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How a sheriff’s sergeant went rogue, part 4


About this four-part series
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

THIS IS RENO began seeking answers into the criminal case against former Sheriff’s Sergeant Dennis Carry more than a year ago. In that time, we were continually met with resistance from the Reno Police Department, the City of Reno, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Reno City Attorney’s Office. Those entities denied access to information and individuals involved with this case and failed to follow Nevada’s public records laws on multiple occasions. Officials would not even confirm public information or respond to simple questions. Public records, however, including the criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Carry, reveal extensive details in this case, in addition to records obtained from local courts and even records obtained in partnership with Madison365.com in Wisconsin. Names of alleged victims in this case are not reported out of respect for their privacy. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Carry, through his attorney, would not comment on the allegations against him.

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‘The integrity of the investigation’

Dennis Carry, former Washoe County Sheriff’s sergeant.

Former Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Sergeant Dennis Carry, according to Reno Police Detective Trenton Johnson, purchased in early January of 2018 “a surreptitious recording device described as a ‘hidden camera wall charger’ from amazon.com and had it shipped to his work address” on Parr Boulevard.

Carry, according to Johnson, began using the device, described as looking like a cell phone charger, to record conversations in various areas of the WCSO, including his supervisor’s office and a briefing room.

Conversations captured included multiple FBI agents, private citizens and WCSO employees, Johnson said. “Dennis was heard on the video talking about the device with the members of [a] meeting; however, it was later learned that [a] detective and FBI agents were not aware it was capturing their conversation.”

The device cost $50, and 170 recordings of conversations were retrieved from the device’s SD card and Carry’s iPhone. According to Johnson, the device was not discovered until April 9, 2019.

Johnson asked WCSO officials about a possible motive for the surreptitious surveillance and was told Carry had a dispute with the way a case was being handled by the FBI. An agent apparently was not happy with the way Carry dealt with a case, leading to Carry’s FBI credentials being revoked.

“[A captain] believed that those conversations would be approximate to the timeframe of the recording device being placed in his office and that his only thought would be that Sergeant Carry was attempting to find out possibly what types of conversations were taking place with regard to him and his position because there were some very sensitive conversations about whether or not the WCSO was going to leave him in his assignment at that time,” Johnson reported.

But by 2019, conservations about the criminal investigation into Carry were also recorded, Johnson noted. Carry was then placed on paid leave.

A felony charge against Carry for “unauthorized surreptitious intrusion of privacy by a listening device” written in the criminal complaint against him lists dozens of victims, including senior WCSO personnel. 

They said they were being recorded without their knowledge or consent.

Law enforcement goes silent

Local law enforcement agencies have clammed up about Dennis Carry’s case. The Reno Police Department did not respond to questions about the investigation into Carry.

The WCSO refused to comment on aspects of the case and denied public records orders filed with the office. 

“Because this matter is a pending investigation and prosecution, there is an interest in not disclosing the requested information,” said Lieutenant Ralph Caldwell with the WCSO. It was Caldwell who discovered the secret security camera, which was plugged into an outlet under a captain’s desk. “The existence of an ongoing investigation and/or prosecution is sufficient to justify withholding certain information. At this stage, the interest in maintaining the integrity of the investigation and/or prosecution is paramount.”

“Carry decided that he no longer wished to face an employment investigation and terminated his own employment with his resignation before the employment resignation was completed. Only he knows the answer as to why he did so.”

While police and the sheriff’s office regularly send news releases about local criminal activity, even what end up being misdemeanor charges, the seven felony charges filed against Carry in late January were only revealed by the daily booking sheets emailed by the WCSO.

This Is Reno has had a pending public records order for Carry’s case since early 2020. Although the affidavit and criminal complaint were provided as public records to This Is Reno, the Reno Police Department continues to deny making them available.

“The City submits that the [sic] Mr. Carry’s interest in receiving a fair trial, coupled with RPD’s interest in protecting confidential techniques and the identity of reporting parties in this matter, clearly outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure of the investigative report at this point in time,” said Robert Bony, deputy city attorney with the Reno City Attorney’s Office.

This Is Reno this week filed a public records lawsuit against the Reno Police Department for this denial, in addition to repeatedly failing to follow Nevada public records laws for more than a year.

Carry provided “due process” — and a full retirement

The first search warrants filed in Carry’s case were obtained in March of 2019. That was also when Carry was detained and read his Miranda rights by RPD — but not arrested.

