Sylvania police Officer Daniel Hannigan allegedly had made a deal: one Harley-Davidson Sportster XL1200 in exchange for unlimited carpet cleaning, help with a television, and $4,000.
Tuesday, Officer Hannigan pleaded not guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle. A three-year veteran of the department, Officer Hannigan, 30, is accused of not following through on portions of the agreement, including the failure to pay the money owed on the motorcycle.
He faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.
"The allegations are that they had an agreement, he transferred the title of the vehicle, and then never paid the money," Assistant County Prosecutor Frank Spryszak said.
Authorities said that Officer Hannigan owned a carpet cleaning business that he purchased from a fellow officer. It was through that business that he met the victim, Mary Blaisdell.
According to reports, Ms. Blaisdell and Officer Hannigan struck a deal in August, 2008, that involved the sale of her late husband's motorcycle. In October, 2008, Officer Hannigan sold the motorcycle on the Internet site, Craigslist, for $5,900 and transferred the title to the new owner, authorities said.
Although he had helped install a television and had cleaned Ms. Blaisdell's carpets, he allegedly had not paid her the money nor offered further cleaning.
Police Chief Gerald Sobb said that although no complaint had been filed, he had heard of the situation and initiated an investigation. The prosecutor's office then decided to pursue criminal charges, he said.
On July 31, Officer Hannigan was placed on paid administrative leave. The leave was made unpaid on Sept. 4, when the Lucas County grand jury returned a felony criminal indictment.
Officer Hannigan's base pay is about $56,600 a year.
Chief Sobb said the department is waiting for the resolution of the criminal case. He added that although the alleged activity occurred off-duty, police officers are among those who are held to a higher standard by society.
"Police officers know that their conduct, whether on or off-duty, is viewed by the public. We're held to a higher standard," he said.
"When I had heard about this, I assigned it for investigation," he added. "If the investigation turned out that this was just a civil matter, then it probably would have stopped there. Since the prosecutor's office felt it was criminal in nature and a felony, we took appropriate action."
Attorney Jerry Phillips, who represents the officer, acknowledged that any felony conviction would mean the end of Officer Hannigan's career and said he is working to fight that.
"It appears to me to be an oral contract case that for some unknown reason ended up in criminal court," he said. "One of my beliefs is that it's related to the fact that he's an officer."
Officer Hannigan was temporarily taken into custody yesterday to be photographed and fingerprinted at the jail.
Judge Frederick McDonald released him on his own recognizance and set an Oct. 13 trial date.
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