An independent probe into the handling of a sexual assault allegation lodged against a politically connected man in Sussex County found no wrongdoing by acting New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan or other top officials at the agency.
The probe, commissioned after a June 2020 Newsweek report that suggested Callahan stepped into block the 2017 sexual assault investigation against Ian Schweizer, the son of former Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority Executive Director Glenn Schweizer, found the case died because of a communications breakdown between Sussex County prosecutors and rank-and-file troopers there.
It said investigators found no evidence that Callahan’s actions or those of other top State Police officials were guided by “corrupt or improper influence,” saying instead that they acted in good faith in an attempt to mend a rift the case created between the two law enforcement agencies.
In January of 2017, Laura Gallagher reported to State Police at Sussex Station that Ian Schweizer had sexually assaulted her outside of a bar nine days earlier in the wee hours of the morning. After they left the bar, she said, Schweizer pushed her up against her car and stuck his hands down her pants without consent.
The detective who took her statement interviewed Schweizer a week later. The man, a high school acquaintance of Gallagher’s, told authorities the they kissed and touched consensually but acknowledged that he may have gone too far in Gallagher’s eyes — an admission the officers saw as a confession.
Sussex troopers arrested him but were told by prosecutors there was insufficient evidence for the arrest, let alone for prosecution. They didn’t agree that Schweizer had confessed.
The detective took the case to a municipal judge, who approved charges, violating a recently passed bail reform law that requires police to seek prosecutorial approval for certain warrants and summons.
“What happened next was an immediate and clear breakdown of the relationship between the two law enforcement entities,” the report said. “Typical investigative protocols were not followed and serious accusations of bad faith and wrongdoing were made by both sides.”
Callahan, then a State Police lieutenant colonel, met with Sussex prosecutors at the Golden Corner Diner in Bound Brook in March 2017.
During that meeting, attended also by Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch, Chief of Detectives Thomas McCormick and State Police Major Glen Szenzenstein, Callahan told the two Sussex officials the troopers at Sussex Station would be subject to an internal affairs probe in response to a corruption complaint filed against the county officials over the sexual assault case.
Detractors pointed to the meeting as evidence of Callahan putting his thumb on the scale, but Thursday’s report said the gathering was an attempt to save the charred bridge between the two law enforcement agencies.
Callahan has served as the NJSP’s acting head since October 2017, when he was installed there by Gov. Chris Christie. Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Callahan for the role in May 2018, though his confirmation appears to have been locked to a standstill in the intervening years.
Senate President Steve Sweeney last week told the New Jersey Globe the Newsweek story was the foremost hurdle to the colonel’s confirmation.
“There was an investigation. You saw the Newsweek story. He would have to answer questions on that right now, and he can’t,” Sweeney said. “Once that’s resolved, then we’ll have a conversation about Colonel Callahan.”
Callahan’s confirmation had already been stuck for years by the time the Newsweek story hit. Sweeney said “different concerns from state troopers” had kept it tabled until then. It’s not clear whether those concerns extend past Gallagher’s case.
But it’s possible Callahan’s long-stagnant confirmation will move in the wake of former federal prosecutor Matthew Beck’s report.
“It might, and it doesn’t hurt,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) said when asked whether the report, which Scutari said he had not yet reviewed, might get the Callahan’s confirmation moving again.