Riviera Beach police detective Lee Ann Schneider acquitted after “three years of hell” www.privateofficer.com
Palm Beach fla April 25 2012 It was more disbelief than rage running through Lee Ann Schneider’s mind last week as she listened to prosecutors detail the charges against her again.
Forgery. Official Misconduct. A whopping 152 charges in all.
Schneider, 44, a Riviera Beach police detective, said she knew the charges against her were untrue. Still, she had a jail bag packed beside her Friday as a jury came out with verdicts after four hours of deliberating her week-long trial.
Facing at least 20 years in prison if convicted, she started crying as soon as she heard the first “not guilty.” She was still sobbing when the clerk read the last acquittal.
“It was almost three years of hell, and finally, some vindication.”
Schneider said Monday, sitting in the West Palm Beach office of her attorneys, Tom Gano and Donnie Murrell.
In December 2009, Schneider became one of the central figures in a wave of arrests within the Riviera Beach Police Department.
Investigators accused Schneider of forging her supervisor Detective Sgt. Pat Galligan’s name on dozens of arrest affidavits and other paperwork so that Galligan could claim and justify his overtime. Schneider said she had signed Galligan’s name because he was her supervisor and asked her to do so, but there was nothing criminal or illegitimate about the hours claimed.
Her case quickly became one of the biggest targets of former State Attorney Michael McAuliffe’s public integrity unit, which he created to target public corruption.
By then, Schneider had been removed from the detective bureau and placed on administrative duty. She had been a detective for nearly five years in August 2009, when she had fallen asleep after working a late shift only to be awakened by the sound of FBI officials knocking on her door.
Federal officials at the same time were executing warrants at department headquarters and Galligan’s house. Galligan was never charged in the case but retired during the investigation.
In the years that followed her arrest, Schneider said the black and white world she lived in as a police officer showed her colors she never thought she would see.
“That process, getting arrested twice and being booked into jail, those were the most humiliating experiences of my life,” Schneider said.
Schneider, who wanted to be a cop ever since she was 15, said she had a disdain for criminal defense attorneys. But with her arrest imminent in 2009, Schneider found herself frantically searching for one.
She found Gano and Murrell, who said they believe prosecutors slammed Schneider with 96 charges so she would take a quick plea and give them information against other officers.
When she refused, they added charges and arrested her again, they said.
“What they did to her was just wrong,” Murrell said. “I honestly think that they didn’t think the case would go to trial.”
The case went to trial last week with Chief Assistant State Attorney Paul Zacks and fellow prosecutor Daniel Funk at the helm. Zacks on Monday said Gano and Murrell’s claims that they piled on charges hoping for a quick plea were speculation.
“We can never speculate on why a jury comes back with a particular outcome,” Zacks said. “All we can say is we respect their decision.”
“We do, too,” Gano said.
The criminal case is over, but
Schneider is awaiting the results of an internal affairs investigation.
Source: Palm Beach Post