This may have been the year the police state topped itself for abuse of power and double standards. We’ve reported this year on plenty of outrageous crimes for which cops have received little or no punishment, but there were too many cases of cop abuse this year to stay on top of in real time.
Take the case of Milwaukee officer Michael Vagnini, who was sentenced to 26 months in prison earlier this year for conducting a series of illegal strip searches over the course of at least two years. The searches involved anal probing, willful humiliation and genital fondling; and a series of lawsuits filed by the victims allege far worse.
Vignini’s family thinks the sentence is too harsh, but the victims’ attorneys can’t believe two years is all he got.
Vagnini pleaded no contest in April to four felony charges of misconduct in public office, as well as to four misdemeanor charges for conducting illegal strip searches, in exchange for prosecutors’ dropping of seven counts of sexual abuse against him. He, along with three other officers, had all been placed on suspension with pay for their involvement in the ring of illegal searches, but Vagnini’s participation — along with the fact that all the victims are black — provided the common threads that ran through each incident.
Cavity searches in Wisconsin cannot be done by police officers — only medical professionals under the sanction of a search warrant.
Vagnini’s abusive behavior may have begun before 2008, when anecdotal complaints of illegal searches began coming in to the Milwaukee Police Department; but the department began investigating the allegations in 2010. Court documents reveal that he would initiate contact with his targets by pulling them over on probable cause for not wearing a seat belt or having windows with illegal tinting.
Then, according to a summary of lawsuits filed against Vagnini, he’d start “searching.” From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Robert Mann, 55, contends that Police Officer Michael Vagnini stopped him as he was walking near N. 31st St. and Atkinson Ave. in June 2011 and without probable cause, pulled down Mann’s pants and put his hand in Mann’s rectum “in an unsafe, unhygienic, and intentionally humiliating fashion.”
No drugs were recovered from Mann.
[A] juvenile, identified as K.F., was 15 when he was riding in a friend’s car that was stopped by police on N. 26th St. in December 2011. According to the suit, he was ordered out of the car before Vagnini reached into the teen’s pants, touching his genitalia and his anus while Police Officer Jacob Knight watched.
No drugs were found, but K.F. was still taken to a police station and cited for an ordinance violation. The suit does not specify the violation.
In July 2009, Chavies Hoskin, 28, was stopped while driving on N. 13th St. Vagnini reached into Hoskin’s pants and pulled a bag with cocaine from Hoskin’s anal area, while Sgt. Jason Mucha and Officer Thomas Maglio watched.
Hoskin was charged with delivery of cocaine. His suit contends that the officers lied in reports, and that Vagnini also falsely testified under oath about how and where he found the cocaine.
Because Vagnini avoided sexual abuse charges, he does not have to register as a sex offender. The other three officers, whom the investigation deemed to have only assisted while Vagnini performed the cavity searches, got fines and community service.
“[W]hy should twisted individuals get lighter sentences for these acts due to their wearing a badge and a uniform?” asks watchdog website Police State USA. “If a gang of strange men approaches a person, accosts them, threatens them with violence, detains them against their will, and penetrates their orifices with parts of their bodies, that should be considered rape or sexual assault, and those involved should be considered accomplices. That’s what would happen to a normal person without a badge. ‘Official misconduct’ is only the tip of the iceberg for these monsters.”
Maybe so. Nevertheless, 26 months is apparently a devastating sentence for Vagnini’s family, who packed the courtroom awaiting the June ruling. “His wife broke down sobbing when Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner finally announced the sentence at the end of the two-hour hearing, and Vagnini was led away in handcuffs,” the Journal Sentinel reported.
H/T: The Daily Caller