“Due to Dennis’ extensive training and experience, and because I believed that he had the potential and ability to create false evidence in this case and potentially destroy remaining evidence in digital and physical form, on March 7, 2019, I applied to the Reno Justice Court for a search warrant,” Johnson wrote. 

It was one of many. The next day, Carry consented to a second interview with RPD investigators. Johnson said Carry provided mailed envelopes from the fictitious legal documents firm in Las Vegas that, he said, Carry had mailed to himself to his work address. In those envelopes were the fake divorce documents, Johnson added.

Plainclothes detectives were nearby. 

“At this time, I informed Dennis that I had obtained a search warrant for his cell phone and computers to which he had access. Dennis handed over his cell phone without manipulation and demanded to know further details of my investigation,” Johnson said. “I told him that I would reveal what I could to him as timely as I could, but that at this time he was being detained as I served the warrant and continued my investigation. I clarified with him that he was not free to leave. 

“Dennis continued to talk to me and ask me questions. I clarified with him that at this point if he wanted me to continue to talk to him that he would be read his Miranda rights. He acknowledged that was what he wanted.”

“There’s a very fine line between cops and criminals.”

Sarah Johns, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

Carry would not be formally charged, nor arrested, until nearly a year later.

WCSO Public Information Officer Sarah Johns said Carry was provided due process. The investigation against him began in early 2019. Carry was placed on paid leave March 12, 2019. He was allowed to retire July 16, 2019.

“He is entitled to Due Process in course [sic] of an employment investigation and this Office has an obligation to provide him Due Process,” Johns wrote in an email. “Before the investigation was completed and due process completed—and Carry ‘could’ then possibly be terminated, Carry decided that he no longer wished to face an employment investigation and terminated his own employment with his resignation before the [investigation] was completed. Only he knows the answer as to why he did so.”

This Is Reno placed a public records order with the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System. Records show Carry making $100,000 a year with his public safety pension. He could lose his retirement if found guilty of a felony.

Experts weigh-in 

Two local attorneys familiar with criminal defense weighed in on the allegations against Carry. One spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“What the police try to do is they try to get people to talk to them, because a lot of times people go, ‘Well, yeah, I’ll talk to you,’” an attorney said. “They think they can talk their way out of it, and they incriminate themselves most of the time. When you talk to the police, you incriminate yourself more.

“There’s a very fine line between cops and criminals,” the attorney added.

They didn’t arrest Carry when he was first detained, the attorney said, because they did not have enough information.

“If he’s going to be questioned, and they think they’re going to get him, he’s going to be addressing things that could incriminate himself,” the attorney said. “They have to read him his Miranda rights. People forget about this. Don’t ever talk to the cops, especially if they Mirandize you.”

This attorney also said police unions protect bad cops. 

“You just can’t fire police officers,” they said. “They have a step-by-step process with the union. That’s why they probably did it that way — so he stays on salary and he gets to retire. You’re not guilty until you’re proven guilty. The affidavit is just that — one person’s sworn testimony. [Carry] still has a right as a defendant.”

The case, the attorney said however, was mind-blowing. 

“How can one rogue officer get so much shit done?” they said. “That’s what scares me. How is that possible? Even though he’s a sergeant, they get a lot of autonomy. How can that be fucking possible?”

Another attorney, Orrin Johnson, has worked both on prosecutions and in criminal defense.

“Every single police officer in the world will privately acknowledge to you that there are a nonzero number of their colleagues who are shitheads and are bad people,” he said. “They’re not going to publicly call out their other teammates. I mean, it is just never going to happen. Some of that is union status and some is just natural human interaction.”

Most cops, he said, work hard and try to do a good job, but close supervision is sometimes lacking.

“I think Dennis Carry’s problem is that he was operating pretty independently,” Johnson said. “He was dealing with such icky shit that nobody else wanted to get in there and … double check what he was doing.”

Maybe, Johnson said, Carry developed a false sense of invulnerability.  

“It’s easy for a person in that particular position to start to kind of get away with stuff — because he’s probably not being double-checked…” Johnson added.

Police unions, he explained, reflexively protect all members.

“If the unions did a better job kind of policing their own membership, then they frankly [would] have a lot more credibility. But almost everybody understands at this point that unions serve to make it almost impossible to fire people that need to be fired. I’ve seen that a bunch of times.”

The people most frustrated by it, he added, are the good guys.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.