What's next in the Desmond Logan case? Plea agreement is far from end for former Chattanooga officer, admitted rapist

What's next in the Desmond Logan case? Plea agreement is far from end for former Chattanooga officer, admitted rapist

September 10th, 2019 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan reached a plea agreement last week, in which he admitted to raping three women in his custody between 2015 and 2018 as well as shooting a Taser at a fourth woman.

The agreement came with two federal charges, each bringing up to 10 years in prison, but that deal won't be finalized until at least Thursday, when Logan is scheduled to appear before a judge.

The federal case isn't over. Logan remains free, for now. The judge in charge of the case has recused himself — likely due to his former role with the city during Logan's early years on the force.

There's still a county investigation that could bring more charges and information about a potential cover-up by former department leaders.

Here is a look at four pressing questions that remain in the case and answers provided by legal experts and Times Free Press sources with knowledge of the investigations.

 

What's next in the federal case?

Logan is required to appear before a judge to finalize the plea agreement and accept the charges against him.

His hearing will be held Thursday afternoon and is open to the public. It could be done rather quickly, according to Dwight Aarons, a University of Tennessee associate professor of law whose expertise includes criminal law. A magistrate judge will inform Logan he is entering a deal, pleading guilty to two federal charges and waiving his rights. The judge also will ensure the deal is being reached voluntarily.

"The basic facts of the plea agreement will be stated by the government and agreed to by the defense. What the defendant has done is acknowledge that he is pleading guilty and that there is enough evidence to convict him under a federal statute," Aarons wrote in an email. "Publicly, that's about all either side wants to tell the public now. There probably won't be any 'new news' from that proceeding. The defendant or his lawyer may simply answer 'yes' to a lot of questions put forth by the court or prosecutors."

The hearing could be done in less than 10 minutes, according to Vanderbilt Professor of Law Christopher Slobogin.

A lot of it depends on whether the judge goes into detail about evidence in the case or just asks whether there's a factual basis for the charges.

"What could happen in a typical case is the judge will ask if there's a factual basis [to the evidence], and both [sides] will just say 'yes,'" he said. "In a very high profile case like this one, it could be much more elaborate."

The magistrate judge, who is not permitted to formally enter into the agreement, will make a recommendation to the district judge. Typically, the district judge will then accept the plea deal based on the recommendation.

As of now, the agreement serves as an admission of guilt and will be used against Logan if he backs out of the deal or doesn't show up for his hearing.

Logan likely will be arrested at the end of the hearing. However, he will not be sentenced. That will come at a later date in a separate hearing.

The case will be overseen by District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr.

District Judge Travis R. McDonough recused himself from the case Monday. McDonough served as Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's chief of staff when Logan began at the police department.

"It's not our practice to comment beyond what is in the public record," said a spokesperson for McDonough's office when asked if the judge's former position with the city was the reason behind the recusal.

Logan's hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. in Courtroom 1B of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and United States Courthouse on Georgia Avenue.

 

What does this mean for the Hamilton County investigation?

The federal case is the second of three investigations into Logan's conduct to conclude.

The Chattanooga Police Department's Internal Affairs unit conducted its own investigation. Logan resigned minutes ahead of a hearing at its conclusion. He was expected to be fired during the hearing.

Hamilton County has led the criminal investigation, which remains ongoing.

That investigation could bring more charges against Logan, despite being for the same conduct.

"You can in fact be charged for the same activity in both," Turner said. "It does happen. It's rare, but it does happen. Under federal law, it's a totally different penal code. It's not the same charges but is the same activity."

Rape isn't typically a federal crime. It's a criminal offense within the state it occurs. The FBI investigated the case because Logan raped the women while they were in his custody as a police officer; therefore, he deprived them of their federal rights.

The county investigation is being led by district attorney Neal Pinkston with assistance from the sheriff's office. Those agencies are investigating the rapes themselves.

Both offices have declined comment on the case. Their investigation was put on hold while the FBI finished its investigation. Now that it has concluded, it's unclear when the county will release its findings or press charges, if it chooses to do so.

Prosecutors are almost certain to attempt to use the federal plea agreement in that case, unless Logan reaches a plea deal with the state, according to legal experts.

"It's considered an admission," Turner said. "It's the same thing as signing a confession. Even though they're not his words, he signed it to be true."

And those state charges from the county investigation could be harsher than the 10 years he faces from the federal probe.

"State law is more severe in its punishment of the underlying conduct," Aarons wrote.

Logan also has only been charged federally for a June 2018 rape and the 2016 UTC incident. He did, however, admit to raping women in 2015 and 2016. That admission is included in the plea agreement and could potentially be used by the state for its case.

 

What is under seal, and how does the potential cover-up play into the case?

Part of the plea agreement is under seal.

That could be a major development, or it could mean nothing, according to Turner and Aarons.

Those sealed documents are where information about possible cooperation from the defendant implicating others would lie. However, it is attached to all plea agreements in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

"It's required to be written like that in every single plea agreement, so that if they are cooperating, we don't know," Turner said. "Most of [the sealed documents are typically] blank. Not that many people are cooperating. But this way, if someone ever does look at the plea agreement, there's no way to tell."

The sealed documents could be crucial if Logan did cooperate to receive a lighter sentence.

Two former high-ranking officers, Edwin McPherson and Pedro Bacon, are being investigated for their potential roles in covering up years of evidence in the case. The two were allegedly involved in purging files from a police software system that included accusations of rape against Logan.

Bacon was summoned before a federal grand jury in July.

Contact Mark Pace with questions, comments, concerns or story tips at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.


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