East Cleveland police sergeant suspended for releasing a woman from custody without bond
CLEVELAND — Sgt. Larry McDonald Jr. of the East Cleveland Police Department was given a 10-day suspension without pay by a disciplinary panel following a November complaint from a woman who said that he released her from the city’s jail in exchange for a date.
The discipline hinged on a city panel finding that McDonald violated a department policy when he personally interceded to release the woman from the city’s jail without bond on October 23, cleveland.com reported.
According to the policy, “No officer shall intercede directly or indirectly with the judge or any court officer of either the East Cleveland or the Cleveland Municipal Court or any criminal court for an offender.”
The 30-year-old medical assistant filing the complaint went to the department in November to clear up a warrant related to a misdemeanor assault. As a result, she was taken into custody.
In addition to the suspension, during which time the sergeant is prohibited from working off-duty jobs, McDonald will be on probation for a year with the department, reported cleveland.com. Moreover, he is required to conduct roll call training with officers about the policy he violated.
The decision, released Wednesday by Acting Chief Scott Gardner, was made following a December hearing by a panel that included department commanders, an Internal Affairs investigator and the city’s Human Resources director.
McDonald participated in the hearing but declined representation from a union attorney and did not appeal the discipline, Gardner said.
Nevertheless, McDonald denied his actions were in exchange for a date with the woman, Gardner said. In a statement given as part of the Internal Affairs investigation, McDonald said he sought and received permission from a city prosecutor to release the woman, who was distraught and worried about missing school and work if she was held in the jail. McDonald said he did not exchange numbers or agree to meet until the woman was released from jail and in the lobby.
McDonald told The Plain Dealer in November that the allegations in the woman’s complaint were “ridiculous.”
“People lie all the time, tell stories about me,” McDonald, 42 told The Plain Dealer. At the time, he declined to say whether he’d gone on a date with the woman.
The complaint the woman filed with the department said that McDonald approached her while she was still in the city’s jail, in a holding cell, after she learned that her bond was double what she was initially told.
The woman, who asked that her name not be published, told The Plain Dealer Wednesday that the statement she gave to East Cleveland police was accurate and that she reported the same information, including providing text messages between her and McDonald, and documents to a Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s office investigator and an FBI agent.
The woman said she expected McDonald to get a “slap on the wrist” for his behavior but was glad something happened.
McDonald has worked for the department for about 12 years — he worked for Cleveland police briefly but resigned — and is known widely in the city by his nickname, “Pac-Man.” An explanation for the nickname was not provided.
After a story ran in The Plain Dealer about the woman’s complaint, she said other women shared stories about McDonald’s behavior toward them on Instagram and other social media sites.
The news agency did not provide confirming details or specific information.
“I still don’t know what I did that made him feel like he could approach me like that,” she said. “But I’m proud that I stood up for myself and I hope that other people decide to do the same.”
At the same time, she said she’s interested in any results from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department investigation.
A county spokeswoman said the case is still ongoing.