A Fort Lauderdale Police internal inquiry into the out-of-state arrest of a street crimes unit sergeant did not follow departmental procedures for conducting such investigations.
Internal Affairs guidelines say investigators should obtain and review police reports, probable cause affidavits, booking sheets and other information about such incidents. Sworn statements are to be taken from witnesses, including the accused officer, “as soon as possible.”
None of that was done after Sgt. Jerald Fuller was arrested on July 19, 2009 when police were called to a “disturbance” at a private home in Somerset, New York.
Departmental rules also state that completed Internal Affairs investigations are to be submitted for review to both an assistant police chief and the chief of police.
Police files do not indicate that was done either.
As Broward Bulldog reported on May 24, Fuller’s arrest was erased from an Internal Affairs report maintained in a police database. The purged report was later released to comply with a Public Records Act request by the Broward Public Defender’s Office.
It can be a crime in Florida to alter a public record, whether a paper report or an electronic database. But state prosecutors declined to investigate, drawing a rebuke from Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who had asked for a state inquiry.
Copies of the original and changed versions of the report were leaked to one of Finkelstein’s investigators in February. The Public Defender’s Office soon requested the Internal Affairs report from police to defend a suspect arrested by city police.
POLICE ACKNOWLEDGE PURGE
Police Captain Rick Maglione has acknowledged changing the report when he headed Internal Affairs.
He explained he did so to comply with a New York municipal judge’s orders that had dismissed and sealed the case four days after Fuller’s arrest. He did not include that explanation in the file.
Maglione also told Broward Bulldog that he did not seek to obtain New York police or court records to verify the facts surrounding Fuller’s arrest because those documents were “not obtainable” due to the judge’s sealing order.
New York criminal procedure, however, allows both the person accused and police agencies access to sealed records.
Maglione said he relied on assurances he got from Fuller’s New York lawyer, George Muscato, and an official he did not identify in the Niagara County, Somerset Town Court, District Attorney’s office
“Everything I had was self-reported (by Sgt. Fuller). I was satisfied with that because I was also assured no crime had occurred,” said Maglione, who is now a top aide to Chief Frank Adderley.
VETERAN COP AND A DISTURBANCE
Fuller is a 19-year veteran and member of the police department’s controversial Northwest Raiders drug unit. He notified his superiors of his arrest.
In his two-paragraph report dated August 10, 2009, Maglione, a former Raider, identifies himself as both the investigator and supervisor on the Fuller inquiry.
It states that a neighbor called the police about a disturbance at a local residence involving Fuller, his brother “and another individual known to the Fuller family.”
“It was initially determined that Sergeant Fuller and his brother were responsible for some minor damage to the other individual’s property,” Maglione wrote.
Basic information such as the address where Fuller was arrested, the time of day of the incident, a description of the damage, and even the criminal charge lodged against him are not included in Maglione’s report.