By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A misdemeanor embezzlement case against a former Clovis police detective was dismissed Tuesday on grounds it lacked prosecutorial merit, according to records filed in Curry County Magistrate Court.
Keith Farkas, a 17-year Clovis Police Department veteran, said he is relieved.
“It took 363 days to finally get the right thing to happen,” he said.
He learned of the dismissal last week.
“It was like the world was lifted off of my shoulders.”
He agreed to make a donation to Crime Stoppers and serve 100 hours of community service in lieu of prosecution, Debra Hutchins, assistant district attorney from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office in Roswell, said Wednesday.
Farkas said Hutchins asked him to offer the donation and community service, to which he agreed, but he said it was not a plea agreement.
“My plea never changed,” he said. “I’m still not guilty.”
Hutchins dismissed the case because she said she could not prove the value of the computer without great expense to the state.
“I was going to go to trial, but when we did the preliminary hearing the glaring hole was the value of the computer,” she said.
“Under the statute there are certain things you have to prove.”
Hutchins said she conferred with Clovis police before dismissing the case.
“The police department did understand the situation. They weren’t happy but they understood,” she said.
Investigators alleged Farkas, 39, took a city computer tower from the department. It was later found in an evidence room.
Farkas told police he borrowed the computer for personal use and returned it, records show.
Farkas was arrested Nov. 9 and his employment terminated in December.
Police Chief Dan Blair said he is disappointed in the dismissal and in what he considers a failure by Hutchins to involve him, the police department and city officials in her final decision.
“In my opinion (cost) should never be part of the decision. We have people that commit crimes, and, yeah, it costs money to prosecute them, but that’s part of the criminal justice system,” Blair said.
Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said he was not involved in the decision to dismiss the case either, and said city officials were surprised and disappointed when they learned of it.
Thomas said Farkas would probably not be eligible to be rehired by the city.
“There were violations of city policy over and above any criminal violations,” he said.
Farkas believes he was the target of a vendetta and said he intends to pursue a civil case on the basis of wrongful termination and malicious prosecution.
Farkas said he hasn’t decided if he will return to law enforcement, a career he has always loved. He said the experience has left a “bad taste in my mouth” and he is still considering his options.