A federal jury in St. Paul on Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police officer Ty Jindra of three counts of confiscating drugs during traffic stops for his own personal use, and two counts of seizing drugs in violation of individuals' constitutional rights.
He was acquitted on six other counts.
Jindra, 29, and defense attorney Aaron Morrison bowed their heads as U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank read the verdict. Neither commented afterward.
"Ty Jindra failed to uphold his oath as a peace officer; he failed the community he was sworn to serve, and he failed his fellow officers" Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk said in a statement.
Jindra was convicted of stealing Tramadol, a controlled substance, during one stop, surreptitiously diverting pills for his own use, then failing to mention he'd discovered them when he filed a report. He was also convicted of keeping a portion of some methamphetamine that a Minneapolis resident found in a bag on her home's roof. Jindra then filed a false report with the department.
He also was found guilty of separating a portion of oxycodone pills for himself during another traffic stop, concealing the pills in a latex glove and putting them in his personal bag, misrepresenting to his partner what he was doing and then submitting a false report claiming to have placed all the pills into evidence.
Besides the drug counts, the jury also convicted Jindra of two civil rights violations: stopping a driver at a service station for a tag violation and conducting an illegal search, and stopping three juveniles in a vehicle, which slowly rolled through a stop sign and conducting what the indictment called an unreasonable search and seizure of drugs. He was convicted of incidents that occurred in 2017 and 2019.
Jindra faces a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison on each of the three counts of acquiring a controlled substance and a maximum of one year in prison on each of the two civil rights counts, prosecutors said.
Morrison told Frank that because the jury rejected some of the counts, he will file some post-trial motions but did not elaborate. Jindra was acquitted on three counts of acquiring illegal drugs, two counts of coercing people to turn over drugs and one count alleging an illegal seizure.
No sentencing date was set. Frank said Jindra could remain free until sentencing as long as he met conditions of pretrial supervised release.
In his closing arguments Friday, defense attorney Peter Wold said Jindra threw away the drugs that he seized, which he said was not an uncommon practice of Minneapolis police. He said Jindra did not want to spend the time logging in small amounts of drugs in the department's property room, when criminal charges might not be filed.
In her closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amber Brennan said the defense produced no evidence Jindra threw away the drugs.
Wold also contended that the prosecution did not show evidence that Jindra was a drug addict, but Brennan countered that Jindra was not on trial for drug addiction.
Outside the presence of the jury, Brennan and fellow prosecutor Michelle Jones told the judge that during a hospitalization last year, Jindra's family said they believed he had a drug problem. Several years ago, he had overdosed on Xanax, a controlled substance used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
As a police officer, Jindra was assigned to the night shift, much of it on the city's North Side, and the majority of the drivers and passengers he stopped and searched who were cited in the indictment were people of color.
Much of the evidence in the case was video from Jindra's body camera or those of his partner officers. In her closing argument, Brennan said Jindra typically made a "bee line" for the vehicle's interior whether he had legal justification or not, searching for drugs, compared with his partners who patted down subjects for possible weapons but who seemed far less concerned with finding drugs.
The videos showed Jindra rustling through the vehicles he stopped, searching consoles, car door compartments and between or under car seats in addition to the drivers' or passengers' pockets.
He put some of the drugs he found in his personal duty bag stored in the cargo area of his police SUV, sometimes surreptitiously wrapping drugs in his latex gloves. In other cases, he put the drugs in his pocket or the door of his squad car. He frequently did not tell other officers that he found the drugs, although the defense contended those officers could often see what Jindra was doing.
Some of the traffic stops violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment barring unreasonable searches, the jury found. He pulled over three Black males whose car slowly rolled through an intersection without making a complete stop. The driver did not have a license, and Jindra handcuffed him. The former officer then searched the vehicle and found a small baggie of what appeared to be marijuana and a small baggie of pills. He confiscated the drugs but never filed a report.
Jindra was a field training officer, assigned to train new recruits. In another case, a trainee found a container of oxycodone pills in a driver's sock. Jindra siphoned off a portion of the pills before placing the remainder in evidence, while his trainee was busy with legitimate police work, according to the indictment.
Authorities discovered the illegal seizures during another investigation of Jindra. In fall 2019, his supervisors reviewed video from a body camera Jindra wore in response to complaints regarding three then-recent incidents. He was suspended with pay Oct. 19, 2019, because of concerns about his conduct, and the case was referred to the FBI.
While on suspension, Jindra filed a medical claim that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being one of the first squads to respond to a July 2017 incident in which Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Jindra was fired July 13, 2020, based on a September 2017 complaint in which the department found he had violated its policies on search and seizure, filing reports and professional policing. He was indicted the following November.
Before joining the force, Jindra was in the Minnesota Army National Guard and spent time in Iraq. In 2013, the Minneapolis Police Department hired him as a community service officer, a civilian position, and he became a police officer recruit in 2014.
Randy Furst • 612-612-673-4224