The tearful testimony of two Simi Valley police officers who waited more than eight months to reveal that a fellow officer may have lied in court helped indict their colleague last month, grand jury transcripts unsealed on Tuesday showed.
The Ventura County grand jury last month indicted Officer David Steven Ming, 26, on one felony count of perjury. He is accused of falsely testifying that he had permission to search the home of a Simi Valley woman in May, 1994.
Because a judge took Ming's word about the search during a pretrial hearing, Cheryl Borjon pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of drugs and spent more than seven months in jail. Her conviction was set aside last month.
Transcripts show that two fellow investigators came forward eight months after Borjon's hearing and testified that Ming had lied.
Officer Kenneth (Bo) Stephenson, who was Ming's supervisor during the arrest, told the grand jury that he never heard Borjon give anyone permission to search her house, transcripts show. Stephenson also testified that Ming didn't even speak with Borjon when she came to the door; instead, Officer Craig Robert Reiners struck up a conversation with her, according to the transcripts.
Stephenson and Reiners both were overcome by emotion while addressing the grand jury, according to a deputy district attorney quoted in the transcripts.
Stephenson said Ming apologized to him after Borjon's hearing, saying, "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. I just got caught up in it," the transcripts show.
Reiners testified that Ming was at one time his best friend. He said he delayed coming forward "just for all the human reasons, I guess. I didn't want to see anything happen to Steve Ming or his family or his child," the transcripts show. "I was afraid he would be terminated and charged with a crime."
Stephenson testified that he waited to come forward because he believed Borjon was guilty. "It wasn't as if somebody got up there, completely lied to change the fact that someone was innocent or guilty. And Officer Ming was a friend, a co-worker," Stephenson said in the transcripts.
Borjon's urine tested positive for methamphetamine immediately after her arrest, court records showed.
Both officers said they expected to be disciplined for waiting so long to come forward. Ming was placed on paid leave June 28 pending the outcome of his criminal case. A trial is scheduled for November.
Newly appointed Simi Valley Police Chief Randy Adams, who assumed office Tuesday, said he could not comment on any personnel issues in his department. Deputy Dist. Atty. Donald Glynn said there are no plans to charge Ming's two colleagues with any crimes.
Glynn told the grand jury that Ming was probably picked to testify because he happened to be the first Simi Valley officer to appear at the court hearing in October, beating Reiners and Stephenson by minutes.
Reiners testified that he finally came forward because he "began to see more inconsistencies in [Ming's] statements in general conversations," the grand jury transcripts show. "I felt that I couldn't bear the guilt if another officer was snared up in another lie and knowing that, that I could have dealt with this problem at an earlier time."
Stephenson, Reiners and Ming were all members of the department's Special Enforcement Detail, a plain-clothes operation that conducts surveillance of criminal suspects, Stephenson testified.
The Borjon investigation began when an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who lived near the woman complained to Simi Valley police that drug activity appeared to be taking place at her house, Stephenson testified.
On May 18, 1994, the LAPD officer reported that a wanted man--Donald Vaughn Lewis--was hiding out in Borjon's home, Stephenson testified.
Stephenson testified that he and four other officers approached Borjon's house shortly before midnight, that Reiners coaxed Borjon to open the door and that the officers pushed Borjon aside and rushed into the house. Lewis was found hiding in the bathroom and arrested.
But an arrest warrant for one person does not allow police to enter another person's home without permission or without a search warrant. That's why Ming's claim that Borjon gave permission for the search was crucial to the case against her.
Borjon, who has moved to Santa Maria, could not be reached for comment. She has retained Westlake Village attorney Richard Hamlish, who said Tuesday that he intends to file a lawsuit against Simi Valley for violation of Borjon's civil rights. But before he can file the suit, he must first file a claim for damages with the city.
Simi Valley officials said they have not received a claim from Borjon.