Milwaukee P.O. Michael Vagnini: Short Time for a Long Finger

As the story of former Milwaukee Police Officer Michael Vagnini’s path to prosecution reflected the failure of cops to deal with the sickest within their ranks, the outcome hasn’t proven any better.  Vagnini had a thing he liked to do when he busted someone. He liked to do it a lot.

The complaint lays out in graphic detail how the primary suspect, Officer Michael Vagnini, conducted searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums. Vagnini acknowledged performing one of the searches.

This went on for at least two years, and when the complaints piled up so high that even Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn couldn’t come up with an excuse for ignoring it, Vagnini’s pleasure at humiliating and physically violating his victims was finally subject to prosecution.  Together with the cops who joined with, enabled and covered up this conduct, Vagnini was finally taken down.

In October 2012, the following charges were levied:

•against Michael Vagnini, 25 charges including a sexual assault charge;

•against Jeffrey Dollhopf, 3 felony counts of misconduct in public office, 1 felony count of false imprisonment, 1 count of being a party to an illegal cavity search, and 1 count of being a party to an illegal strip search;

•against Jacob Knight, 1 count of misconduct in public office and 1 count of being a party to the crime of an illegal cavity search;

•against Brian Kozelek, 2 count of misconduct in public office, 1 count of false imprisonment, and 1 count of being a party to the crime of an illegal strip search.

Of course, arrest and prosecution for serial anal rape is one thing. What comes of it is another.  A deal was cut.

Thirty-four-year-old Michael Vagnini had faced 25 criminal charges stemming from eight strip searches and cavity searches.

The Journal Sentinel reports Vagnini accepted a plea deal Monday that would not require him to become a registered sex offender but will prevent him from continuing his law enforcement career.

Vagnini pleaded no contest to four felony charges and four misdemeanors. As part of the plea bargain, sexual assault charges were dropped. The state will recommend prison time when he is sentenced June 21.

Vagnini got prison time; a sentence of 26 months was imposed. The others, not so much.

Officer Jeffrey Dollhopf, 42, will face a $300 fine and and was ordered to 100 hours of community service for his involvement in the assaults.  Since he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct as a party to the crime, most of his charges were wiped out. As part of his deal, he agreed to resign from the department.  He spent one full year on paid leave from the department.

Officer Brian Kozelek, 34, was given a similar deal.  After a full year of paid vacation, he now faces a $300 fine and a mere 20 hours community service.   He also agreed to voluntarily resign his position at the department.

Officer Jacob Knight, 32, will actually face a small amount of jail time.  He was sentenced to 20 days in the House of Correction, a $300 fine and 60 hours of community service after an extended amount of paid time off.

The usual words were spoken by the prosecution at sentence, while Vagnini’s lawyer offered an irrelevant truth.

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.

As accurate as it might be that “aggressive tactics” are tolerated, if not rewarded, within the police department, this conduct far transcended anything remotely approaching legitimate police work. This was deeply, seriously sick conduct, and yet at every level it somehow managed to not sufficiently outrage anyone, from cop to judge, sufficiently.

Victims of Vagnini and his crew have created a massive bottleneck in federal court, as Milwaukee seems incapable of handling the volume of cases and they’ve languished as a result.

“Unlike fine wine, they do not get better with age,” [U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller] said. “And  whether it’s the Milwaukee Police Department or the Wisconsin Department of  Corrections, very sadly, we have a cornucopia of litigation involving prisoners’  rights and police officers who apparently stray from that which we expect from  the law enforcement community.

“And the sooner these cases are addressed in open court, the sooner we will  have a law enforcement community that can be proud of their work and the  community proud to have them working. But, unfortunately, we do not see that  today particularly in light of these cases.”

The question remains, what will happen first: the cases of the victims of Michael Vagnini reach trial or Vagnini completes his sentence and is constrained to find a new occupation where he can stick his fingers in other people’s anuses?  Maybe when he gets out of prison, Milwaukee can throw him a parade.

