Chief of private police firm pleads guilty to assault, obstruction
Posted April 12, 2017 4:16 p.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2017 6:21 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — An executive of a private police agency in Raleigh pleaded guilty Tuesday to breaking, rather than enforcing, state laws.
Joseph Michael Conover, 39, of 8480 Honeycutt Road in Raleigh, was sentenced to eight to 19 months in prison after pleading guilty to four counts each of obstruction of justice, willful failure to dispatch duties and simple assault and one count of false imprisonment.
Conover is a chief with the Nova Agency Company Police Department, which provides sworn officers to patrol residential communities and some businesses. He admitted to illegally detaining four men between late 2015 and early 2016 and assaulting them, in two cases with a stun gun and in a third with pepper spray.
"This was the worst case of abuse of authority that I have experienced and seen up close in my 20 years," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said. "This is the kind of person who does not need to wear a badge."
Witnesses to the illegal arrests called Raleigh police to report what happened, and the police department started looking into Conover's actions.
According to records of the City-County Bureau of Identification, Nova officers made 30 arrests in the area from April 2015 to April 2016, with Conover accounting for 29 of them.
All of the charges against those he arrested were dropped as soon as it was revealed that he was overstepping his authority.
"You turned out to be as bad a cop as you could possibly be," Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens told Conover, adding that he appeared "to be completely out of control."
Conover was convicted in February of improperly accessing a government database to obtain information on a neighbor. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 months in prison in that case, and Wednesday's prison sentence will run concurrently to that.