Sterling hearing: Missing report found on secure server

Published 6:31 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A sought-after report that could possibly exonerate former Port Arthur Police Det. Mickey Sterling on a charge of lying was found in a secure computer file at the police department on Wednesday.

The discovery led Sterling’s attorney, Bob Thomas, make a motion for sanctions against Bettye Lynn, who is representing the city in the arbitration hearing that is going on this week at Port Arthur City Hall.

The document is an offense report filed by Sterling in December 2015 which states he was a victim of credit card/debit card fraud and included a summary of the incident.

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Dave Mai, the information technology director for the city, was called to the stand twice and told of how the police department’s server was hit by ransomware in or near 2010. He locked down the computers and created new files that were not corrupted. Some time later the narcotics division’s computer drive was hit by the same virus that affected some but not all of the folders on the drive, he said.

Later, when the offense report was sought it could not be found, according to information presented. It was initially thought that the report was lost to the computer virus.

Sterling, at some point, went to the records department of the police department, requested the report and was given a similar document, minus the summary information. He then ran into Mai in the parking lot and asked about the missing offense report.

Mai originally testified that he found the document in a secure folder that can only be accessed by him, a secretary, Sgt. Reagan Sweat and Det. Herschel Whiting with internal affairs.

A brief break in the hearing was called while the report was sought, then PAPD Sgt. Sweat was called to bring the report and testify to its whereabouts.

“The IT tech, Dave Mai was able to find it, I believe, on Det. Sterling’s work hard drive,” Sweat said.

Thomas quizzed Sweat on whether he knew he could access the file as one of the four administrators, to which he said he was not aware and had not seen the report before today (Wednesday). He also said he did not know if he had ever seen the ‘admin 3’ drive.

Mai was called back to the stand to clarify where the report was and how it got to a secure folder.

Then it was learned that Sterling’s hard drive had been placed into a folder named Scott Gaspard on the server. Gaspard resigned the police force last year as allegations of wrongdoing came to light. In addition, Gaspard signed off on Sterling’s offense report after the fact.

“The first time I took it upon myself to search for the missing report I found it in that folder and brought it to (Major. Michael) Fratus,” Mai said of when he encountered Sterling in the parking lot some time last year and Sterling asked about the report. “He said Mickey Sterling is no longer employed, don’t worry about it and told me to call the city attorney. After I left his office I used my cell phone to call the city attorney.”

Thomas asked Mai if Fratus asked him to put the report in the secure admin file to which he answered no.

He also clarified that he was never told he could not release the document to anyone, only that he could not release the document to Sterling.

Thomas also asked Mai about the validity of Sweat’s testimony, specifically did Sweat access the secure folder.

“There is no way to tell who accesses the folder at any given time,” Mai said. “There are multiple folders on the drive and one of those is Scott Gaspard’s folder.

After much discussion and testimony by several witnesses, arbitrator Don B. Hays said he would take the motion for sanctions under advisement but not rule on the issue at this time as another witness may make a contribution to the issue.

The arbitration hearing will continue Thursday at city hall.