By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise, who sparked a major controversy when she accused Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment, is now facing likely disciplinary action herself over an apparently faulty search warrant she authored in December, according to a CBS4 Investigation.
Multiple sources knowledgeable about the case, told CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass that authorities have recommended Branch-Wise be suspended for four days for the erroneous search warrant.
The discipline is at this point simply a recommendation and has not been finalized. Branch-Wise’s attorney, Sean Lane, said the detective would have “no comment at this time” about the problematic search warrant.
According to court documents, interviews and other information gathered in the CBS4 investigation, Branch-Wise was probing a 2017 theft case. The suspect in the case, Melvina Loggins, had apparently rented a home in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. But the owner of the home, Van Marquez, told CBS4 that Loggins had moved out of the home years earlier.
Branch-Wise wrote up a search warrant for the home anyway, getting it signed by a Denver district attorney and a judge. The search warrant, obtained by CBS4, says police were looking for pairs of Nike Jordan Tennis shoes, clothing, pictures and at least one painting or print of Muhammad Ali.
The current renter, Lamond Wedgeworth, told CBS4 that a law enforcement officer stopped by the house looking for the theft suspect around the start of December 2017.
“I have no clue who that is,” Wedgeworth said he told the officer.
Wedgeworth, his wife and two children have lived at the rental home for more than a year.
He thought little of the exchange but then on Dec. 8, 2017, Denver police, armed with the Branch-Wise warrant, descended on the house. Nobody was home at the time but a neighbor called Lamond and Lucinda Wedgeworth and told them police had surrounded their house and were about to break down their front door.
Lamond told CBS4 he hurried home from his job as a warehouse manager to find police ransacking the house looking for stolen property. He said his front door had been broken in and several bedroom doors inside the house had been destroyed when officers tried to get inside the locked rooms.
“They said they were serving a search warrant looking for someone who stole from someone else and this was their last known address. It’s a terrible feeling. We’re part of this community and this neighborhood and it looks bad on us. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy and to be treated like a criminal is a terrible feeling,” said Wedgeworth.
He said police eventually left with none of the stolen property they were seeking and that Branch-Wise soon stopped by.
“She was very nice and apologized for the damages and the commotion we caused here.“
But he said nobody from the police department ever officially apologized for the erroneous search.
”We have no idea why they forced their way in here knowing already they (the suspect) don’t live here. It would be nice if they explained why they did what they did.”
Sonny Jackson, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, told CBS4 there was an internal investigation underway “and it would be inappropriate to speak about this.”
Marquez, the owner of the rental home, said following the raid Branch-Wise contacted him “and apologized about what happened. She basically said they f-d up.”
He said the City of Denver reimbursed him $525 for the damages incurred during the raid. Marquez called what happened “really sorry police work.”
He said, ”I don’t know what they had presented to the judge, but it seems to me with the amount of information they had that wouldn’t be enough to access anyone’s home without their permission.”
Court records show police eventually tracked down Loggins and arrested her for felony theft Feb. 7. Loggins has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Lucinda Wedgeworth told CBS4 she and her husband are considering legal action over the search which she said left her children “terrified.”
Branch-Wise has been with the Denver Police Department more than 17 years and has been a detective more than 11 years.
She wasn’t widely known outside the police department until February when she revealed Denver Mayor Hancock sent her suggestive text messages when she served on his security detail in 2011 and 2012. Hancock apologized for the text messages but said he didn’t believe they amounted to sexual harassment.
As for Lamond Wedgeworth, he hopes what happened to his family prompts the Denver Police Department to re-examine its search warrant procedures.
”Maybe they change procedure and standards of doing things just to avoid people feeling like criminals in their own house.”