Officer's past could lead to overturned convictions

by: Samuel King Updated:

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - A police officer’s arrest and convictions are under question because of his criminal background.  That could lead to prior convictions in Green Cove Springs being overturned.

Officer Mark Wilson started with the Green Cove Springs Police Department in 2006. 

His personnel file details his 12-hour shifts, his work stopping speeders and other tasks he performs.

It also includes his application for the police force where he admits to a 1999 arrest for passing bad checks in Kern County, California.

Wilson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in 2001.

A felony conviction would have disqualified him from being an officer in the State of Florida.      

Green Cove Springs accepted his application five years after the guilty plea and Wilson joined the force.

Now that conviction is coming back to haunt the officer.

“Because a guy has a uniform and a car and we put our trust in this," defendant George Lyons said.

 Lyons first uncovered the officer’s troubled past after a chance encounter.

Wilson arrested Lyons on drunken driving charges in late 2012, and a jury convicted him last December.

Lyons discovered the conviction on Wilson’s record wasn’t shared with the State Attorney’s Office on Lyons during the trial.

“When you trying to hide something, it gets even worse,” Lyons said.

Just last month, a judge ruled Wilson’s worthless checks conviction a “crime of dishonesty – a so called impeachable offense”, and thus should be introduced into evidence.

Action News found out it wasn’t the only time Wilson’s character has been questioned.

In 2008, an internal affairs investigation found Wilson engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a prostitute. That’s a violation of Green Cove Springs Police policy.

The end result was a two-day suspension and probation.

In 2009, the department launched a second investigation into Wilson. This time investigators determined Wilson not only had an inappropriate relationship with a confidential informant, but also sent that same informant pictures from crime scenes.

That informant also told investigators Wilson urged her to hide their relationship from the other officers.

During that investigation, Chief of Police Robert Musco recommended Wilson be fired. 

Musco wrote in a memo, “Yet, for reasons still not fully understood, Officer Wilson has allowed himself to become involved with persons of questionable character, causing him and the Police Department embarrassment and dishonor.”

But Musco said the city manager at the time overruled his recommendation.

This time, Wilson received a three-week suspension, a year’s probation, and a warning.  Further infractions could lead to termination.

Action News tried on more than one occasion to get Wilson’s side of the story, but he declined to do an interview.

Action News law and safety expert Dale Carson said Wilson’s record could be used to call other cases he was involved in into question.

We checked with the Green Cove Springs Police Department and the clerk of courts.

Action News did talk with the former city manager Don Bowles.  He said the facts didn’t warrant termination officer Wilson for the relationship with the informant.