COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The seven-month long investigative file into the so-called black ops scheme was released Wednesday, showing details about recordings between key players and which of those players cooperated in the investigation.
The S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigative file includes statements, recordings, forensic computer records and an inside look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and SLED's investigation.
WIS discovered it shows exactly what Upstate Solicitor Walt Wilkins announced last week – there is not sufficient evidence to charge interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago with creating or plotting a "black ops" scheme or to charge former Capt. Dave Navarro with illegally shredding documents and misappropriating funds from the Columbia Police Foundation.
What the recordings show
SLED and the FBI opened the doors to the Columbia Police Department in late-July to investigate whether the "black ops" plan ever existed.
The 405-page file shows that agents interviewed 30 Columbia Police and city employees during the investigation. Agents executed search warrants inside CPD and took a laptop that belonged to former crime analyst Bridget Caffery. Investigators also found recordings, but never had hard evidence to prove Santiago asked Navarro to plant a gun and drugs inside a top city official's car, according to Wilkins.
"I have reviewed the investigation, and I have met extensively with the agents conducting the investigation," Wilkins said. "I have determined that Dave Navarro's allegations that Santiago asked him to plant evidence lack sufficient evidence to support any criminal charges."
SLED's investigative file contained two recordings the city released last week – one is a call between Santiago and Navarro and the second is a recorded meeting between the men and Caffery. The file said agents discovered neither Navarro nor Santiago recorded the conversations.
The city found one recording on former Chief Randy Scott's iPad and the other was found on Caffery's laptop, according to the SLED file. The official investigation lasted two months before SLED handed its findings to Richland County Solicitor Dan Johnson. In December, Johnson gave the file to Wilkins to review the evidence and to decide whether there is enough to support a conviction.
Level of cooperation
From the start of the FBI and SLED investigation, there were allegations that certain players in the investigation were not cooperating after both men would not agree to take a lie detector test.
Santiago's attorney Todd Rutherford announced at last week's press conference that Navarro was not cooperative during the investigation.
"Navarro was never cooperative during this investigation," Rutherford said. "That he did not participate with SLED. That he did not cooperate with the FBI in terms of this investigation."
The file shows Navarro's attorney Glenn Walters told agents he did not want his client to take a polygraph and instead provided a sworn statement to agents.
"Dave Navarro provided a statement under oath with the penalty of perjury," Walters said. "In addition to that, he met with the FBI and SLED for two hours and discussed this matter."
Walters said he did not want Navarro to take the lie detector test because he wants a civil jury to decide who's telling the truth. Navarro filed a civil lawsuit in late-July against the City of Columbia and Santiago. That case is in federal court.
Santiago also filed a lawsuit against Navarro in July for slander. That case is pending in Richland County Common Pleas.
"I have heard that he told them that I won't do it unless Chief Santiago does it," Rutherford said. "I don't think they ever doubted the veracity of Chief Santiago as related to that investigation and that's why they didn't ask him to take the polygraph."
SLED and the FBI asked Santiago to take a polygraph and he, too, declined, according to the investigative file. Santiago's previous attorney told him not to take it because the attorney thinks the tests are not reliable. Instead, Santiago also provided a statement in regards to the "black ops" investigation.
"I've made myself 100 percent available," Santiago said. "I've done it all the time. I never shied away from questions, but again, if you look at the whole soul of this allegation, it was to smear me."
WIS did reach out to Caffery for an interview, she has not responded to the request.
During the "black ops" investigation, investigators said they opened a separate case and were looking at obstruction of justice charges after edited recordings showed up at SLED.
Not enough evidence
The obstruction of justice angle of the investigation stems from secret recordings. Prosecutors said they did not think they were getting the straight story from Santiago about why it appeared one of these recordings was edited.
The day Solicitor Walk Wilkins announced the findings, he took several minutes describing how and why he was investigating Santiago and a crime analyst for obstruction of justice.
"The SLED and FBI broadened the scope of their investigation," Wilkins said. "Spent countless hours investigating, gathering information, collecting witness statements, so we could review and determine whether they had intentionally hindered or impeded the administration of justice."
Wilkins is talking about recordings between Navarro and Santiago. The SLED file shows two versions of a phone recording between Navarro and Santiago – one is 7 minutes and the second runs more than 20 minutes.
Agents had to spend more hours investigating why the recording was shortened and whether it was done intentionally. The file showed SLED investigators had to re-interview Santiago and Caffery, and when they did, Santiago told agents he thinks Caffery gave him the shorter recording to "protect him," according to the SLED report.
"Never once I did ask anyone to cut or manipulate or do anything that would deceive investigators, and I believe there's a statement from Ms. Caffery that she did it on her own," said Santiago.
Santiago said he still does not know why the prosecutor was investigating him for obstructing.
Wilkins says he didn't have sufficient evidence to charge Santiago and Caffery because he says the recordings weren't central to the black ops investigation.
The case is closed and Wilkins findings are final.