NJ cop blames dead girl for his lies about marijuana, then tries scoring disability pension
MONTCLAIR — A former township police officer convicted of lying about marijuana evidence he found at a crime scene has lost his job and his pension after trying to blame his lapse of judgement on stress from performing CPR on a dead 9-year-old girl.
Michael P. Whittle this year suffered a double legal whammy after an appeals court last week denied his effort to overturn his conviction and an administrative law judge in April denied his application to receive an accidental disability pension.
A Superior Court judge found Whittle guilty in 2012 of obstruction and filing a false police report and sentenced him to six months of a suspended sentence, a $250 fine and barred him from ever again holding a public job in the state.
The charges stemmed from a 2009 police call to a building where Whittle claimed to have found marijuana in a jacket left on a hallway floor. Whittle told fellow officers on the scene that he had found 10 bags of marijuana. But when a supervisor asked him if he had found any drugs, Whittle repeatedly said no. Whittle later admitted to the supervisor that he had lied to him, and later filed a report stating that he had found just two bags of marijuana.
In a decision issued in April this year, an administrative law judge said Whittle tried to make his punishment — which she added amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist — pointless by applying for an accidental disability pension, which would have cut him publicly funded paychecks for the rest of his life.
"The only serious discipline that Whittle received, prohibition from public employment, would be almost meaningless if Whittle received substantial monthly benefits from the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System without working as a police officer and without ever vesting in the pension system," Judge Evelyn J. Marose said.
Whittle's application for the disability was based on the claim that he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after performing life-saving measures for almost 45 minutes on an unconscious girl in 2009. He later found out that the girl had died about 30 minutes before he arrived at her home.
Whittle claimed the snafu with the marijuana was a result of the PTSD, which he said made him "frazzled" and left him "not thinking clearly."
Even though Whittle got three psychologists to sign off on his PTSD diagnosis, the administrative law judge found none of them credible because none of them treated Whittle for PTSD.
The judge also said Whittle waited two years to talk to doctors and applied for the disability while he was in the middle of his criminal trial — exactly five days before his conviction.
The judge also said Whittle applied for the disability pension based on PTSD before any doctor had diagnosed him with the disorder.
Whittle had appealed the pension system's board denial of his benefits, which Marose upheld.
Alexander M. Golin, the only doctor who testified at his pension board appeal hearing, said that it is not unusual for someone suffering from PTSD to question their judgment and that PTSD symptoms sometimes take time to appear and be recognized.
Marose, however, said Golin diagnosed Whittle using a checklist based on the cop's statements after just a single visit. That visit had been scheduled for the purpose of filling out a form for Whittle's pension application and therefore Golin "was motivated to find Whittle qualified for accidental disability pension benefits," she said.
Marose said none of the doctors took into account the stress Whittle might have been suffering as a result of his criminal charges.
Whittle's criminal attorney, James S. Friedman, declined to comment for this article.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.