No officer-impersonation charges in Darien

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009
— Exaggerating one's status is not a crime.

And boasting does not merit felony prosecution.

The Walworth County District Attorney's Office has closed the case against former Darien Village Board President Robert Metzner, Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette.

Walworth County sheriff's deputies in March investigated complaints that Metzner was trying to impersonate an officer. The case was forwarded to the district attorney's office.

In April, Metzner lost his seat as village president to challenger Evelyn Etten.

The investigation was the result of complaints made in late January and early February by former village board member Shane Spoo and Darien Police Chief Steve DeVoy, according to court documents obtained by the Gazette.

According to court documents:

-- Spoo told detectives Metzner "bragged" to Spoo about interviewing a juvenile suspect in a burglary case and getting her to confess to a crime.

-- Spoo told detectives Spoo's hairstylist said she'd heard Metzner refer to himself as the village police chief.

-- DeVoy told detectives Metzner wears polo shirts with embroidered badges and the words "Village President Robert Metzner." Metzner also has a black satin jacket that says "Village of Darien Police", DeVoy told deputies.

Detectives took the shirts and jacket, according to the search warrant return.

-- A village store clerk told detectives Metzner "flashed" his wallet at her as if it were a police badge when she questioned his authority over the police department.

In a June 30 memo to District Attorney Phil Koss, Donohoo listed several reasons for not issuing charges against Metzner.

Metzner might have "acted inappropriately" when he led people to believe he was the village of Darien police chief, Donohoo wrote.

But she did not think he committed a crime.

"The better remedy to address Metzner's behavior has already occurred at the voting booths in the village of Darien's most recent elections," Donohoo wrote.

In addition, Metzner was accused of impersonating a "peace officer," Dohonoo wrote. A village official is a peace officer, according to state statutes, so he can't be accused of impersonating one.

It could be considered that a village president can act as a peace officer only in an emergency, Donohoo added. In that case, Metzner could be accused of committing identity theft by claiming to be the police chief, she wrote.

But Donohoo did not think Metzner was trying to impersonate DeVoy.

Calling himself the police chief would fall under the definition of "personal identifying information" in the statute. But Donohoo didn't think the district attorney's office could prove that Metzner was trying to get money, credit or anything else of value when he did so, she wrote.

"It appears from these police reports that Metzner was merely engaging in self-aggrandizing behavior in order to impress the women at the (hair) salon," Donohoo wrote.

Metzner wasn't aware of Donohoo's decision until the Gazette called.

"Huh. I'll be getting my shirts back," was the first thing Metzner said.

Metzner disagreed with the accusation that he acted inappropriately. He does not regret wearing the shirts or the jacket, he said.

The charges were unfounded and an attempt by DeVoy to divert attention from DeVoy's own legal quagmire, Metzner said.

"I never, ever claimed to be the chief of police here," Metzner said. "It was just absolutely asinine."

In an e-mail to the Gazette, DeVoy said his biggest concern was and is that Metzner violated the juvenile's rights. DeVoy said that in November he wrote a letter requesting to meet with the village board and village attorney to voice his concerns about Metzner's behavior in this and other situations.

DeVoy was suspended before he could do so, he wrote.

DeVoy has been suspended with pay since December.

The village board in March voted to fire DeVoy for reasons including insubordination, surveilling the police department without authorization and having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 20, on the issue.

Last updated: 10:59 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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