Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are accused of perjury after stopping drivers for speeding but then citing them for not having proof of insurance, officials said.
Michael Berk, 58, faces four counts each of filing a false report and perjury, and Justin Fisk, 40, faces two counts of each charge, according to the L.A. County district attorney’s office. Both deputies, who were assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley station, pleaded not guilty Thursday.
The traffic stops happened between September and November 2016. The drivers, who happened to be other law enforcement officers, were stopped for speeding. But instead of issuing speeding tickets, the deputies ticketed the drivers for not having proof of insurance, even though they had valid insurance at the time.
The deputies are due back in court in February.
The pair came under investigation in November 2016 after a Los Angeles deputy police chief told a sheriff’s captain that the two defendants possibly had issued falsified traffic tickets, according to the complaint.
Sheriff’s Department investigators first presented the case to prosecutors in October 2017, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors received additional information about the case in April 2018. It’s unclear why it took so long to file charges.
Ron Hernandez, president of the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said he has no problem with members of law enforcement being held to a high standard when it comes to abiding by the law.
“We look forward to our deputies receiving their due process as the case makes it way through the legal system,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that it has started the process to suspend pay for the deputies. “We are now waiting for the outcome of the criminal case in order to proceed administratively,” the statement said.
Bail was set at $25,000 for each deputy.
If convicted, Berk faces a possible maximum sentence of five years in state prison, while Fisk faces up to three years and eight months in prison.