Update 5:45 p.m: The jury acquitted Det. Lee Ann Schneider this afternoon.
A Riviera Beach detective could spend hundreds of years in prison for helping her boss pad his overtime, while he has escaped testifying at the trial that is largely about him.
Detective Lee Ann Schneider is on trial this week for 152 counts of forgery and official misconduct, accused of repeatedly signing Sgt. Pat Galligan's name to official paperwork. Key testimony in the case came yesterday, when a friend of Galligan's, Riviera Beach Assistant Police Chief David "Curly Top" Harris, took the witness stand. Harris recalled Galligan saying Schneider was following Galligan's instructions when she forged his signature on probable-cause affidavits and property receipts.
"[He] told me he gave Lee Ann Schneider permission to sign his name," Harris said.
Galligan was never charged with a crime and never testified at the trial. Palm Beach Circuit
Court Judge Barry Cohen said it was "obvious" Galligan could not testify without fear of self-incrimination. Meanwhile, the retired sergeant is allowing one of his loyal employees to face an incredible 760 years in prison.
Schneider and two other Riviera officers were arrested three years ago in a high-profile bust, widely seen as then-State Attorney Michael McAuliffe's attempt to root out corruption in a police department long rumored to be dirty. (Read the New Times feature story about the bust here.) Sources familiar with the Riviera Beach cop shop speculated that Schneider faced such hefty charges because prosecutors wanted her to rat out her boss, Galligan, who would in turn roll on Harris. The assistant chief has worked more than 30 years in Riviera and had previously been the target of corruption investigations conducted by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Those investigations never resulted in charges against him, nor was he charged in the most recent case.
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Schneider is no rat. She has a reputation for being loyal, perhaps to a fault. Yesterday, Joe Sconzo, an FBI agent who investigated the overtime scam, testified that Galligan told him Schneider had permission to sign his overtime slips but not probable-cause affidavits.
"He [Galligan] had never given her authorization to do anything other than overtime slips," Sconzo said.
Listening in the West Palm Beach courtroom, Schneider covered her eyes with one hand and shook her head. Her lawyers pointed out that Sconzo's recollection of events had changed since he gave a deposition two years ago. Sconzo never wrote a report about his August 2009 interview with Galligan.
Testimony in the case wrapped up yesterday, and the jury is expected to begin deliberating today.