Woman accuses police officer of spying on her

Chief cautions public to wait for facts before drawing conclusions

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 6, 2016

 A Hazel Park police officer is accused of spying on a woman who was breast-feeding. But the police chief is urging the public to wait for all the facts to come out.

A Hazel Park police officer is accused of spying on a woman who was breast-feeding. But the police chief is urging the public to wait for all the facts to come out.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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HAZEL PARK — A woman who works as a police dispatcher in Warren is filing a civil lawsuit  in federal court against a Hazel Park police officer, claiming he used her boyfriend’s confiscated smartphone to access the nanny cam in her home and spy on her while she breast-fed her baby.

The plaintiff is Megan Pearce, mother of the baby, who is being represented by the Detroit-based law firm Ernst & Marko PLC. The accused is officer Michael Emmi.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Pearce is a four-year veteran of the Warren Police Department who was adjusting to her new life as a mother when, on March 2, her fiancé and the father of her baby, Cody Fuhrman, a licensed caregiver under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, was arrested on marijuana charges. The lawsuit says that Emmi took his phone as evidence to be logged at the Oakland County Jail Computer Crime Lab.

The lawsuit explains that Pearce had a daily routine where she would take her infant into the bath tub, bathe him, nurse him and put him to bed. Then, at least one day after the phone was taken, she allegedly noticed a small green light flashing on her Nest Cam baby monitor while she was nursing her son, while both she and her child were naked after leaving the bath tub.

According to the lawsuit, the Nest Cam light flashes when the camera is being monitored by a designated device. A motion sensor in the Nest Cam sends an alert to any monitoring devices when there is motion in the baby’s room. There were only three devices set to monitor the Nest Cam: Pearce’s phone, her iPad and Fuhrman’s phone, which was in the possession of Emmi.

This led Pearce to believe she was being watched by someone else, since she had the other two devices that would access the Nest Cam. She conducted a “Find My iPhone” search online and allegedly discovered that the phone was located at the home residence of Emmi.
She subsequently disabled the phone’s monitoring capability, but claims that later on while nursing her son nude and talking to her brother on the phone about Fuhrman’s arrest, she noticed the Nest Cam light flashing again. She allegedly cried out “Oh my God, someone is watching me again” while talking to her brother, and then the light reportedly stopped blinking.

The lawsuit reads that the plaintiff’s “world has been shattered” and “she (no) longer feels safe and secure in her own home.” It alleges that Emmi had “perversely and illegally spied on her and her infant son, in one of the most intimate and private moments between a mother and her baby imaginable, to satisfy his prurient voyeurism.” The plaintiff suffers daily from the memory of the event, the lawsuit says, and she fears the footage will wind up on the Internet.

Hazel Park Police Chief Martin Barner said it’s important that people let this matter be examined in a court of law before drawing any conclusions. Nothing has been proven yet, he said.

He also noted that anyone can make allegations in a civil lawsuit, and he lamented that outlets across the nation have already suggested Emmi is guilty without him first being tried in a court of law.

“I believe right is right and wrong is wrong, and if there are any laws, policies or protocol that were violated by (Emmi), then he will be held accountable,” Barner said. “But with that being said, he still has due process rights. Yet the court of public opinion tends to convict too quickly.”

The chief also alleged that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the situation.

“Doesn’t it raise anyone’s concern that the father of her child — her boyfriend/fiancé — is going to trial in Oakland County on narcotics-related charges, and that she’s a dispatcher who has access to extremely sensitive information, and she’s going to be potentially marrying a felon if he gets convicted up in circuit court? Doesn’t that raise anyone’s suspicion?

“That’s why personally I think she’s using this as a bargaining chip to assist her boyfriend in the future,” Barner said. “I’m sure she has her motivations for filing this.”

Jonathan Marko, the plaintiff’s attorney, dismissed the notion of an ulterior motive, or that the reasons for this case have anything to do with Pearce’s boyfriend. He also disagreed that his client should have filed a police report, saying she is reasonably mistrusting of the police right now. She wants a fair shake, so she turned to federal court to address this alleged violation of federal and state laws.

As for why they’re only going after Emmi in his capacity as an officer, and not the Police Department or the city, he said that it would be disingenuous to target them unless they had evidence of a policy or procedure that would allow an officer to spy on someone. 

Marko said that there are risks for filing a civil lawsuit, and that false allegations could result in charges of fraud or perjury, or the judge sanctioning the attorney and holding them in contempt. There have been frivolous lawsuits in the past where the person who brought it was charged tens of thousands of dollars, he said.

Marko said they wouldn’t be bringing this lawsuit against Emmi unless they were fully convinced they had an airtight case.

“We would not file this against a police officer unless we had substantial — and I mean substantial — evidence against them,” Marko said. “This was not something we did lightly. We have amassed substantial evidence and assessed (Pearce’s) claims thoroughly, because we know once we file these things they could have serious repercussions. I have no doubt in my mind we will see this through and we will be successful.

“(Pearce) wants to expose this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Marko added. “She wants people to know about this. If she had gone to the police themselves, what do you think would have happened? Do you think this would have been made public knowledge? I doubt it.”

Barner maintained that people should let this play out in court first.

“At this point, all I know is (Emmi) is a 15-year veteran with an exemplary record,” Barner said. “I wish people would not rush to snap judgments on an accusation. Let the facts lead us where they may before passing judgment, not only on the officer, but on myself and the entire Police Department.”

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