Meridian Star

Local News

March 8, 2014

Opinion outlines judges reasoning behind Harper verdict

MERIDIAN —     Meridian Municipal Court Judge Chris Falgout handed down a guilty verdict in the misdemeanor trial against former Meridian Police Department officer Dean Harper late Thursday afternoon.

    In the opinion written by Falgout, the judge pro tempore pointed out the reason he came to the decision based on testimony Monday and in researching statutes that have relevance to this case.

    Falgout wrote that according to Mississippi Code 97-7-43, whoever falsely and willfully assumes or pretends to be an officer, or an employee acting under the authority of the State of Mississippi or any department. In the opinion, Falgout underlined "or" following officer pointing out that a person can be in violation of this law by not only falsely identifying themselves as an officer, but also as a city employee.

    Falgout wrote Harper didn't falsely identify himself as an officer working under the authority of the State of Mississippi, Harper was a state certified officer with the MSU-Meridian police force at the time of the offense, but that Harper did fall under the part of the statute pertaining to falsely identifying oneself as a city employee.

    Harper admitted during testimony that he identified himself to a dispatcher as India 1, his callsign when he was fired as the commander of the MPD's Criminal Investigation Division two weeks prior to the offense. Falgout wrote that Harper did not correct this error to the dispatcher and make the same request as a police officer with the MSU-Meridian campus.

    Falgout wrote in his final determination that Harper was guilty of, not impersonating an officer, but impersonating an employee with the MPD.     Falgout wrote, just before making this final judgement, he was tempted to question the underlying reasons why this case had reached this point. But he determined it was not the court's place to make predetermined judgment calls on why a case is brought before it, but rather simply apply the facts and law accordingly.

    Harper was fined $50 and is responsible for paying for additional state and local costs associated with the proceedings.

    After having some time to digest the opinion, Bill Ready Jr., Harper's attorney, didn't budge from his previous statements that he strongly disagreed with the verdict and repeated he would start the appeal process as soon as possible.

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