Report: Ex-Anchorage cop suing city interfered with Alaska National Guard investigation

A once-confidential report on a botched Anchorage police investigation of drug dealing and sexual assault involving Alaska National Guard members is at the heart of a former police lieutenant’s wrongful termination lawsuit, which went to trial in Anchorage last week.

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It’s what many involved hope will be the final chapter in a story of uninvestigated rape allegations, unfollowed tips on possible connections to a Mexican drug cartel, alleged plans to fly drugs in Guard aircraft, and years of internal police department strife that led to all of it finally being revealed publicly.

Anchorage Police Department headquarters (Staff photo)

Former police Lt. Anthony Henry is suing the city of Anchorage for wrongful termination. Henry says the city retaliated against him for sticking up for an officer with a medical condition and that his firing was unjust.

Lawyers for the city — which has paid out millions in recent years defending itself in employment lawsuits and losing — say the police department was right to fire Henry for interfering with a criminal investigation and then lying about it.

A key piece of evidence in the trial, which started last Monday, is a 97-page document known as the “Brown Report.”

Lawyers for both Henry and the city — adversaries in the lawsuit — agreed with each other that they wanted to keep it sealed. But the Anchorage Daily News and TV station KTUU joined to intervene to make it public. A judge ordered the Brown Report redacted and released.

The Brown Report is named for its author, the man hired as an independent investigator in the Alaska National Guard matter: retired Lt. Col. Rick Brown, formerly with the Pennsylvania state police. Brown concluded that Henry gave confidential information from detectives in his unit investigating the Guard to the general in charge of the Guard, who was his friend. And this hurt the investigation, according to the report.

The Brown Report also says Henry failed to be honest and forthcoming with his superiors about what he’d done, and Brown also concluded that Henry lied to him in interviews about having meetings with Alaska National Guard commander.

Henry’s attorney said he simply misremembered dates when asked about the meetings years after they happened.

The report also faulted then-Police Chief Mark Mew, saying Mew failed to initiate an internal affairs investigation of Henry at the time. Mew was suspended for two weeks as a result in a move kept secret from the public.

The former police chief appeared in court to testify.

“It’ll be good to finally put all this behind us,” Mew said outside the courtroom, waiting to be called to the witness stand.

Inside, the trial was just getting started.

Henry wore a dark blue suit and sat at the plaintiff’s table under the bright lights in federal court Monday. His lead attorney, Meg Simonian, began by telling the jury she would “pull back a dark curtain at the APD and their lawyers at City Hall.”

Simonian said commanders at the police department, including a deputy chief, were out to get Henry because he objected to how the department had treated a fellow officer diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The police commanders were more concerned with protecting their power in the face of Henry’s complaints, Simionan told the jurors. They fabricated problems and smeared Henry to justify his firing, she said. Douglas Parker, hired by Anchorage, told the jury the officer diagnosed with M.S. was also visiting a girlfriend while clocked in on city time.

“They castigated him, humiliated him and publicly destroyed him. That’s why we’re here,” Simonian said. “Tony Henry did what we hope our kids will do on the playground, helping the kid being bullied. And the municipality and Anchorage Police Department did what we hope our kids won’t do. They circled around the bully.”

Parker said the case is simple, because of the allegations in the report.

“In that report, Lt. Col. Brown concluded he had been lied to in the investigation, and that’s something police officers can’t do and keep their jobs,” Parker told the jurors.

Henry had interfered with an investigation of “big drug activity” implicating some “serious dudes in the Lower 48 or farther south,” Parker said.

The Brown Report

According to the Brown Report — commissioned by the city and including interviews with officers Henry says are out to get him — this is what the internal investigation found:

It was 2010, the last week of February, and officers with the police department’s Special Assignments Unit were surveilling a drug deal in the parking lot of the Debarr Road Costco in Anchorage. They stopped one of the cars and arrested a man who was the boyfriend of an Alaska National Guard recruiter. The officers also seized 56 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of marijuana.

Ninety-seven-page, double-sided printout of the Brown Report (Staff photo)

When the man offered information and asked for a deal, he revealed his source. The officers went to the source, who eventually admitted to being involved with a larger drug ring in Anchorage. Both men said they could get pounds of marijuana and large amounts of cocaine. One also said he’d used Guard vehicles to transport drugs.

Lt. Henry was in charge of the Special Assignments Unit at the time, and the officers told him they had two confidential informants within the Alaska National Guard.

Henry insisted they tell the Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Tom Katkus. That’s according to interviews with the police officers in the Brown Report.

Henry’s argument was — and still is — that drug dealing affected military readiness, and he thought Katkus needed to know immediately, even though Katkus could’ve become a target in the investigation.

The Brown Report says officers working on the larger, related drug case were forced to make arrests before they were ready, because they believed their investigation had been compromised. They executed search warrants at known drug houses around Anchorage with connections to the drug cartel La Familia, seizing five pounds of methamphetamine, a half-kilogram of cocaine and $181,000.

