Security guard placed on probation for impersonating an officer
A security guard who prosecutors said passed himself off as a police officer to stop a motorist on the freeway and also brought a gun into a courthouse has been placed on three years' probationTimothy Higley, 30, of Skyline also was ordered to complete 35 days of public work service. Higley pleaded guilty Nov. 11 to false imprisonment and the gun charge. He faced a maximum sentence of more than three years in prison.
San Diego Superior Court Judge George "Woody" Clarke said at a Tuesday sentencing that although Higley broke the law, he did so without "malicious intent." However, Clarke denied a defense request to reduce the gun charge to a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors said Higley carried a loaded handgun into the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego on June 9, when he was scheduled to testify at a court hearing. He wore his security guard uniform, which looks similar to that of a sheriff's deputy.
State law prohibits anyone from carrying a weapon into a public building, except peace officers on official business and those taking weapons into court to be used as evidence.
Before arriving at the courthouse, Higley had called a secretary in the District Attorney's Office, told her he was running late and asked whether he would be allowed to appear in uniform. He failed to mention the gun, prosecutors said.
The secretary told Higley he could wear the uniform.
Courthouse security personnel realized Higley wasn't a law enforcement officer as he was leaving the courthouse, and he was cited for having the gun.
The false-imprisonment conviction stems from an August 2003 incident in which Higley detained a motorist on westbound state Route 94, although he had no authority to do so.
The motorist, an off-duty police officer, stopped because he saw Higley's white Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor with California-exempt plates and thought it might belong to a SWAT officer, prosecutors said.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Running Jr. called Higley's conduct an "abuse of trust," saying motorists typically expect to be stopped by a trained law enforcement officer.
Running said Higley put himself and the motorist in danger.
Higley apologized in court and told the judge he would refrain from such behavior. He said that when he brought the gun to court, he didn't know he wasn't allowed to do so.
"I was under the impression that I had the authority . . . to come in like I did," Higley said.
Defense attorney Richard Muir said Higley didn't hurt anyone and thought he was helping the police when he stopped the motorist for speeding. Muir said Higley always wanted to be a police officer and had completed police academy training.
"He's really a good guy," Muir told the judge.
Muir said Higley eventually plans to move to Pittsburgh, where his parents live, and hopes to join the Army's Ranger program. That might be difficult with a felony record.
Higley also is precluded from becoming a police officer because he can't legally possess a firearm.