Real Diamond or Fake?

by | June 24, 2024

United States v. Diamond, 2024 WL 2827914 (11th Cir. 2024)

I was not terribly surprised to learn that one can purchase a federal air marshal badge online for about $50 . One wonders who buys that stuff. Or maybe one doesn’t wonder. Jay Diamond had such a badge when a deputy stopped him in Troup County, Georgia, for driving approximately 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. Diamond immediately told the deputy “(1) he was on his way to recover his wife’s stolen vehicle and (2) he was an air marshal and a senior air marshal.” When asked for identification Diamond produced a badge with the words “United States Federal Air Marshal.”

One of my kids is a senior federal agent and I spoke with him about this case. He said, “Did the cop ask for creds? Those, you don’t just buy on the internet.” Indeed, the deputy was wise enough to ask to see Diamond’s credentials, but Diamond replied, “All I have is my badge.” Diamond explained he had another badge for when he was on an airplane and that the badge he presented was just a carry badge. The deputy thought the badge looked like a toy was ready to call BS on Diamond’s story. The deputy returned to his patrol car to run Diamond’s license and investigate his air marshal claims.

Meanwhile, another deputy arrived as backup. The two deputies discussed Diamond’s story and the possible fake badge. Diamond stated that President Jimmy Carter gave him the badge and offered to show Richardson a photo of himself with President Carter. The skeptical deputies called a genuine federal air marshal who checked various databases but could not find Diamond in any system. The deputies arrested Diamond for impersonating an officer. He told the deputies he was not trying to impersonate an officer; “he was just trying to be on the same side as the deputies because he is a patriot and supports law enforcement.” Hooah!

The deputies’ call prompted an investigation by actual agents with real federal badges. Agents arrested Diamond on federal charges of falsely impersonating a federal officer. As they drove Diamond to his initial appearance, the agents did not question Diamond, but Diamond “spoke quite a bit.” Diamond told the agents “he had gotten his air marshal badge from his local law enforcement individuals.” Diamond also stated, “this was a misunderstanding” and that the badge “was more of an honorary badge.” As they drove past a deputy’s patrol car near the site of the initial traffic stop, Diamond said he wished he “had just taken the ticket.” Yeah, that would have been a smart move.

At trial, federal prosecutors called Diamond’s ex-wife Christy to testify. (One wonders whether he gave her a cubic zirconium ring and claimed it was real.) She testified Diamond never worked in federal law enforcement or served in the military. At one point, when she found the fake air marshal badge in Diamond’s pants pocket and confronted him about it, Diamond jokingly asked, “I wonder what kind of discounts we can get with this.” Christy warned him, “I hope you have more sense than to ever use a fake badge, because that is impersonation of an officer, and you can go to jail for that.” Perhaps if Diamond had been smart enough to listen, he wouldn’t have ended up in jail. Who knows … perhaps he’d still be married. Diamond’s ex-wife also described four incidents when Diamond got discounts and free gifts by claiming to be a federal officer and showing the badge.

Up to now, this article may seem like mere entertainment. But here’s the legal stuff that could help an officer. During an investigation, officers focus on documenting evidence to support each element of an offense that may be charged. Sometimes the officer comes across evidence of prior bad behavior by the suspect. When this happens, investigators may be tempted to leave that information out of the investigative report. After all, we know defendants must be convicted on the facts and not on reputation or prior bad acts. In fact, Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) states: “evidence of any other crime, wrong, or act is not admissible to prove a person’s character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character” (emphasis added). All states have similar or identical rules of evidence.

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Whether evidence of similar wrongdoing will be admissible in a prosecution is a decision for the judge. However, the investigating officer can greatly aid the prosecution by gathering evidence of prior bad acts. Though the evidentiary rules prohibit the use of prior bad acts for certain purposes, there are exceptions. Prior bad act evidence is often admissible to show including proof of intent, motive, knowledge and an absence of mistake.

Though Diamond tried to keep his ex-wife’s testimony out of court, the judge allowed it and the appellate court agreed. Christy Diamond’s testimony was introduced to explain Diamond’s “intent, motive, knowledge, and absence of mistake” and to refute his defense that he did not intend to impersonate an officer.

Jay Diamond, who is also known as Larry Allen Dilleshaw (but that’s another story), got 17 months in federal prison to reinforce his ex-wife’s warning: “I hope you have more sense than to ever use a fake badge, because that is impersonation of an officer, and you can go to jail for that.”

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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