Circle of lies
Perjury and its consequences a Wayne County court
Published: April 20, 2011
Would Povish do it?
The snitch jumped at the offer, and then quickly called Officer McArthur. To his chagrin, Povish claimed, the cop "almost wasn't going to show up. He was busy plowing snow, because he has a snowplowing business. And I told him I worked too hard and too long and got this set up; it's going down today. So they kind of scattered themselves to get there."
So great was the rush, in fact, that the cops brought neither notebooks nor surveillance gear such as cameras, according to information in the court files.
Aceval was already at the bar when Povish and Hill arrived in Povish's 1986 Oldsmobile, described as brown with splotches of gray primer. Around the same time, Pena arrived, driving a truck with a trailer and trench digger in tow.
As Hill helped unload the coke, which was hidden in the trench digger, Povish was sent to a nearby Kmart to get some duffle bags to put the drugs in before they were moved on.
In a court filing, Aceval's lawyer, David Moffitt, alleges that the cops didn't get to the bar until after two black duffle bags containing 47 kilos of coke had been loaded into the trunk of Povish's car. A lawyer for McArthur disputes that claim, and says the cops were on the scene. Whatever the case, there was certainly confusion as to who actually put the drugs in the car. Povish and Hill say they were the ones who did the loading; Sgt. Scott Rechtzigel, testified that it was Aceval who placed the bags in the vehicle.
With the drugs loaded in his car, Povish began driving toward Southfield and Seven Mile Road. He was expecting police to make the bust when he arrived at the final destination — which he didn't know beforehand; the plan was for Aceval, who followed behind in his black Ford 150 pickup truck, to tell Povish where they were going while en route.
To Povish's surprise, police pulled over both vehicles soon after they hit the road.
To conceal the fact that Povish was an informant, he was handcuffed and thrown into a squad car, as was Aceval. Pena was stopped after he left the bar driving a truck with the trailer and trench digger in tow. A small amount of cocaine was found on him when he was arrested.
Hill was also arrested. But Povish had insisted, and McArthur agreed, that Hill would not be charged.
Also in the bar that day were four or five other men, referred to only as "the Mexicans." What they were doing there on a Sunday when the bar was closed has never been truly explained. Also not explained is why they were allowed to leave the scene after their drivers licenses were checked to see if warrants were out for any of them. But their presence at the bar would eventually play a significant role in Aceval's first trial.
Hill was also arrested. But, as with Povish, his short detention at the Inkster PD was a ruse.
It was just the beginning of a string of deceptions that proved disastrous.
A foreseeable hazard
"Immediately upon arrest of Povish, the perjury scheme went into motion," attorney Moffitt, who represents Aceval, asserted in a court filing.
The cops were in a bind, and Povish, although he didn't yet realize it, was headed for the last place he didn't want to be: the witness stand.
As he later explained during his deposition with the Attorney General's Office, the police and prosecutor realized they didn't have much of a case without him, and within days of the bust told him he would have to testify.
Povish was reluctant to take the stand. But McArthur reassured him. "Everything was fine. I had nothing to worry about," was the way Povish later described the situation.
Povish persisted, asking McArthur why he had to testify this time when it wasn't necessary in any of the previous cases he'd worked on.
"He said that it was important that I had — that I had to. That's the only way they can convict Aceval," Povish told the AG's Office.
But the cops had already promised to keep his identity as an informant confidential. So it was decided to take a middle road that contained what should have been a foreseeable hazard.
The strategy pursued by Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Karen Plants, head of the office's drug unit, was based on a foundation of deception and lies. Povish would take the stand and testify, but his role as an informant would continue to be concealed.
In a sworn affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for the bar and Aceval's home, the officers describe staking out the bar and seeing two men "later identified" as Povish and Hill arrive in the Oldsmobile. In a written statement given at the Inkster police station following his arrest, Povish was allowed to lie and say he didn't know exactly what work Aceval wanted him to do, and that he didn't know what was in the duffle bags.
According to information in an investigative report compiled by the state Attorney General's Office, Plants "instructed" McArthur not to divulge Povish's true role in the witness statement.
Plants allowed those lies to be repeated when Povish took the witness stand.
According to the sworn statement given to the AG's Office, Povish — who had been given immunity by that point — claimed that Plants coached him and the two cops to lie on the stand if asked if they had known each other previously.
Moffitt referred to Povish's dual role as both unnamed confidential informant and star witness as an "impossible dichotomy." As he asserted in court filings, "Plants and the police realized perjury was essential to bringing a case against Aceval at all."
Prosecutor Plants would later claim that perjury occurred because defense attorneys kept asking questions intended to reveal who the informant was, and that lies had to be told to keep that from happening.
But it wasn't only in response to questions from defense attorneys that lies were uttered. In her closing statement during Pena's trial, Plants told the jury this about the role Povish and Hill played:
> Email Curt Guyette