Posted 1/10/18 (Wed)
By Marcus W. Leyton
[Note: This is an abridged version of a longer story to be published in next week’s paper]
Former Tioga police officer, Monique Lopez, was found innocent of theft charges stemming from an unauthorized money transfer in July 2016. Lopez was accused of transferring $5300 from the Tioga police evidence account to her own.
“It’s the right verdict,” said Defense Attorney Tom Slorby, following the trial. “In this case innocence was proven. You see what happens when they (state investigators) get tunnel vision.”
The prosecution’s case rested largely on information found through search warrants executed at the Bank of Tioga and the Information Technology department with the State of North Dakota.
Slorby said the state did not prove its case because they never searched the police department themselves.
“The State only looked at the receiving end,” Slorby said in court. “Someone else caused the transfer through remote access. The City of Tioga leaks like a sieve when it comes to security.”
As to who executed the transfer, Slorby offered a number of potential suspects, including two former police employees. According to Slorby and Maize both of those officers had sexually assaulted Lopez in the past.
Slorby further said one of the former officers had “an axe to grind” with his client.
A central focus in the case was who had access to a police laptop on the night of July 14, 2016 – the day of the transfer.
State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan maintains Lopez had the laptop with her at all times that evening, and would have seen something strange happening, even by remote access.
Travis Russow with the state’s technology department was the prosecution’s expert witness. He said the system in place to ensure security on the state-run internet network, which all law enforcement agencies in North Dakota use, had never been breached, and it was impossible that anyone else had access, even remotely, to use Lopez’s computer.
The defense maintained, however, that because the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) never searched the computer itself, the data obtained from the state’s own network and the Bank of Tioga did not tell the whole story.
“My concern is that there are multiple users,” said Ron Bolinske, the defense expert witness, and owner of Computech in Minot.
Computech has also now contracted with the Tioga Police Department to provide network security.
Bolinske was given access to the laptop in question by the defense, and was given an administrator password to search the logs on the machine.
He said he was able to recover data from the computer that showed the laptop had changed hands multiple times, and that logs indicated Lopez was not the only user of the computer on the night of the money transfer.
A log containing the identification of former officer Sean Duisen was found within 30 minutes of the transfer taking place, according to Bolinske.
Bolinkse said Rossow’s testimony was correct, and didn’t refute it, but said it didn’t paint the whole picture.
Slorby said Duisen conducted his own investigation into the matter, prior to his recent dismissal, and found no fault with Lopez.
Jordan said he was unaware two investigations had occurred, and he initially thought only the BCI report was included in the discovery request.
It was later found that Duisen’s report was in the state file, and neither the prosecution, nor the BCI, had taken it into account.
Prosecutors could not come up with adequate reasoning, in the eyes of the defense, as to why Lopez didn't sign documents giving her access to the evidence account, and even after the account was frozen, was able to withdraw the full amount of the transfer from her own personal account after it was frozen to be paid back to the city
Jurors took a little under two hours to decide the case after two-and-a-half days of testimony in Williston.
Neither Lopez nor Police Chief Corey Murphy would comment on the case following its conclusion.