Ex-Milwaukee officer gets 26 months in prison for strip, cavity searches

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Michael Vagnini. Photo: Kristyna Wentz-Graff -- Journal Sentinel

A former Milwaukee police officer who performed illegal strip and body cavity searches on dozens of drug suspects was sentenced Friday to 26 months in prison and an additional 34 months of extended supervision.

Michael Vagnini, 34, pleaded no contest in April to four felonies and four misdemeanors stemming from his practice but avoided conviction for sexual assault charges, which were dismissed.

Prosecutors and the judge said Vagnini's actions shocked the conscience of the community, but his own lawyer said the whole system was to blame for encouraging and rewarding Vagnini's aggressive tactics, which he said were no secret within the department and the court system.

"He's left holding the bag for everybody," Michael Steinle told the court, noting that all his client ever wanted to do was stop crime.

Vagnini's family, friends and former colleagues packed one half of the gallery, and had submitted numerous letters of support, citing his otherwise exemplary professional and personal life. 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. She and Vagnini's other supporters declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Tory Lowe, a community activist, called the prison term a positive step to rebuilding trust among the population and the police.

"Rogue policing in Milwaukee has to come to an end," he said after the hearing.For the rest of the story see Journal Sentinel



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