LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – The La Crosse Police Department and District Attorney's Office are dealing with the fallout from the arrest of former Police Lt. Brian Thomson.
Police Chief Ron Tischer said that Thomson was arrested after a sting operation where the department placed fake drugs under observation and witnessed Thomson taking those items.
Following his arrest, the department conducted an audit of its evidence area and discovered a number of items had been tampered with.
La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke sent a letter to local defense lawyers that alerted them about the possible impact on their cases due to the manipulated evidence.
News 19 obtained that letter and asked the police chief for an interview. The department's Community Services Bureau sent the following response:
"The press release with additional information was provided to the media against the request of the investigating agency and prosecutors. We felt it necessary to give you (the community) more information as we want to be as transparent as possible. However, providing more information at this time could jeopardize DCI's investigation."
Thomson is facing charges of attempted possession of a controlled substance and misconduct in office.
Attorney Cheryl Gill, a partner with Johns, Flaherty & Collins, said even though evidence has been compromised, it doesn't necessarily mean it's unusable.
Gill said the court will ultimately rule how much weight should be given to that evidence in trial.
"The evidence got opened. We don't know what was done to it exactly. So while the evidence itself is compromised, it doesn't necessarily mean that the case can't go forward," Gill said.
In criminal cases involving manipulated evidence, the judge could choose to prevent it from being used, or just advise the jury that it's been tampered with, she said.
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