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Pergande may enter plea agreement with DA's office

Lt. Brian Pergande, seen with police dog Oden in this 2009 photo, was found to have engaged in “misconduct in office,” though the details were redacted in the report released to the public.

Lt. Brian Pergande, seen with police dog Oden in this 2009 photo, was found to have engaged in “misconduct in office,” though the details were redacted in the report released to the public. Photo By Todd Ponath

July 16, 2014

Village of Butler — Former Butler Police Lt. Brian Pergande is expected to enter into a plea agreement with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office later this week which appears likely to bring an end to the village's "Porn in the Morn" police scandal that began more than 18 months ago.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel confirmed to the Sussex Sun Tuesday night that Pergande's recently announced resignation from the Butler Police Department was an essential element in the deal but Schimel declined to provide details of the plea bargain until Pergande appears in Waukesha County Circuit Court on Friday, July 18.

Schimel emphasized that Pergande still has the option of seeking a jury trail on criminal official misconduct charges that stem from a 2009 incident where he allegedly took inappropriate photos of a woman that he had improperly detained at the village police station. Pergande has plead not guilt to those charges.

Pergande, however, also faced the prospect of being fired from the village police department. A hearing was scheduled to begin later this month on whether the village had "just cause" to fire Pergande based on a wide range of misconduct allegations, many of them uncovered during a Waukesha County Sheriff's Department investigation of the Butler police department that began early in 2013.

The hearing was called off when Pergande submitted his resignation to the village on July 7.

Schimel acknowledged that he had told Pergande and his lawyer Michael J. Steinle that Pergande's resignation from the police force was essential before any plea agreement could be reached.

Attempts to reach Steinle for comment regarding the plea bargain were unsuccessful.

If Pergande accepts a plea agreement, it would accomplish one of the major goals of the prosecution, which was to get Pergande out of law enforcement, according to Schimel.

The plea agreement would also relieve the village of having to pay for a potentially expensive "just cause" hearing in order to fire Pergande. Various investigations in police misconduct have already cost village taxpayers nearly $200,000 in legal fees, other costs, and salary and benefits to Pergande who remained on paid administrative leave — at an estimated $8,000 a month — for about 14 months.

However, Village Administrator Kayla Chadwick said the village had no direct involvement in the plea agreement negotiations between Pergande and the District Attorny's office.

If Pergande had not resigned and does not accept the plea agreement, he faces the prospect of going to prison, paying potentially heavy fines, and losing his pension in addition to being a convicted felon, if found guilt of the official misconduct charges.

However, Schimel emphasized that dropping the criminal misconduct charges against Pergande "is not the direction we are going."

But he would not discuss the possibility of reduced charges or a reduced sentence imposed on Pergande as part of the deal.

"I have to be very careful what I say. He still has the option of going to trial and if he chooses that option, he must be presumed to be innocent and I don't want to say anything that could be construed to violating his constitutional rights," Schimel said.

Ironically, it was Pergande and fellow officer Chad Rahn whose complaints about former Police Chief Michael Cosgrove triggered the now-famous "Porn in the Morn" investigation by the sheriff's department.

Village officials asked for the investigation in early 2013 after hearing complaints about the chief's conduct from Rahn and Pergande.

The investigation revealed that Cosgrove has condoned sexist and racist attitudes in the department and encouraged the "frat house" atmosphere at the police station, including the chief and some of his officers watching pornography on village computers while they were on duty during early morning hours.

Cosgrove announced his retirement in the midst of the investigation which also uncovered incidents of misconduct by other officers including Rahn and Pergande.

Rahn was suspended for three days and recently served a 15-day suspension on neglect of duty charges unrelated to the investigation. Pergande was placed on administrative leave pending a determination by the Waukesha County District Attorney whether to seek criminal charges which required a separate investigation of Pergande's conduct.

Pergande and Rahn have filed a federal lawsuit against the village and the county sheriff, alleging they were harassed and discriminated against as a result of their complaints against the police chief.

Pergande apparently will drop his federal lawsuit as part of the resignation and plea agreement with the village and the District Attorney's office, according to sources.

Pergande is among several past and present officers who are facing a federal lawsuit by a New Berlin man who is accusing them of excessive force during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

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