about the incident:
Cain: …pertaining to allegations that after you were disclosed as a respondent witness in this case, did something unusual occur to you?
Cain: And when did it occur?
Humphries: Thursday evening [June 26, 2003].
Cain: And where were you when it occurred?
Humphries: I got a threatening phone call.…
Cain: By who?
Humphries answer to Cains question has been redacted or blacked out, but later testimony indicates the relative to be Humphries brother. The transcripts have more sections redacted to protect the names of Humphries relatives.
Humphries: First of all, to clarify, it [the threatening phone call] came to [a person believed to be Humphries son] first and [that person] told me, and then I turned around and called [my relative, which is believed to be Humphries brother] back. …I called [my relative] on the phone. …[My relative] said youre testifying in something Monday [June 30, 2003] and I said, yeah. [my relative] said dont testify, youll be arrested and whatever. …
I admit I was upset. Day before I retire [from the Winnebago County Sheriffs Department] and I get this phone call, Humphries testified.
He retired from the sheriffs department on June 27, 2003 and was asked by department officials to stay for part-time employment conducting training, according to the transcripts.
Humphries also testified he complained to Tom Gibbons, Rockford Police Department lieutenant of Internal Affairs, the morning after receiving the threatening phone call. Humphries said: He told me to wait. So I waited in his office. I dont know where he went. I dont know where he was. He came back in the office and he says, Rob, we encourage you to testify.
The closed-session transcripts continued with Rockford City Attorney John Gilibertis cross-examination of Humphries:
Giliberti: And Mr. Cain asked you several questions about this phone call you received from [your relative] Thursday night; have you been intimidated in any way to not tell the truth, to be honest with us here today as a result of that call you received from your brother?
Humphries: No. The only thing that I would say is that originally I wasnt going to testify at all because of the phone call, and that was a combination between my wife and that which I stated. So, but I decided at the request of many people that I would be here to testify.