NEWS STAFF REPORTER
The resignation of a Jamestown police officer suspected of stealing prescription painkillers to feed an addiction may affect an undetermined number of arrests made while the officer was the department's evidence custodian.
The resignation of Detective Eric Corey, 39, was announced Friday by Chautauqua County District Attorney David W. Foley. The detective was a 14-year veteran of the department.
According to Foley, Corey was in charge of the department's evidence room for approximately 18 months to two years, ending with his reassignment in April. A few weeks ago, Foley said, a confidential informant notified his office that he was solicited by a Jamestown Police Department detective who wanted to buy a prescription painkiller.
"I turned the information that I had at that point to the Jamestown Police Department," Foley said. "At that point it was an administrative issue."
Corey was suspended, and an investigation was begun by Jamestown police, who did an inventory of the evidence room, Foley said.
The district attorney said it quickly came to light that painkillers were taken from sealed evidence bags, primarily related to closed criminal cases. After Jamestown police notified him, Foley said, he contacted state police to work with Jamestown to determine how many pending criminal cases could have been impacted.
"They're not done yet," Foley said Friday.
But one major case that was going to trial ended with a plea deal.
Foley learned about the alleged misconduct just as jury selection was to begin in the trial of Eric Chant, 23, of Jamestown, who was charged with the August 2011 abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl.
"The case was largely forensically driven. The victim couldn't identify her assailant," Foley said.
The district attorney said he was obligated to divulge information about the suspected misconduct by Corey to Chant's defense attorney. The district attorney said he also spoke with the family of the victim, who didn't particularly want to testify.
Instead of opening statements in the trial Thursday, Chant accepted the district attorney's offer to plead guilty to first-degree rape, with the understanding that he'd be sentenced to 25 years in prison and 20 years of probation afterward.
Foley said he intended to try Chant on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault against a child, for which he could have faced a sentence of life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19.
"I don't know how the jury would have treated the information regarding this police officer," Foley said.
Even so, Foley said he and the victim's family are satisfied. "It's a good sentence; they're happy," he said.
Still to be determined is how many other cases may be compromised because of what happened in the evidence room.
The district attorney praised the Jamestown Police Department for its handling of the situation.
"[The] Jamestown Police Department has been nothing but cooperative in this. They moved quickly," Foley said.
"I also want to make sure that the public knows this is an isolated officer," he continued. "In no way should [it] go to undermine the ... quality of the police officers that are still there."
When asked if Corey would face criminal charges in the ongoing investigation, Foley replied: "Certainly my role and the New York State Police role is in a criminal vein."