Deputy Found Guilty in internal Affairs Probe but Receives Slap on Wrist.
A Vero Beach financial consultant filed a civil rights lawsuit yesterday against Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar and Deputy Sheriff Michael Cavanaugh. The suit details how Deputy Cavanaugh illegally entered Craig Kovaleski’s home and arrested him for child neglect for letting his children play outside his house unsupervised.
Cavanaugh arrested Mr. Kovaleski on the spot, in his house, and then led him out of his own house in handcuffs in front of his children, both under 5 years old.
Cavanaugh then falsified police reports and gave perjured testimony in court to support his arrest. But little did he know, Mr. Kovaleski installed video cameras weeks before to bolster security in his home, which showed Cavanaugh’s sworn arrest affidavits and his testimony in court were false. Video from the home proves the kids were inside the home when he invaded the property without the knowledge or permission of Mr. Kovaleski.
According to Kovaleski’s attorney, Guy Bennett Rubin: “The conduct of this law enforcement officer is shocking. If not for the video, Mr. Kovaleski could be in prison and could have lost the right to be a parent to his kids. This kind of rogue policing is bad for law enforcement and bad for citizens. How can we trust the testimony of law enforcement if they blatantly lie after taking the oath?”
The lawsuit stems from an Oct. 10, 2013, incident in which Kovaleski’s estranged wife, who had made false claims before, called 911 and reported Kovaleski was intoxicated and asleep, leaving their two children alone in the home. In actuality, Kovaleski had just ordered pizza, invited his mother over for lunch, and set the children up in the family loft to watch a movie.
Nevertheless, Cavanaugh was dispatched to Kovaleski’s home as a result of the 911 call and entered the Kovaleski property without permission by entering a gate code provided by the estranged wife. After Cavanaugh entered the home illegally, Kovaleski walked into the hall where Cavanaugh stood to find out what was going on. Cavanaugh shoved him against a wall and told him he was under arrest for child neglect. Then, in front of Kovaleski’s two young children, Cavanaugh placed the father into the back of the police car. Kovaleski spent a day and night in jail before posting bail, and then had his photo displayed in local media as charged with child neglect, all based on Cavanaugh swearing he saw Kovaleski asleep and had to physically awaken him. The video proves Cavanaugh never saw Kovaleski anywhere except in his front hall where Kovaleski confronted him.
Once the state attorneys’ office found out about the video proving Cavanaugh fabricated the basis for arresting Kovaleski, it dropped the charges and the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation of Cavanaugh. But shockingly, even though the investigation determined Cavanaugh had engaged in falsifying official records and knowingly made false or untrue statements in the performance of his duties, Cavanaugh received a only a 5 day suspension.
“It’s amazing that a deputy found guilty of lying under oath was not only given a slap on the wrist, he is still working for the Indian River Sheriff and can falsify charges against other innocent citizens. What does it take to get fired?” - Guy Bennett Rubin
Kovaleski v. Cavanaugh et al
Case No: 2:14-CV-14501-XXXX