CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — A former Chesterfield County narcotics detective who altered multiple search warrants after leaving out required details in them has been charged with a misdemeanor following a special prosecutor’s investigation.
A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate whether Robert W. Sprouse broke the law when he changed warrants after the searches had been conducted and five arrests were made. Sprouse, who is no longer working for Chesterfield police, now faces a charge of committing common law malfeasance in office.
“While acting in his official capacity as a Chesterfield County police officer, Robert W. Sprouse did exceed his authority and breach a duty of public concern in the execution of a search warrant by willfully and knowingly adding official language to the face of the warrant, without any authority of law or discretion to do so,” Spotsylvania Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney G. Ryan Mehaffey, the special prosecutor in the case, wrote in a filing.
Chesterfield police said Sprouse outlined the probable cause in an affidavit as required before the magistrate signed off on the warrants. Authorities said the affidavit’s details were “true and accurate” and that the search warrants were obtained legally.
But when writing up the warrants, a step that police said the magistrate generally does after approving the affidavit, a court filing says Sprouse left out the description of the items that investigators believed would be found during the searches.
“Regretfully, after the search warrants were executed, the detective noticed that information pertaining to the items to be searched were outlined in the affidavit but not filled out on the search warrant,” Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz wrote in a Facebook post. “This was a simple clerical error. The issue should have ended there…but it didn’t.”
Sprouse filled the information out and submitted the altered search warrants to the courts, according to police. In his post, Katz stressed that Sprouse did not make any changes to the facts in the case.
“The material facts needed to establish the probable cause did not change and were not modified; however, an omission – missed by both the detective and the magistrate – was added after warrant service,” Katz wrote. “This modification of a public document is inappropriate and potentially illegal.”
Chesterfield’s prosecutor dismissed all the criminal charges linked to the search warrants, which involved drug distribution and gun-related charges, and all of the five defendants were released. Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport told 8News that her office “felt there were evidentiary and constitutional issues for the prosecutions.”
A motion to dismiss the charge has been filed by Sprouse’s attorneys, who did not respond to a request for comment Friday but told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that malfeasance in office “is not a crime in Virginia.” According to Virginia code, someone found guilty could be removed from their position but Sprouse is no longer working for Chesterfield police.
Citing a pending case that could go in front of a jury, Mehaffey declined to comment on this story. A status hearing has been set for Oct. 28.