Captains outrageous

Before they became candidates for sheriff, Jim Cooper and Scott Jones were subjects of investigations

Looking pretty: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Jones was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Sacramento County grand jury.

Looking pretty: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Jones was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Sacramento County grand jury.

Photo By gabor mereg

The two current front-runners in the race for Sacramento County sheriff are both captains in the department. They’ve spent decades in uniform and have commanded a variety of divisions. They have very different backgrounds, but both share a curious detail: Each man has been the subject of an investigation for alleged impropriety.

In Capt. Jim Cooper’s case, there was an internal sheriff’s investigation in 2005 over alleged sexual harassment. Two years before that, Capt. Scott Jones was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office of his alleged involvement in a plot to cash a stolen treasury check. The details of both investigations have never before been reported.

In a recent interview, Cooper would only comment very briefly on the incident he was involved in four years ago.

“I said something I shouldn’t have said to an employee,” Cooper said. “It was overheard, and someone filed a complaint. That’s all I have to say.”

According to one former and two current sheriff’s department officials who requested anonymity, the employee was a young civilian woman who worked for the department and was soon to be married. According to the officials, Cooper approached the woman in the office, grabbed his crotch and said, “You have to go for a little jungle love before you get married.” The woman apparently became visibly embarrassed, but Cooper pressed on.

“She was red-faced, embarrassed, but he kept joking with her like that,” one current sheriff’s official familiar with the case said. “That was why I was troubled by it.”

The officials say someone—no one apparently knows who—filed an anonymous complaint with Internal Affairs detailing the incident. The department then retained the Sacramento law firm McDonough Holland & Allen to conduct a “factual investigation” of the complaint. Gerald Holt, the firm’s executive director, did not return two phone calls requesting comment on that investigation.

The sheriff’s officials say the firm conducted its investigation and came back with “sustained findings,” meaning that it confirmed the complaint’s allegation. But both officials say no corrective action was ever taken, and nothing was ever done to Cooper. In fact, they say the whole matter went away because then Sheriff Lou Blanas simply sat on the investigation’s findings.

“The file was allowed to languish until after the statute of limitations passed,” one official said.

Blanas, who recently endorsed Cooper for sheriff, did not return two phone calls requesting comment for this story.

In 2003, Scott Jones, then a sergeant and department legal adviser, was placed on administrative leave back in 2003 by Internal Affairs because he’d come under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office. His alleged crime: assisting bail bondsman Donald Thomas Malone in a scheme to cash a stolen check from the Department of the Treasury worth $3.8 million. But Jones didn’t know that when I.A. took his badge and gun and escorted him from department headquarters.

“I was shocked,” he recalled of when then Assistant Sheriff Mike Smith (who is now deceased) called him into the office and told him the news. “He said I was the subject of a grand jury investigation, but they couldn’t say why. Only that I’d have to talk to the FBI.”

Jones said he went immediately to the FBI. He waived his right to counsel and against self-incrimination and began answering questions about how well he knew Malone. In the late 1990s, Jones, then a struggling attorney as well as a sheriff’s deputy, rented a law office from Malone in a ramshackle building on J Street that also housed Malone’s Fast Break Bail Bonds. Jones said he and Malone were the only tenants in the building and that Jones would do legal work for Malone in exchange for free rent.

According to Jones, the FBI asked him if he’d ever run warrants for Malone—they suspected one of the men involved in the check-cashing scheme was an undercover cop. Jones said he had no memory of doing such a thing for Malone, which would have been legal in any case, since warrants are public records.

Jones said the FBI asked him to take a lie detector test the following morning, which he did. He took the test twice—the first results were inconclusive, but he passed the second time.

The following week, Jones said he appeared for about an hour before the grand jury. He was cleared by the grand jury, and the department reinstated him that night. Malone wasn’t so fortunate. In 2006, he pled guilty to possession of stolen mail and a stolen passport and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.