A series of lawsuits filed by four former police officers in Cheverly, Maryland paint a picture of a department allegedly infected by workplace intimidation, sexual assault and officer misconduct on the watch of police chief Harry "Buddy" Robshaw III.
The alleged wrongdoing dates back nearly a decade and includes allegations that Robshaw directed officers to use racial profiling while on patrol.
The Town of Cheverly is asking a Maryland judge to throw out one suit filed by two former officers. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 20.
Another lawsuit alleging Robshaw sexually assaulted an ex-officer’s wife and then retaliated against her husband after she complained is scheduled for a federal jury trial in October.
The credibility of the former officers making the allegations is likely to be an issue. Three of the four former officers who are making claims have had their firings upheld by judges reviewing their cases.
Few citizens in Cheverly are aware of the situation and the town has never done its own independent investigation.
The allegations outlined in the lawsuits begin with an alleged incident during a 2008 police department Christmas party at Cheverly’s American Legion Hall.
Donna Schmidt, the wife of fired police officer Frank Schmidt, claims in the couple’s lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by Robshaw during an encounter at the Legion Hall’s pool table. A sworn affidavit filed by another former officer, who claims to have witnessed the alleged assault, supports her account.
“The chief decided to go behind me, take a pool cue, bring it up inside my skirt between my legs,” Donna Schmidt said during an interview with WUSA9.
Former Police officer James Cathcart wrote in an affidavit: “She walked away with a look of disbelief on her face.” Cathcart went on to describe a crude remark Robshaw made about Donna.
Donna Schmidt did not tell her husband about the incident because she said she feared retaliation. She did not report the incident until 2011.
Former officers Earl Stone and Ed Gizinski said they were well aware of what allegedly happened because Robshaw would talk about it in meetings at the Town of Cheverly Police Department.
“He’d tell him and I numerous times – he wanted to throw her up on the pool table and [expletive] the [expletive] out of her”, Stone said while motioning to Gizinski during an interview with WUSA9.
The Schmidt’s’ lawsuit alleges Robshaw carried out “a campaign of harassment and humiliation”.
After the filing of Donna Schmidt’s complaint in 2011, Frank Schmidt was put under investigation and ultimately fired for allegedly damaging a police vehicle, according to a Maryland Court of Special Appeals review of Schmidt’s firing.
The couple’s lawsuit says the vehicle was not damaged by Schmidt and the firing was retaliation.
Officer Schmidt was reinstated in 2014 after a Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge ruled the Town had violated Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights by installing a chief from a neighboring jurisdiction on the police trial board that ruled on Schmidt’s case, Maryland Circuit Court Judge Krystal Q. Alves wrote in her memorandum opinion and order.
In 2015, Schmidt was fired a second time for failing to adequately complete an improvement plan and for allegedly over-using leave without permission, according to a 2015 opinion by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals upheld the firing.
“Despite being a seasoned officer having over a decade of experience, Officer Schmidt exhibited significantly inadequate performances after being reinstated,” Court of Special Appeals Judge Alexander Wright wrote in the court’s opinion.
Stone and Gizinski were fired in 2015 for allegedly falsifying patrol records, according a 2014 Maryland Court of Special Appeals review of their terminations. Police investigators installed GPS monitoring devices on vehicles used by Stone and Gizinski. They were accused of spending extended periods in convenience store parking lots and outside town limits, rather than patrolling.
The former officers claimed the GPS monitoring was a violation of their 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search, but Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judges upheld the firings.
According to their lawsuit, Stone and Gizinski believe they were allegedly targeted in retaliation for testifying on behalf of Officer Schmidt, while other officers who support Robshaw committed misconduct with no penalty.
Robshaw imposed discipline “in a disparate and arbitrary manner," the ex-officers’ lawsuit claims. Officers who did not oppose Robshaw engaged in more serious misconduct but were never targeted for investigations, the suit claims.
For instance, the lawsuit alleges a rogue police officer was involved in a hit and run DUI accident that was intentionally not investigated by the department.
Another officer, according to the suit, has been padding his time card for years despite EZ Pass records that would easily prove the alleged misconduct.
The officers’ lawsuit also alleges Robshaw ordered officers to use racial profiling on patrol.
According to the suit, Robshaw directed “his white officers that if they saw a black person outside late at night they were to stop the person and ascertain why they were in the town of Cheverly." Officers allegedly were further ordered that “if there is more than one black person in a car there is marijuana present and they should investigate.”
Former Cheverly Police Lt. Joseph Frohlich, who served as Robshaw's second-in-command, is also suing the town alleging that Robshaw abused his authority in his handling of the Schmidt case and the firings that occurred in its wake.
Robshaw declined to be interviewed by WUSA9.
In a sworn deposition, Robshaw has denied all the claims and said the former officers are liars.
“It’s your contention they’re all lying?” Schmidt’s attorney asked. Robshaw answered: “That’s correct”.
Meanwhile, the ex-officers claim the Town of Cheverly has failed in its duty to conduct an independent investigation of allegations of wrongdoing inside the police department.
Cheverly Mayor Mike Callahan and two town council members declined to answer WUSA9’s questions about the allegations, saying the ongoing litigation prevents them from speaking.
In a brief telephone interview May 25, Callahan said the litigation process will reveal the truth, and that the council would only move to investigate further after the legal process has ended.
Robshaw was hired by Cheverly in 2001. He was made chief, three years after a federal jury found Robshaw and three Prince George’s County police officers were guilty of unconstitutionally detaining a Laurel man. The officers forced Brian Romjue into a police car without a warrant and detained him for at least five hours. The officers and Prince George’s County were ordered to pay Romjue $69,000. The officers were ordered to pay an additional $5,250 each in punitive damages.
Robshaw currently serves on the Maryland Medicinal Cannabis Commission and is chairman of its subcommittee that selects licensees.