Michael McAuliffe's Record on Prosecuting Cops

The recent furor over Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe's decision to drop felony charges against two former West Palm Beach cops brings to mind the prosecutor's other high-profile attempts to bust dirty cops. Considering his track record, one can understand why he might be gun-shy. 

In the West Palm case, two former police officers were accused of kicking and beating a handcuffed suspect. McAuliffe decided that case wasn't winnable. But in Riviera Beach, McAuliffe has labored for two years to prosecute three police officers for crimes that seem almost petty by comparison.

This January, after a bizarre trial that pitted cops against one another, Riviera Vice Agent John Toombs was acquitted of charges that he tipped off

a murder suspect about an arrest. Sgt. Michael Dodson is still facing allegations of falsely reporting a crime after getting drunk, firing his gun in his garage, and mutilating himself with a box cutter. A third officer, veteran Detective Lee Ann Schneider, is awaiting trial for one of the oldest tricks in the book -- allegedly helping a supervisor pad his overtime. Schneider faces multiple charges of forgery and official misconduct.

Yet her supervisor, Sgt. Patrick Galligan, has not been charged, and neither has any higher-ranking officer who may have known about the overtime arrangement. If McAuliffe was trying to root out corruption in a chaotic police department, how could he leave upper management unscathed?

Interestingly, it was a former Riviera Beach cop and friend of Galligan's, Rick Sessa, who filed a recent ethics complaint against McAuliffe. Sessa alleges that McAuliffe dropped misconduct charges in the West Palm Beach beating case because he was trying to win political support from the police union.

But with McAuliffe's spotty track record of prosecuting cops, such support seems unlikely.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab