Prosecutor: Officer's unauthorized search on neighbor was criminal abuse of authority
Posted February 2, 2017 4:26 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon in the case of a private law enforcement agency executive accused of illegally accessing records on a government database in April 2016.
In addition to these charges, Joseph Michael Conover, a chief with the Nova Agency Company Police Department, , which serves companies in Raleigh, is also accused of overstepping his authority when making four arrests in 2015.
Conover said the alleged crimes happened when he was walking his police dog by a neighbor's house when the neighbor's son ran out of the home yelling at him.
"He came toward K-9 officer Joker and I at a fast pace," Conover said in court Thursday.
Raleigh police were called, but no charges were filed. Conover said he believed charges were warranted.
"This disorderly conduct by eminent violence. The communication of threats and taunting and harassing of a police K-9," Conover said.
After police left, Conover searched government records on his laptop to try and determine who the man was.
"In order to try to identify him, I ran both of the vehicles that were plainly in view, thinking that one of them would probably come back to the person I was looking for," he said.
Prosecutors said Conover did a second unauthorized search of the database a few days later. It was also aimed at finding out more about the man with whom he had argued.
"That was an abuse of his authority, and that abuse of that authority was criminal," said Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Smith.
Conover's attorney disagreed.
"He had authority to act as a company police officer, and did he do so for a criminal justice purpose? The answer to the question is absolutely yes," said Johnny Gaskins.
The jury will continue deliberations on Friday.
Conover is expected to be tried on the other charges he is facing in May.