The second-in-command at the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office — whose underlings dropped charges against two former West Palm Beach Police officers videotaped beating a handcuffed suspect — once worked for one of the officers who escaped punishment!
Gossip Extra has learned that Scott Richardson, a well-respected private criminal attorney hired by State Attorney Mike McAuliffe to be his close adviser, represented fired officer Joseph Schwartz in the 2008 police beating for at least a year.
Richardson, according to court records, resigned as Schwartz’ attorney in March 2010 — just before he became McAuliffe‘s first assistant.
Within days, Richardson went from representing Schwartz, seen on the video kicking and punching robbery suspect Pablo Valenzuela, to overseeing employees trying to put Schwartz in jail for official misconduct.
In what could become a hot potato in the 2012 election, McAuliffe dropped the case against Schwartz and his former colleague Kurt Graham last month after nearly three years of investigation. McAuliffe said Schwartz’ new attorney came up with a slowed down version of the videotape. It seemed to show Valenzuela tried to bite Kurt Graham, Schwartz’ co-defendant, although even WPB Internal Affairs officers who saw the tape say Valenzuela didn’t resist.
Click on more for the poll
And as Gossip Extra revealed exclusively last week, McAuliffe’s decision to drop the charges is the target of a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The allegations, made by Seaview 960 AM radio talker and ex-cop Rick Sessa, are that McAuliffe wanted the Police Benevolent Association‘s backing for his reelection in exchange for letting go of Graham and Schwartz.
McAuliffe deemed the complaint “a vendetta.”
At one point, by the way, Richardson also worked for the PBA, the union that represents most police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Palm Beach County. And if McAuliffe believed Richardson’s presence was a conflict of interest, he would have had to transfer prosecution to another county.
He didn’t do that.
“Mr. Richardson joined the office in April 2010,” McAuliffe wrote in an email, in response to my asking why the case remained in the district. “In matters for which he was previously counsel, including the Louis Joseph Schwartz case, he was ethically walled off from any involvement and did not participate.â
McAuliffe didn’t elaborate on the “walled off” part of his response. Richardson didn’t return calls for comment.
— Listen to Jose discuss this story with co-hosts Rick Sessa and Dan Henry starting at 7 p.m. on Seaview 960 AM’s The Beat