Former Milwaukee officer gets 26 months for conducting illegal strip, cavity searches
A former Milwaukee police officer who was found guilty of performing illegal strip and body cavity searches on dozens of black males suspected of drug possession was sentenced to 26 months in prison Friday.
Michael Vagnini, 34, pleaded no contest in April to four felonies and four misdemeanors stemming from his actions. Sexual assault charges brought against the officer were dismissed.
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.
“He’s left holding the bag for everybody,” Michael Steinle told the court, noting that all his client ever wanted to do was stop crime.
According to a criminal complaint, Vagnini conducted illegal anal and scrotum searches on suspects, often inserting fingers into their rectums in search of drugs. Vagnini’s family and friends submitted numerous letters of support, arguing an otherwise exemplary professional career and personal life.
The felony convicts cost Vagnini his job. He will serve 13 months in prison plus 17 months of extended supervision on each felony count, with two of the counts consecutive. The judge also imposed concurrent sentences of 90 days for each misdemeanor count.
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