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Favoritism Denied in Drug Case Involving Police Officer's Son

December 18, 1986|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

TORRANCE — Police, citing what they termed "process mistakes" and "a communications breakdown," have acknowledged that for three months they did not serve a felony arrest warrant that named the son of a Torrance police captain.

Police officials denied any favoritism.

Nonetheless, Capt. James Weyant acknowledges that when his son Joel, 23, was arrested Aug. 15 on suspicion of cocaine possession, he asked if it were possible for him to be released without having to post bail. The son was released, pending further investigation, a procedure that police acknowledge is infrequent but permissible.

Department officials also acknowledge that when they first became aware that an arrest warrant had been issued at the request of the district attorney's office, they took unusual steps to keep it from being enforced over Thanksgiving.

Capt. Weyant and other police officials insist that the younger Weyant received no special treatment because he is the son of a ranking police officer.

"Hey, we did the right thing all the way through," said Capt. Jim R. Popp, who said the department once arrested the son of a police chief. Weyant "is in court. There is no cover-up. I feel badly for Jim (Weyant) but not enough to change the system for him."

The younger Weyant, who never was arrested on the warrant and voluntarily came to court Dec. 5, is due back Friday for arraignment.

Nevertheless, officials, including Police Chief Donald Nash, concede that the incident reveals errors in communication between the district attorney's office and the Police Department and a less-than-perfect system in the department for handling warrants.

The younger Weyant's arrest report gives this account:

On Aug. 15, Torrance officers Tom Dorsey and Patrick Shortall, on the lookout for burglars who had hit some clothing stores, were patrolling near a shopping center parking structure at the southwest corner of Park Avenue and Newton Street in South Torrance.

They noticed a shirtless man, identified as Joel Weyant, sitting in a white Toyota pickup truck. The officers stopped the truck as it began driving away, noticed blood in Weyant's nostrils and a mirror-compact with a credit card sticking out on the seat of the cab.

Reasoning that the compact and credit card might have been used to make lines of cocaine for inhaling, the officers opened the compact and discovered a line of white crystalline powder and a small pile of the powder nearby.

Later searches revealed packets of powder in Weyant's underpants, between his buttocks and under the back seat of the patrol car in which he had been placed on the way to the jail. (The back seat of the car had been examined before the arrest, police said.)

Detective Greg Satterfield, who is the liaison with the district attorney's office for narcotics cases made by patrol officers, was on duty at the time. Satterfield said his supervisor told him that Weyant, now in charge of traffic and emergency services but then patrol commander, had been informed of the arrest and "would like a telephone call at home."

During the telephone call, Weyant, according to Satterfield, "explains up front that he didn't want anything done out of the ordinary but if something could be done to get his son out of jail without having to post bail, he would appreciate it."

In an interview, Weyant said, "When I first heard of the arrest, I thought in no way am I going to jeopardize myself or my son, which is what it would come down to. My dad (formerly a Los Angeles policeman) was the same way. I got popped for curfew and alcohol when I was under 21. . . .

"I got the phone call and say, 'Handle it.' I lay back down and think I got to let the kid know I care. . . . In the morning, I called the narcotics investigator and asked him what the alternatives are. When the person lives here locally and it is a first offense and the amount of cocaine (is small), they would release him pending analysis, pending filing of the case. He was released."

Satterfield said he followed the routine procedure when no immediate test has been performed and released the younger Weyant "pending the results of the lab." In such a release, no bail is required. Popp said similar releases have occurred in 17 out of 300 Torrance narcotics cases last year.

The lab report came back showing that the powder was cocaine, and Assistant Dist. Atty. Fred Horn filed a cocaine possession charge Aug. 28.

Satterfield said he had "the impression" that the district attorney's office would write a letter to Weyant advising him when to appear in court for arraignment and that an arrest warrant would not be issued. A warrant would have required an initial court appearance and possibly the posting of bail.

'Communications Breakdown'

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