Monday, September 21, 2009

Officer Michael Turcotte & Wife Convicted of Domestic Violence

An incident of alleged domestic violence in January between a former Gilbert police officer and his wife ended with convictions for both, and may ultimately cost his police certification.

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is investigating whether to pull Michael J. Turcotte's certification, which is required to be a police officer.

The investigation opened Wednesday and centers on a fight between Turcotte, 50, and his wife of 27 years, Linda, who accused her husband of cheating on her, AZPOST and court documents show.

Gilbert police arrested the couple Jan. 22, one day after Linda Turcotte admittedly threw an apple at her husband's back and slapped him. He then proceeded to choke and "struck" her many times, court documents state.

Michael Turcotte admitted to police that he shoved his wife to the ground, but denied striking her, court documents state.

"In addition, their 3-year-old granddaughter was present during the struggle and witnessed the event," court documents state. "The granddaughter stated during a forensic interview that 'grandpa choked grandma.'"

Both Linda and Michael Turcotte were ultimately arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. Michael Turcotte, who joined Gilbert police Dec. 24, 2007, resigned Jan. 28 before an internal investigation could begin.

In early April, Linda and Michael Turcotte each took plea agreements in which they pleaded "no contest" to disorderly conduct.

Michael Turcotte was placed on one year unsupervised probation, while his wife received three years of unsupervised probation. Both are required to complete 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling.

Under the plea agreement, if Linda and Michael Turcotte successfully complete their probation and counseling, their convictions will be wiped from their permanent record.

The incident has spurred new allegations that Michael Turcotte violated ASPOST rules barring certification of police officials who commit "physical violence" or "malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance of office," or whose conduct "tends to disrupt, diminish or otherwise jeopardize the public trust."

When interviewed by police Jan. 22, Michael Turcotte said his wife accused him of having an affair with another Gilbert police officer.

"Linda accused the Gilbert PD of causing their marital problems," Michael Turcotte's attorney, Robert Kavanagh, states in court documents. "(Michael) Turcotte steadfastly denied that he was having an affair but nonetheless has resigned from the Gilbert PD."

After confronting her husband, Linda Turcotte told investigators she hit him with an apple and slapped him. Michael Turcotte responded by slapping, kicking, choking and pushing her to the ground, she said. Michael Turcotte admitted to pushing her, but denied going anything else.

Both were treated at a local hospital for scratches to their faces then booked into the Maricopa County jail.

Because the charges were domestic violence-related, the couple was not allowed regular contact with each other. In court documents, Michael Turcotte said he was seeking marriage counseling with his wife ahead of their planned surgery and requested contact with her.

"The root of their marriage problems related to (Michael Turcotte's) career at the Gilbert PD, which is now over," Kavanagh writes.

However, the January incident wasn't the first, according to AZPOST documents. Police were called to the Turcotte home Nov. 13, but no arrests were made. Linda Turcotte received an order of protection from her husband the next day.

A judge tossed the protection order Nov. 25.

AZPOST began in July 1968 as the Arizona Law Enforcement Officer Advisory Council aimed at establishing a set of minimum standards for the state's police officers. AZPOST certification is mandatory for all police officers but not county sheriff's deputies.

The 13-member AZPOST Board oversees 170 law enforcement agencies, more than 16,000 sworn peace officers, 9,000 correctional officers and 16 police academies.

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