There was another source inside the Guard feeding information to the police and, later, the news media. That person’s tips to the same officers investigating the drug dealing included information about sexual assaults. The Brown Report describes an allegation of a sexual assault in a recruiter’s office.

Henry ordered one of the officers to disclose that person’s name and called Katkus to tell him.

The Brown Report says Henry then ordered the officers to “cease investigation of all alleged illegal activities involving AKNG recruiters and General Katkus.”

“One AKNG sexual assault victim in particular,” the report says, “was deterred from reporting the sexual assault committed on her to the APD when she learned that AKNG command ordered (redacted) to breach her confidentiality while APD personnel was in the room.”

Henry blamed one of the officers for talking to another police officer who was also a Guard member.

But the Brown Report indicates Brown wasn’t buying that. The report’s recommendations included action against Henry and Chief Mew.

“These disclosures of confidential APD information to unauthorized personnel negatively impacted at least one AKNG sexual assault victim, the public, APD operations, APD employees, and family members of APD employees.”

An FBI special agent Brown interviewed said Henry’s disclosure to Katkus “blew him away.”

“(He) related any squared away police officer, regardless of whether they were a detective or not, should have known better than to compromise their informant,” the report says.

Brown also recommended forwarding the case information to state prosecutors to consider possible criminal charges. Henry was never charged. Katkus testified in the trial that there had never been a coverup and denied key points in the Brown Report about his communications with Henry.

No harm, no foul

Henry, suing the city over his firing, is not the one on trial at the federal courthouse. But his attorney, Meg Simonian, vigorously defended him in an interview just outside the courtroom.

Anchorage City Hall.
Anchorage City Hall (Staff photo)

Simonian noted that Henry’s grievances had been recognized as valid by the municipality’s Office of Equal Opportunity. Brown’s investigation and report came several years after the events surrounding the drug and sexual assault investigations, long after the fact because the police department was still retaliating against Henry, she said.

“He got on the wrong side of the deputy chief at the time, who wielded a lot of power, and it just started a campaign of retaliation against him that culminated in the sham investigation that is the Rick Brown Report,” Simonian said.

Henry was a 23-year veteran cop with an unblemished record until all of this, Simonian said, adding that she thought it was unfortunate the report was released publicly.

Simonian called the Brown Report “incredibly flawed” and vowed to pick it apart in the trial.

Simonian said it would’ve been “perfectly appropriate” for Henry to tell Maj. Gen. Katkus, the head of the Alaska National Guard, about the investigation, because Katkus had worked counter-drug investigations and was a former Anchorage police officer.

“And that was the allegation, that somehow that happened and messed up some investigation. But no investigation existed then that was messed up,” Simonian said.

The only investigation was the one related to the drug house busts, Simonian said, adding that she planned to call an FBI agent to the witness stand to testify about how successful the operation had been.

That was the real investigation, Simonian said. The one Henry’s officers complained to Brown about was trumped up to get Henry fired.

“This made up investigation that not a single police report, audio, memo, email, phone record supports existed,” Simonian said.

As for the sexual assault investigation, Simonian said there were some problems identified in the Brown Report, but a subsequent investigation did not find a cover up of widespread sexual assault in the Alaska National Guard. She said a man spreading reports of sexual assault, to the police and news media, was unreliable.

Henry talking to Katkus “didn’t affect anything,” Simonian said.

The case did affect Katkus, and then-Gov. Sean Parnell, who had appointed him. Parnell ultimately asked Katkus to resign.

Parnell first heard about issues in the Guard in 2010 and said he was told by commanders that the Guard was dealing with them. He had made fighting violence against women a focus of his administration, but Parnell’s bid for reelection never recovered from the scandal.

APD’s losing record

It is yet to be seen if the jurors think the facts are on Henry’s side. But in recent labor lawsuits, the city has a losing record.

In one related to Henry and Anchorage police, a state Superior Court judge in July of 2017 ordered the city to pay two former police detectives a total of $2.7 million after the city lost a discrimination case.

In a twist, Henry was supposed to be the city’s star witness against allegations that police commanders were harassing the two men with frivolous internal investigations. But according to a judge’s order, in which he admonished the city attorneys, the judge wrote that the police department had delayed its investigation of Henry so he could testify against the police officers, wrote Judge Frank Pfiffner.

“…The citizens of Anchorage could very well conclude the (Municipality of Anchorage) and its lawyers, were more interested in winning the lawsuit than protecting the citizens of Anchorage from sexual assault and illegal drug dealing by members of the Alaska National Guard and police misconduct relating thereto,” Pfiffner wrote.

The judge compared tactics by both sides to trench warfare in World War I.

Simonian, Henry’s attorney, described a similar “war of attrition” between Henry’s side and the city’s hired lawyers.

“It’s pretty shocking that our city would spend those kind of resources on very expensive attorneys to continue a fight like this,” Simonian said. “They fought us every step of the way … And I think they thought we would give up, but we didn’t.”

Doug Parker, the lead attorney representing Anchorage, declined to comment.

The trial is expected to continue into November.