EGYPT, Ark. (KAIT) - An area prosecutor has requested any and all information involving embattled former Egypt Police Chief Gerald Goza or the Egypt Police Department be dismissed in light of recent information about the department.
According to a post on Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington’s Facebook page, Ellington is asking for two things to be done.
“My office is formally requesting the following (1) that any and all criminal cases arising from arrests made or citations issued by Goza and/or the Egypt Police Department be dismissed. Had I known before yesterday that Goza had been removed from service by CLEST in January, I would have immediately moved to dismiss,” Ellington said in the post. “(2) That CLEST decertify Goza as a certified law enforcement officer in the state of Arkansas for failure to meet minimum standards and for continuing to act as a law enforcement officer after his official removal by CLEST as of January 9, 2020.”
Ellington said in the statement that it has come to his attention that Goza may have continued to act as a law enforcement officer since January.
“At no point in time until the afternoon of February 12 was my office ever made aware of either of these points,” Ellington said.
A 260-page investigative file was released Thursday by the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office looking into Goza.
The file, about the size of a medium-sized phone book, details information about Goza’s personnel file, law enforcement record as well as an incident report taken by Craighead County deputies on Dec. 18, 2019.
Deputies spoke with Stephen Warren Dec. 18 and 19 about Goza and the police department. On Jan. 6, investigators spoke with Amanda Yarbrough, an attorney with the Arkansas Division of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, about the “potential opening of an investigation involving official records pertaining to Gerald Goza’s law enforcement career.”
Craighead County Investigator David Bailey and Captain Ron Richardson interviewed Goza on Jan. 6 about the situation.
“We discussed his high school diploma, a Egypt certificate of a Level II class and a radar certificate from standards. Goza showed us his diploma paperwork from Southern High School. He explained that he had joined the military at age 16. He said he was under the impression that his MOS in the military gave him the equivalent to a GED,” the incident report noted. “He told us he only took the online high school diploma class to provide a diploma to a private company for employment. He said his understanding was that it was a legitimate diploma. I told him he needed to get with the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to see if they will accept the documents.”
Goza was then asked about the Egypt level II class certificate and the radar certificate.
“We then discussed the Egypt Level II class certificate. Goza said the class was put on at the department. He said he was in and out and did not sign the roster. He said he attended the major parts of the class as a refresher only as he was already certified. He said his agency made the certificates for all the participants. I then showed him the radar certificate that had another individual’s CLEST number on it. Goza explained he was a certififed radar operator and had been trying to obtain his certificate from standards. He said since he did not have one, he just put his name on one of the employees that had one,” the incident report noted.
CLEST auditors later went to Egypt and investigators spoke with Yarbrough again.
“She determined that Goza is currently certified and has a valid radar certification. I discussed the certificates and GED/diploma situation with her. She advised me they would send auditors to Egypt the next day to conduct an audit,” Richardson said in the report.
Investigators later interviewed Goza again about the radar certificate.
“Again Goza said he did make it but not to defraud as he was certified. He said he only made it due to him not having one from standards issued. He explained again it was only for his eyes until he got his from standards. Goza was unaware that you could contact standards and with their permission, print your own online,” Richardson said in the report.
Prosecutors made a decision Feb. 10 not to pursue any criminal charges against Goza in the case.
On Thursday, Warren released a statement to Region 8 News about the situation.
“I have complete confidence in Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, that he has taken proper action with the information that he has been provided and that he has acted and will continue to act in good faith,” Warren said.
An audit in January found several issues with the Egypt police chief’s high school diploma which prevent him from performing his duties as a law enforcement officer.
According to a one-page letter received by Region 8 News from the state agency, agents with the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training with Gerald Goza on Jan. 7 about allegations of violations and to perform an agency audit.
In addition to Goza, the letter showed several issues related to the Egypt Police Department.
“According to records on file at the Division on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST), there were eight officers listed on the agency roster at Egypt Police Department. During the audit, Agents were advised that you, Chief Goza were the only active employee at the aforementioned agency; therefore, all other names on the roster were administratively removed by CLEST agents as of January 9, 2020,” the letter noted. “There were also allegations of a forged Radar certificate. You, Chief Goza advised CLEST Agents that you did duplicate another officer’s certificate with your information for your own personal records because you never received a certificate after successful completion of the course and your intentions were not to forge documents.”
An audit of officer files found several deficiencies in Goza’s records.
They include a missing birth certificate, ASP/FBI fingerprint returns, physical examination, firearms and racial profiling training, and a discrepancy about the acceptance of a high school diploma on file, the letter noted.
As for the high school diploma question, a 2019 FOI request from KAIT showed that Goza had a diploma from Southeastern High School, a Miami-based school.
According to its website, the school offers a high school proficiency diploma through home study.
However, officials said an investigation showed questions about the school.
“Through further investigation of the high school diploma by CLEST Agents on file for you, Chief Gerald Goza from Southeastern High School, it was discovered that the diploma is not accepted by the United States Department of Education. Therefore, the diploma is not accepted or recognized by CLEST,” officials said in the letter, sent to Goza and Egypt Mayor Jerry Cook. “Furthermore, Goza has been removed from service effective January 9, 2020 by CLEST Agents and cannot perform or act as a law enforcement officer in Arkansas. In order to return to law enforcement, you must receive a high school diploma accepted by the United States Department of Education or pass the General Education Development Test (GED).”
Egypt Mayor Jerry Cook released a statement Wednesday to Region 8 News about the situation.
Also, a lawsuit was filed last October in Craighead County Circuit Court in Jonesboro against Goza and several city officials requesting details about Goza’s employment history.
The lawsuit was later dismissed with prejudice, according to Arkansas Court Connect.
On Thursday, Region 8 News received a tip that Goza had been patrolling the city.
A patrol car was seen outside the police station, while Goza was physically seen in the building behind a window in the office. He was asked if he had been driving the patrol car.
Goza said no and declined further comment.
Region 8 News was then asked to speak with Cook about the situation. Cook said Goza had been driving the patrol car but only because he had been repairing it.
As for why Goza was at the office, Cook said Goza was there helping to watch the city’s treasurer but was not doing any police work at all.