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Military officer found not guilty in civilian arrest case

Posted June 21, 2012

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— A military judge on Thursday found an Army law enforcement officer not guilty on charges that he ordered the unlawful arrest of a civilian.

CW4 Scott Godwin faced court-martial on charges of violating a lawful order, unlawfully apprehending and arresting a civilian and depriving the individual of his rights under the color of the law in the March 24, 2011, arrest of Vincent Sandifer.

Sandifer, 28, claimed three members of the Army's Criminal Investigative Command, arrested him at his home in Spring Lake, handcuffed him and took him to a remote area of Fort Bragg, where they threatened to kill him for having an affair with another officer's wife.

Army prosecutors said Godwin, a chief warrant officer, directed the other agents to detain Sandifer. In closing arguments, Capt. Marcia Reyes said the officers never told Sandifer that he could terminate the interview at any time.

"He was at the mercy of the agents. They were going to do with him what they wanted," Reyes said.

"(Godwin) was going to get a civilian intimidated and scared," she added. "He knew he had no authority to apprehend a civilian."

Vincent Sandifer Military officer found not guilty in civilian arrest case

Defense attorney Bill Cassara, however, argued that Sandifer was not credible and had a motive to fabricate a story to cover up his affair.

The officers never arrested him, Cassara said, and he went with them on his own volition for questioning about a threat against another officer.

"There was a willingness, even a desire, to get the heck out of there – to not let his wife know about the affair," Cassara said. "The government wants to make you think that this was some Rambo-, S.W.A.T. team-kind of mission. This was a very low-key interaction."

Despite Sandifer's claims, witnesses testified that the officers never drew their guns and never yelled or threatened him.

Cassara admitted that the officers placed Sandifer in handcuffs because he had been arrested previously on weapons violations.

Before Col. James Pohl's ruling Thursday afternoon, Sandifer's father said that he would not be surprised if Godwin were found not guilty.

Another warrant officer, Bradley Hinkle, is still awaiting court-martial, which is scheduled for August. Charges against the other two officers were dismissed.


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  • timdavis Jun 22, 2012

    Its funny the "witnesses" they have that state that Mr. Sandifer went willingly in the trial are the other two CID agents that the charges were dismissed on. So of course they will say Mr. Sandifer went willingly. The FBI testified on Sandifers behalf against the army

  • timdavis Jun 22, 2012

    sandifer is a true player but he doesnt deserve to be double cross by law enforcement over a personal matter...where is the transcrits why is sandifer kidnaper granted immunity & the girl not charged at all.why wasnt the husband or wife put on the stand but brought up in the case.the army never had a reason to go on special mission for a civil threating him like a iraq solider sandifer is a american citizen these amry guys really missed up in this case.

  • timdavis Jun 22, 2012

    sheriff dept had the case then f.b.i took over then gave the case to the army.sandifer civil rights were violated he was taking from his house off post and brought to the woods on post.the army defense got info from the soldier x wife who sandifer was having a affiar with sayin sandifer was cummunicating threats so the army felt they had to go up the chain of command higher then godwin to handle sandifer by taking him to the woods..this is wrong of the army & sounds like a case of a buddy trying to help a buddy out and cover there lie up at the same time.no matter if sandifer sent threats or not they had no right to go to sandifer home without waiting on the sherriff dept.and why the solider wife never took the stand in godwin trial or the husband & why wasnt the husband charged also on capricy

  • Centurian Jun 22, 2012

    cuffusion stated, "If they cuffed him he is, by law, under arrest. Restricting his movement in this manner also constitutes kidnapping."

    Officers (local, state, & federal) can lawfully detain someone and cuff them for the safety of the officers AND the detainee. Simply detaining someone does NOT necessarily constitute an arrest.

  • trekkie13 Jun 22, 2012

    Civilian federal agents who work for the military branches in investigative divisions do have federal authority under federal law to interact with civilians off base in matters pertaining to crimes against and involving the military. Their jurisdiction and limits in doing so is defined by federal statute. They do not answer to the state of North Carolina or receive their authority from state law. In this case the men were military members which federal law limits their authority over civilians. They were tried in a federal(military)court for violating this color of law issue. For the state to even get involved they would have to have jurisdiction which is complex because the men were accused of violating federal law and not state law. Plus, the man went willingly with them so it was not state kidnapping. Basically, the state cannot intervene in a federal agencies jurisdiction.

  • trekkie13 Jun 22, 2012

    cuffusion stated "MPs have no legal standing off base.. so to even present themselves as police in some capacity is a violation of NC statute.

    If the Cumberland County DA does not prosecute.. I would wonder why.."

    How were they impersonating a law enforcement agent when they were members of the Army Criminal Investigative Command? They were not regular MPs. Their authority comes from federal law and not state law. The problem is that as military personnel they are not supposed to mess with civilians unlike civilian federal law enforcement officers who work for military branches in investigative divisions. They were specifically charged with possible color of law violations due to interacting with civilians off base while being military members. It would be hard for the DA to prosecute because it would be a complex Constitutional issue since the federal government is a separate sovereign from the state and these guys receive authority from the federal government.

  • ifcdirector Jun 22, 2012

    Where is the local district attorney on this case?

  • cuffusion Jun 22, 2012

    Now that the military inquiry is over.. its the States turn.. they need to arrest these individuals on false kidnapping and impersonating a law enforcement agent.. First. if they cuffed him he is, by law, under arrest. Restricting his movement in this manner also constitutes kidnapping..

    MPs have no legal standing off base.. so to even present themselves as police in some capacity is a violation of NC statute.

    If the Cumberland County DA does not prosecute.. I would wonder why..

  • dcatz Jun 22, 2012

    Sounds like a cover-up.

    I'd like to see a transcript of the trial and I'd like to see the written opinion. Being in the military is not a license to around acting like a bunch of hoodlums. It was improper to use taxpayer resources to handle what was, by definition, a personal matter.

  • Taxpayingcitizen Jun 22, 2012

    All I can say is adulterers think twice about what you are doing - maybe if we saw more of this, we would see less adultery!