Local News

Military officer found not guilty in civilian arrest case

Posted June 21, 2012 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2012 6:46 p.m. EDT

— 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."

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.