April 8, 2005
Federal officials say a 22-year veteran of the Charlottesville police force, Roy Fitzgerald, and a six-year veteran Charles Saunders received money, sex, and adult entertainment from the manager of a local nightclub.
The bribes, U.S. Attorneys said, were in exchange for ignoring illegal activities and divulging sensitive information.
U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said, "The grand jury has alleged that Officers Saunders and Fitzgerald overlooked illegal activity, fixed minor traffic offences and drunk driving charges, and passed on sensitive information to Charles Phillips concerning law enforcement information."
Federal officials said the most troubling accusation was that the officers pointed out an undercover cop and told Charles Phillips, a former manager at Maxx's nightclub, not to solicit her for prostitution.
Phillips was also indicted along with Jason Madison of Charlottesville, who at one time worked for Phillips. Maxx Night club closed in 2002 and many of the allegations stem from activity as far back as 1996.
Once the two officers found out they were being investigated they allegedly tried to cover their tracks, which resulted in conspiracy, witness tampering, and making false statements charges.
"When officers Saunders and Fitzgerald became aware of the federal investigation, they attempted to persuade Charles Phillips and Jason Madison to commit perjury before the Federal Grand Jury and to withhold information from federal agents," said Brownlee.
The U.S. Attorney said what they most wanted to cover up was evidence that Officer Saunders performed sexual acts with a blind-folded girl while on duty and in uniform.
It was Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo who had originally initiated an internal investigation of four officers in 2001 shortly after he joined the force. Longo then asked state police and the FBI to investigate. Two of those officers have since left the department. The other two, Saunders and Fitzgerald, will now face trial.
Longo said, "These are very complex investigation that involve a lot of resources and are very difficult to investigate. I think efforts were undertaken to bring this to review as swiftly as possible."
Law officials pointed out that the indictments make it clear that no one is above the law.
Longo said "I'm saddened to stand before you this morning, and I stand behind every officer in the Charlottesville Police Department." He added, "This is not an indictment of the organization. This is an indictment of two people."
Saunders and Fitzgerald pleaded not guilty to these charges in federal court Friday, April 8. They have been suspended and are on administrative leave pending results of an administrative investigation. They remain free on bond. A trial date has not been set. If convicted, they could face 30 years or more in prison and fines up to $1,000,000.
The U.S. Attorney's office told CBS19 / ABC16 News that they will 'not' seek charges against the other two officers that resigned. Charles Phillips has pleaded guilty to bribery charges and James Madison pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.