Bizarre workers comp scam alleged

It’s common for law-enforcement officials to spike their pensions by claiming disabilities toward the end of their career. The Sacramento Bee reported on what is known as Chief’s Disease — at one point 82 percent of high-ranking California Highway Patrol officers miraculously discovered a disabling injury (back problems, knees, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.) around a year away from retiring, thus protecting half of the already generous retirement income from taxes. But the front-page Bee story from today, about an alleged workers comp scam by a prison guard, takes the cake for chutzpah and creativity.

Correctional officer John Alfonzo Smiley filed a workers comp claim explaining that he was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down after a parolee recognized him in a San Francisco restaurant. Smiley’s attorney sought a $2 million settlement for the claim in October and “About the same time the state realized it did not have the SFPD [San Francisco Police Department] report on the shooting, but officials planned to go ahead with a settlement payment … .”

Someone finally had the good sense to get the police report and began a criminal investigation. “Instead, court records say, the altercation that led to his paralysis started at a swingers club, where he and his wife were engaging in sex with strangers and a dispute quickly escalated,” according to the Bee. “The Smileys arrived at midnight after discovering the club on the Internet, court records say. Soon they met another couple, court records state, and eventually began to have sex with them. But at some point Smiley’s condom broke while he was having sex with the woman, and her companion became angry, court records state. … The Smileys left and began walking to their car when Smiley heard another car pull up and the man from the club emerged with a gun, court records state. The pair began to run and Smiley was shot in the back.”

It’s amazing that Smiley would file such a claim knowing the police report was out there and even more amazing that it took so long before a braintrust at the state even asked for the report. The government came awfully close to handing over the money.

The Bee also featured a story today about a former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, Eric Cephus, who admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl while he was on duty, in uniform and driving a patrol car. Think about that scary scenario next time a police officer approaches you or your kids. At least he received a tough sentence. When I worked in Orange County, a jury decided that an officer who pulled over a woman and received a sex act in exchange for not charging her with a crime had done nothing illegal — it was consensual sex, the jury ruled!

Since 9/11, Americans have lionized police officers and yet, in reality, police work is just another reflection of every other institution in our society — you get the good, the bad and everything in between. Law enforcement officials have a great deal of power, yet — not surprisingly — many of those who gain such power abuse it. Some of them them exploit the system to spike their pensions and others do so for even more nefarious reasons. The lesson: We should never dispense with our understanding of the nature of government, even when dealing with those government officials who claim to protect us.

–Steven Greenhut

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