Beverly HillsMay 4, 2011
Claims of police cover-up, coercion deemed ‘unfounded’
By Erin McClary
C & G Staff Writer
BEVERLY HILLS — The village of Beverly Hills announced that members of its Public Safety Department were exonerated of accusations they covered up an alleged attack of a 15-year-old boy in Beverly Park more than six years ago.
On Sept. 21, 2010, former Beverly Hills resident Paul York-Carlton addressed the Village Council with claims that he was brutally attacked in Beverly Park the evening of Dec. 31, 2004, and that the Public Safety Department not only conducted a second-rate investigation into the events that had occurred, but that they also coerced him into admitting he’d attacked himself.
The incident was chalked up to a botched suicide attempt. Case closed.
At the time and in the months following, York-Carlton said he wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to fight for investigators to re-open the case, citing post-traumatic stress disorder from the attack.
But he said one thing is for certain: He was attacked that night, and not by himself.
Getting officials to believe him six years later, however, didn’t exactly work out the way he’d hoped.
When York-Carlton asked that the case be reopened, back in 2009, the Public Safety Department reviewed the appeal, determined it to have no merit, and the request was denied.
So last September, he asked for an investigation into how the case was originally handled, even though the Dec. 31, 2004, incident had legally timed out, past the statute of limitations.
After his plea before the Beverly Hills Village Council, council members voted to have the Michigan State Police look into the matter.
In October of last year, York-Carlton sat down with Detective Sgt. Charles Greenway of the Michigan State Police Special Investigations Unit for an interview.
Afterwards, Greenway’s investigative report was forwarded to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review, and “they determined it was outside of the time (York-Carlton) had to present the matter for investigation,” said Greenway, and, he added, the Prosecutor’s Office determined the case to be “unfounded.”
York-Carlton was disappointed with the results; Village Council members said they knew it would turn out this way.
On March 1, Beverly Hills Village Manager Chris Wilson announced the Prosecutor’s Office determination on the matter. It wasn’t until last week that the Eagle received a copy of Greenway’s report — requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Several large portions of the report and interview were blocked out, and the Michigan State Police FOIA officer cited medical record privacy laws.
New Year’s Eve, 2004
The night of the alleged attack, a neighbor found York-Carlton, then 15, bound, gagged, half-naked and apparently bordering on unconscious at around 9 p.m. The neighbor brought the teen back to his garage, untied him as best he could and called police.
York-Carlton said he believed a group of individuals had attacked him near the top of the hill in Beverly Park during his nightly jog. He only remembered bits and pieces — a female commenting on him wearing only a short-sleeve shirt and khakis in the middle of winter, four or five individuals approaching behind her, his antagonistic response to the female after her comments, and a feeling of threat.
According to the report, he could not say whether the individuals who had approached him were white or black. “He described them as possibly Hispanic, but he really didn’t know.”
In the interview, he said the kids who approached him were in their late teens or early 20s, and that they could’ve gone to his high school. He remembered the girl wearing a dark-colored hoodie.
It’s indicated in the report that police K-9 units from a neighboring agency were utilized following the alleged attack to attempt tracking a scent of the alleged perpetrators, but nothing came up.
Greenway’s report indicated that he’d obtained 20 photos of the wooded area where the incident had occurred, a recorded interview between Beverly Hills Public Safety Director Karl Woodard and York-Carlton from June 2009, as well as a “victims of assault” evidence collection kit for York-Carlton from the village prior to the October 2010 interview.
At the hospital the morning after the incident, York-Carlton told Greenway, his mother and the doctors were ordered out of the room and police officers coerced him into giving a false report: that he’d done it all to himself.
According to Greenway’s report, “York-Carlton informed he kept telling the detectives they did not understand, he did not do this to himself. He indicated he does not want to say it was the people on top of the hill but they were the only ones in the park; he did not see anyone else.”
Then, York-Carton explains the part where, he said, he felt pushed into saying he’d done it to himself. “York-Carlton stated … the detectives told him everyone would know what happened, but if he did it to himself, nobody has to know, not even his mother; it will stay between the three of them.
