Court Watch Report: Another Cop Gets Off

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Community Court Watch
has been following the
case against former Sheriff’s
Deputy Ryan Garrett
for several months. Garrett
was facing four felony
counts for, among other
things, approaching Ty Kellums, boyfriend
of his estranged wife, while in uniform and
threatening him with the words, “I’m a
cop. Watch your back.”
Recently, on Friday, October 27, Garrett
was given a plea bargain by State’s Attorney
Julia Rietz’s office. Garrett entered a guilty
plea to Judge Tom Difanis for a misdemeanor
offense. He was sentenced to a $500
fine and 100 hours of public service, relatively
little punishment for the significant
erosion of public trust in the police and the
trauma he caused for his wife and Kellums.
The four felony counts against Garrett
were for official misconduct, disorderly
conduct, and intimidation. He pleaded
guilty to the charge of illegally using police
records to search the background of Kellums
on May 16, 2005. But this was the
least of the accusations.
Other allegations included an incident
on May 22, 2005, when Garrett staked out
Kellums at his apartment. While on duty in
his squad car and in uniform, Garrett
approached Kellums and warned him, “I’m
a cop. Watch your back.”
Garrett then followed through with his
threats in a clear abuse of his police power.
On November 25, 2005, Garrett called a fellow
deputy and sent him to perform a sobriety
test on the couple in a parked car who
had been out drinking that night. Garrett
had apparently been stalking Mary Garrett
and Kellums that night and figured he could
play a little trick. The other deputy suspected
he was being used for Garrett’s ploy and
contacted a Champaign police officer who
tested Mary Garrett and found she was well
below the legal intoxication limit.
Sheriff Dan Walsh was notified and Garrett
was suspended (with pay) on December
17, 2005. Charges were brought against
him a month later and State’s Attorney Julia
Rietz told the News-Gazette, “Both the sheriff
and I are very troubled by Deputy Garrett’s
action. He abused his authority as a
police officer and that will not be tolerated.”
The recent plea bargain given to Garrett
by Rietz’ office suggests that such police
abuse will indeed be tolerated in Champaign
County, just like Urbana Officer Hjort
who has never been charged for allegations
that he raped a 25-year-old woman.
Turning a blind eye to such an abuse of
power is not just something common to
police departments, but also other law and
order professions. Indeed, many police officers
get their training in the U.S. military.
Garrett had served in the Army National
Guard and was formerly a state trooper in
Louisiana. He currently lives in rural Tolono.
This was not the end of Garrett’s spousal
abuse. A restraining order had been placed
on him on July 26, 2006, and his wife filed
divorce papers on August 11, 2006. In the
Order of Protection, Mary Garrett describes
several incidents of physical and psychological
abuse. Her husband had told her
she could do nothing because he was a
cop. She writes:
“I never reported any of this because he
was a deputy for Champaign Co. and he
told me numerous times it wouldn’t do me
any good. And from my recent experiences
with the police involving him it hasn’t.”
Indeed, this plea bargain proves Mary Garrett’s
observation to be true—police will not
be fully prosecuted in Champaign County.
Ryan Garrett remains unapologetic and
defiant. He told the News-Gazette that he
had been looking forward to a trial to clear
his name, but took the plea bargain for the
sake of his children.
Garrett’s attorney Tony Novak said, “In
my opinion, Ryan Garrett pleaded guilty to
the only offense he arguably committed—
misuse of the police
records-checking system. There
was no intimidation. There was
no false report. There was no official
misconduct. You basically
have a husband and father who
was trying to find out if his wife
was leaving him for another man.”
Novak is also representing Sgt.
Myers, another one of Sheriff
Walsh’s deputies, who is being
prosecuted for illegally using a
Taser on inmates and then lying to
his superiors about it. We will see
if Myers also gets off lightly for
these very serious charges. Myers’
next court date is Monday, November
20 at 3 p.m. in Courtroom A.
Mary Schenk, writer for the News-
Gazette, found little fault in Garrett’s
offenses and failed to mention the threatening
comments allegedly made by Garrett
or his record of domestic abuse. She raised
no serious questions about repercussions
of Garrett’s plea.
Do Mary Garrett and Kellums feel safe
at night knowing that Garrett has a personal
vendetta against them? What message
does this send to other cops who
might also abuse their power? Are police
above the law in Champaign County?

About Brian Dolinar

Brian Dolinar has been a community journalist since 2004.
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