17 comments on “Milwaukee P.O. Michael Vagnini: Short Time for a Long Finger

  1. Wrongway

    holy “Free-Hole-Lays”.. I Know you hate it so I’m not gonna do it.. nope nuh uh not goin there..
    ok I am & with both feet..
    Who the hell do these schmuks protect & serve ?
    From the cops on the beat who routinely abuse the citizens, thru the prosecutors who offer the suspect as well as the bystanders plea deals (all in uniform therefore under color of law), such sweet deals.. (how could they refuse??) right down to the judge who approves such sentences..
    If I had a police uniform on & watched as a fellow officer did this type of stuff to his wife, neighbor, or stranger out of no where.. the message is clear.. “go for it ! ! you’re not personally liable thanx to the system & your badge..”
    But If I personally stood by & witnessed this type of behavior & did nothing to prevent it, including not reporting it, I’m a dirt bag that needs to be buried in the prison.. My plea deal would be to accept 1/4 of the sentence possible & only if I admitted guilt.. whether guilty or not..
    I’m sorry, I don’t see much justice in this ‘justice system’..

  2. stavro375

    “but [Vagini’s] 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.”
    Gosh, if only there was a branch of government dedicated to uncovering and punishing law-breaking.

    And only if it took its mandate to do seriously, even when the offender was a police officer…

  3. Kerry

    I wonder how much, if any, of the “jail” time was spent in normal population, and if so did the other inmates know who these perverts were? Surely these criminal cops lived in fear of prison retaliation, even if only a little. Imagine the retributive response to a cop who happily digitizes anuses.
    I also wonder if these former cops, when in jail, are protected by the uniforms inside. Sort of a take one for the team and we’ll make it easy action.
    Then again, maybe I’ve watched too much tv.

  4. Antonin I. Pribetic

    Via Wikipedia:

    “Kancho (カンチョー kanchō?)[1] is a prank performed by clasping the hands together in the shape of an imaginary gun and attempting to insert the extended index fingers sharply into an unsuspecting victim’s anus, often while exclaiming “Kan-CHO!”.[2][3]

    Although similar to a wedgie or a “goosing” in some ways, Kancho involves much more direct and intimate physical contact.”

    Perhaps Vagnini has a future career in Japanese reality television.

    1. SHG Post author

      So you’re suggesting this is just a prank, suitable for television and some Japanese lulz, rather than a humiliating and horrible anal rape worthy of prison?

      1. Antonin I. Pribetic

        Um no. Your ability to grasp the absurdity of the Milwaukee Police’s cavalier response to Vagnini’s illegal conduct is overshadowed by your inability to appreciate irony. Good luck.

  5. Dan

    There’s gotta be a good joke about what this officer was doing and his last name, but it just isn’t coming to me right now.

  6. Beverly Marker

    If I were a Milwaukee resident, I would make a very public outcry against Vagnini’s lenient sentence. This continued for at least 2 years. Think of the numerous people he assaulted, humiliated and victimized. Every police officer knows they cannot conduct an illegal cavity search after a traffic stop. Every one involved in agreeing to this lenient sentence should be ashamed. The assistant district attorney, the police department and the judge. I’m sure many will think that since his career is over, that is enough, would feel differently had they been assaulted by Michael Vagnini.

  7. andrews

    It seems to me that a few plaintiffs’ lawyers could make a lot of hay with a department which received and did nothing about a flurry of complaints. The officer’s defense atty, who explained that this was part of the culture, might be an interesting witness if he had any personal knowledge.

    Of course that is just my idle musing, and I do not do PI work.

  8. Andrew Fleischman

    I don’t know why he’s complaining. Anyone who has ever been to a proctologist has lost all reasonable expectations of privacy in their rectum.

  9. SPO

    Why wasn’t he charged with doing this while armed? Armed sexual assault is a pretty nasty charge in most jurisdictions.

    I think the answer is that there’s a cop discount. The prosecutors have to do something, but they can’t go whole hog for risk of pissing off the cops.

    1. SHG Post author

      The possession of a weapon by a police officer is an express statutory exemption. It would not have been possible.

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