Columbia Police Department Deputy Chief Jill Schlude violated federal and state laws related to the obstruction of justice when she hid from a federal subpoena duces tecum that my private investigator was attempting to serve to her.
In a federal civil rights lawsuit for First Amendment Retaliation filed by Matt Akins of Citizens For Justice vs. Chief Burton, Sgt. Roger Schulde, Rob Sanders and various other Columbia police and prosecutors. I had scheduled to take the deposition of Deputy Chief Jill Schlude in coordination with the City’s civil attorney Brad Letterman.
I retained Rick Gurley, a private investigator with RMRI, LLC to serve the “subpoena duces tecum” to require Deputy Chief Jill Schlude to appear at a federal deposition. The subpoena was related to activist Matthew Akins’ lawsuit against the department, as well as several individual officers including the deputy chief’s husband. I hired Gurley to serve the CPD’s second in command notice that she was to appear at the deposition where she would be required by law to produce specified documents and to answer questions about her interactions with the citizen journalist. It was not expected that she would engage in the obstruction of justice by avoiding this subpoena.
Private Investigator Encounters Obstruction of Justice
Private Investigator Rick Gurley gives his account of the attempted service of
Deputy Chief Jill Schlude
Gurley says lower level employees lied to him about Schlude’s location and availability status resulting in multiple wasted trips to the police department. In response, he retrieved another subpoena for Administrative Tech Denise Shaw, who he believes was covering for the Deputy Chief Schlude and was engaging in the obstruction of justice.
Upon returning to the department, Gurley spoke to Shaw via the intercom system that separates the lobby of the Administration Bureau from the offices where the department employees work. Shaw confirmed her identity but ceased all communication when Gurley confronted her with the subpoena he was attempting to serve her.
Gurley remained in the lobby until a uniformed officer was sent out with instructions to escort him from the premises. Gurley informed the officer he was attempting to serve multiple members of the department with federal subpoenas, but the officer continued to inform him that he would have to leave and would not be permitted to serve the subpoena.
Gurley returned the following morning in one final attempt to serve the subpoena, only to find the windows to Denise Shaw’s office had been covered with trash bags. Rick believes that the bags were put up to block his view and further allow the police department to evade service and thwart the rule of law by engaging in the obstruction of justice.
Schlude never made herself available to accept service of this federal subpoena, meaning attorney Stephen Wyse was forced to accept that his subpoena duces tecum was not legally enforceable and rely upon the assurances of the City’s civil attorney that Deputy Chief Jill Schlude would appear and may even bring the requested documents to the deposition. The deposition of Jill Schlude occurred on April 07, 2016, but several of the documents requested in the subpoena were not produced for examination during this deposition. This kind of obstruction of justice has not been an isolated occurrence.
RSMO 575.160 – Interference with legal process – class B misdemeanor;
1. A person commits the offense of interference with legal process if, knowing another person is authorized by law to serve process, he or she interferes with or obstructs such person for the purpose of preventing such person from effecting the service of any process.
2. “Process” includes any writ, summons, subpoena, warrant other than an arrest warrant, or other process or order of a court.
3. The offense of interference with legal process is a class B misdemeanor.
RSMo 575.170 – Refusing to make an employee available for service of process – class C misdemeanor
1. An employer, or agent who is in charge of a business establishment, commits the offense of refusing to make an employee available for service of process if he or she knowingly refuses to assist any officer authorized by law to serve process who calls at such business establishment during the working hours of an employee for the purpose of serving process on such employee, by failing or refusing to make such employee available for service of process.
2. The offense of refusing to make an employee available for service of process is a class C misdemeanor.
Whoever knowingly and willfully obsructs, resists or opposes any officer of the United States, or other person duly authorized, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal or judicial writ or process of any court of the United States . . . Shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
A Pattern of Obstruction of Justice
During the prosecution of Matt Akins civil rights lawsuit the Columbia Police Department asserted that several audio, video and computer login records were either lost, deleted or otherwise unobtainable. To include:
- 1. May 09, 2010 DUI Checkpoint Arrest of Matthew Akins For Lawfully Carrying a Firearm
Akins accused Officer Eric Hughes of tampering with evidence and, Akins through his then attorney, had demanded the video of the incident. The Boone Prosecutor’s office claimed that this video was either lost, deleted, or never existed… All charges were subsequently dissmissed;
- 2. October 2012 Salty’s Bar Ejection and Arrest
Matthew Akins sent a Sunshine Request shortly after the incident, but was told by Jill Schlude (who at that time oversaw the Public Relations Unit) that Sgt. Eric Hughes camera had “malfunctioned”, but no reports requesting repair and/or billing records indicating any repairs were made related to this “Malfunctioning” recording equipment;
- 3. September 11, 2012, Pocket Knife Arrest of Matt Akins.
His then attorney Jennifer Bukowsky sent to a demand to preserve holding cell footage. CPD claimed that the video footage from the holding cell was deleted and not retained. This bogus pocket knife charge against Matt Akins was also dismissed;
- 4. CPD “Wanted Poster” of Matt Akins
The poster was displayed in the secured police briefing room accessible by police officials. The Columbia Police Department later claimed that the could not identify the login information of the officer who accessed the department’s internal system to obtain confidential criminal history and mug shot from a false weapons arrest used in this “Wanted Poster”. The Information was sealed by law and subjected to restricted computer access.
I have frequently commented that, when exculpatory data that could assist the accused is contained on CPD servers that a alarming frequency of deletions, malfunctions and erasures coincidentally occurs. But that when evidence of guilt may be found that CPD’s system is highly reliable. I’ve also discussed with Chief Burton that when CPD’s recording policy is violated by a police officer that there is not requirement to document said violation(s), making the policy more theoretical than substantive. When the police systematically engage in the obstruction of justice it undermines the rule of law upon which society relies.
Attorney Stephen Wyse is available for questions and press inquiries related to this incident, as well as Matthew Akins’ lawsuit against the Columbia Police Department: 573-449-7755