Appeals court upholds firing of trooper over sex parties

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A State Police board had a hard time believing a veteran trooper’s claims that he didn’t know prostitutes were offering services and that liquor was being sold without a license when he attended parties at a Buffalo motorcycle club while off duty.

While questioning Frederick Franklin Jr.’s claims of innocence, a state appeals court agreed. It upheld the State Police superintendent’s decision to fire him because he knew about the illegal activities but did nothing to stop them.

A total of four troopers either were fired or resigned because of the parties and the illegal activities associated with them.

During a disciplinary hearing before the three-member board made up of State Police superiors, Franklin had described the pole that strippers used at the club as a “support pole” for the building.

And he said blue tarps that divided a balcony into two areas where strippers provided private sex acts were placed there because of roof damage.

The State Police lawyer scoffed at that explanation.

“I am not Bob the Builder, but I suspect tarps protecting roof damage go on top of the roof, not inside in the shape of two rooms,” Kevin B. Bruen said.

Following the hearing in August 2012, State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico fired Franklin for misconduct. Four months later, Franklin asked the State Supreme Court to reverse the misconduct finding and dismissal.

The petition was transferred to the Appellate Division, based in Rochester, and the appellate judges unanimously rejected Franklin’s contention that the misconduct conclusion was not supported by the evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing.

Franklin was a member of the New Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, which rented its East Side clubhouse to another trooper, who used the location to hold parties where strippers performed.

Several witnesses at the disciplinary hearing, including two other troopers who attended one party, testified that the strippers also engaged in prostitution on the second floor of the clubhouse on Miller Avenue.

In addition, alcohol was sold to patrons attending the parties, despite the fact that the club did not have a liquor license.

Franklin admitted at the hearing that he was present for three such parties but denied that he knew about any illegal activities going on during the parties.

The appellate judges said substantial evidence suggested that Franklin was aware of those activities.

They cited his numerous inconsistent statements about whether he knew the club lacked a liquor license and his evasion of basic questions on the subject.

They noted that the hearing board found incredible his testimony that he had no idea what the term “extras” meant in relationship to strippers.

“When asked by one patron at a party what was occurring on the second floor, petitioner told the patron, ‘You don’t want to know,’ thereby implying that petitioner knew what was occurring,” they said.

Since other partygoers assumed that prostitution was occurring on the second floor, the judges said, the hearing board concluded that it was reasonable to assume that a trooper with over 18 years of experience “would surmise that the area was being used for sexual favors.”

The judges also noted that after Franklin learned authorities had questioned Trooper Titus Z. Taggart, an 18-year State Police veteran who was hosting the parties, Franklin immediately recommended to the club president and other troopers that they disassociate themselves from Taggart.

“We conclude that the hearing board properly determined that such evidence is indicative of a consciousness of guilty,” the judges said.

The appeals court also rejected Franklin’s contention that the dismissal penalty was unfair.

It cited the nature of Franklin’s offenses, the “higher standard of fitness and character [that] pertains to police officers,” his evasive conduct and his refusal to accept any responsibility for his conduct.

Before Franklin was dismissed, Taggart was fired in June 2012. Taggart pleaded guilty in December 2012 in Erie County Court to a misdemeanor count of promoting prostitution and was sentenced in March 2013 to three years’ probation.

In addition, two other troopers resigned after both admitted paying for sex acts at one of the parties, and another trooper who was reported to be highly intoxicated at a party was suspended for 60 days.

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