Both sides of the law


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Inspired by Jude case

The veto left intact reforms that were initiated after the 2004 beating of Frank Jude Jr. by off-duty police officers at a Bay View house party. The three officers with central roles in the beating appealed their firings and collected nearly half a million dollars in pay and benefits while they awaited trial. They were not removed from the payroll until they were convicted and their appeals were dismissed because of a state law that says felons cannot be police officers.

Under the old law, fired Milwaukee officers remained on the payroll for an average of nine months, in part because of lengthy appeals by the politically connected police union, according to a Journal Sentinel investigation in 2006. Some fired officers collected full paychecks for years.

Legislators first modified the law in 2008 — cutting off pay only for officers fired for conduct that also resulted in felony or serious misdemeanor charges. The following year, lawmakers cut off pay for all fired officers. Officers who win their appeals get back pay.

Walker’s veto prevented the law from being rolled back to the 2008 version.

Cates had been fighting his dismissal but dropped his appeal the week the story on the police-pay measure broke.

Morsovillo’s appeal remains pending before the commission. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Shortly after the budget item was vetoed, Vos said he would address the police pay issue again, with stand-alone legislation. But last week his spokeswoman, Kit Beyer, said Vos had changed his mind and had no immediate plans to introduce such a bill.

“He’s going to focus on jobs this fall,” she said.

John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.


Jan. 16, 2011

911 police call results in rape, woman says
Officer later was fired but not prosecuted; federal investigation is in progress


Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation against a recently fired Milwaukee police officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman after he responded to her 911 call in July.

Former officer Ladmarald Cates admitted to internal affairs investigators that he had sex with the woman, who called police because teenagers were trying to kick in the door of her north side home, according to police records obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Cates, who gave conflicting stories to department officials, for lying and for “idling and loafing” — because having sex on duty is against department rules. Cates has appealed his dismissal to the civilian Fire and Police Commission, which has the power to give him his job back.

The woman’s account suggests the system designed to protect the public from rogue police officers broke down at several levels. And it isn’t the first time an on-duty Milwaukee police officer has been accused of sexual assault.

The woman called 911 for help, but when police arrived she was victimized repeatedly — sexually assaulted, mistreated by backup officers and then jailed on trumped-up charges when she refused to remain silent, according to her attorney, Robin Shellow.

The Journal Sentinel does not name victims of sexual assault.

In an interview with the newspaper, the woman said numerous officers — on the scene and at the police station — accused her of lying when she begged for help and asked them to take her to the hospital.

The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office spent two months reviewing the case but didn’t charge Cates. The woman said that during that time, prosecutors ignored her phone calls.

“In all honesty, I just want to die,” said the woman, a mother of two young children. “I know I can’t die right now, because I got the kids. But if I could find someone to take care of my kids as good as me, I’d just end it. I think about it every day and every night. ... I’m sick of thinking about it. I’m sick of crying. I’m sick of people calling me a liar.”

The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office opened a federal investigation after the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute Cates. In an October letter to Flynn, Assistant District Attorney Aaron E. Hall said he believed the woman’s account but didn’t think he would be able to prove a sexual assault case in court.

“While I did find the victim’s version of events credible, I did not believe that her testimony would be strong enough to successfully prosecute Officer Cates,” Hall wrote in the letter to Flynn.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said prosecutors also considered charging Cates with misconduct in public office but decided against that as well.

“We always have to consider how a jury will react in considering evidence against a police officer,” he told the Journal Sentinel.

When a citizen accuses an officer of wrongdoing, department protocol calls for a supervisor to be summoned to the scene. The supervisor then determines whether an investigator from internal affairs, known as the Professional Performance Division, should be dispatched. In sexual assault cases, investigators from the Sensitive Crimes Division also are supposed to be notified promptly.

Those things didn’t happen in this case, according to the woman’s account.

The woman says she told officers on the scene that Cates raped her. It appears that a sergeant responded two hours after the initial 911 call, according to dispatch records. But no one from internal affairs or Sensitive Crimes took a statement from the woman on the scene. Instead of being taken immediately to the hospital for treatment and evidence collection, she spent approximately 12 hours in jail before speaking with a sergeant or being interviewed by internal affairs. Only after that did she receive medical attention.

Besides Cates, no officers have been disciplined for violating those practices or for any other conduct connected with the incident, according to Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz. She declined to answer specific questions about the woman’s allegations and did not make Flynn or any supervisors in District 3, where the incident occurred, available for an interview.

The Police Department declined to release reports of its internal investigation into Cates’ behavior, citing the pending federal investigation. The department also would not release a photo of Cates.

Cates, 43, did not answer the door at his home and did not respond to a letter left there. His former partner, Alvin Hannah, could not be reached. Cates’ attorney, Jonathan Cermele, did not return telephone calls.

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