“York-Carlton indicated at that moment, he thought he did it. … (That) they’ll still investigate the crime and find the people who did it; they just want me to say I did to myself to protect me from the media.”
It wasn’t until after his admission that he felt the detectives violated his rights as a minor by asking his mother to leave the room — something Greenway said is not technically a crime, according to his report.
March 1, 2011
During a March 1 Village Council meeting, Wilson announced the findings of the Michigan State Police investigative report.
“Based upon the investigative report of Detective Sgt. Greenway, the accusations of coercion of a false confession and consequent cover-up of a crime are not supported by the facts,” Wilson read from his manger’s report.
Wilson said the Michigan State Police investigative report was turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, as is customary in this type of case.
“After reviewing the investigative report, the Prosecutor’s Office has declined to pursue any charges against any current or past employee of the Public Safety Department or the village of Beverly Hills,” Wilson said.
Woodard declined to comment on York-Carlton’s accusations, the Michigan State Police review of the matter or on the Prosecutor’s Office’s determination.
“At no time did I have any doubts about the lack of culpability of (the involved officers) or Karl Woodard in this incident,” Wilson said.
Village Council members echoed his sentiments.
Council member Jon Oen thanked the state police for doing the investigation into what he called “a very serious allegation.”
“At no time did I have any doubt that this report would come back exactly the way it is, that nothing was done wrong,” he said. “We have a very good department … these are people that take care of business in a very professional manner.”
He said, he said
Upon hearing the news of the Prosecutor’s Office’s determination in early March, York-Carlton said he was disappointed with the outcome, but not surprised. During the investigation, he said he got the impression the Michigan State Police were investigating him, not the Public Safety Department, which he refers to as the “second victimizers” in the situation.
York-Carlton said he opted out of taking a polygraph test on the incidents that occurred Dec. 31, 2004, noting that through his current law enforcement studies at Eastern Michigan University, he’s learned that lie-detector tests are only 40 percent accurate.
“I said that, personally, I would be confident in taking one if it was a credible instrument,” he said.
Then, York-Carlton continued, he asked Greenway whether Woodard and the accused members of the Public Safety Department would be taking polygraphs. He said Greenway told him no.
“I pretty much stopped my participation with the investigation at that point,” he said. “I figured I’d be wasting my time and resources.”
‘I’m taking my own path to accountability’
York-Carlton started an online petition asking for the dismissal of Woodard as director of Public Safety in Beverly Hills. At press time, there were 105 signatures on the petition, which is hosted on the online forum www.ipetitions.com. Many of the signatures have been submitted anonymously. York-Carlton said he plans to bring the petition to the Village Council sometime this spring or summer.
“I’ve very disappointed in the way they (Michigan State Police) conducted themselves, but it hasn’t stopped anything or … I don’t feel humiliated by it. It strengthens my resolve,” he said. “The council will be hearing from me again.”
His mother, Pamela York, a Beverly Hills resident, said she feels her son was portrayed in a poor light in the months leading up to and during the Michigan State Police investigation, and she does not believe the report exonerates the Public Safety Department.
She believes the investigation was not objective, and said Greenway refused to interview her or the neighbor who found York-Carlton the night of the incident.
She noted that her son was part of Seaholm High School’s 2007 state championship extemporaneous speaking team, that he won a forensics award through a program at the school and performed on the high school’s marching band. York-Carlton is a forensic speaking coach and judge for Oakland County high schools, an interfaith volunteer organizer, and was an EMU Presidential Scholarship winner in 2007, she said. At the time of the December 2010 incident, she continued, her son maintained a 3.9 high school GPA.
York-Carlton said he’s currently pursing a career in law enforcement.
“This life does not illustrate a person who was capable of attempting suicide, or of someone that would lie about it years later — as members of the council have asserted,” said his mother.
She said the 2004 incident imposed a suffering on her son that no child should endure. The fact investigators “victimized him instead” of protecting him, York said, puts them on par with the people who allegedly attacked him.
For years, York-Carlton has struggled to find closure with the incident, both he and his mother have said. York said her son’s education and maturity have left him clear understanding of what he feels should be done to find closure and prevent similar incidents from happening.
“I’m taking my own path to accountability,” York-Carlton said.