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NEWS > 10 August 2006

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 Article sourced from

Palm Beach Post - FL, United S
10 August 2006
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Fort Pierce chief indicted on

FORT PIERCE Police Chief Eugene Savage was booked into the St. Lucie County jail on Wednesday, hours after a grand jury indicted him on three felony charges alleging he forged his ex-wife's signature on a $5,800 real estate check and deposited the money.

After his arrest, Savage was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the Fort Pierce Police Department, which he has led for almost a decade.

Savage and his attorneys drove into the jail parking lot in a black Monte Carlo with tinted windows shortly after 2:30 p.m. The booking process took about a half-hour, and they quickly drove out of the secure area without commenting. He was released on $3,000 bond.

Earlier Wednesday, Savage's ex-wife, North Miami Police Chief Gwendolyn Boyd, testified before the grand jury, along with agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The agency has been investigating the check allegations since late January. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Boyd declined to comment as she left the courthouse. A few minutes later, the grand jury issued the indictment charging Savage with third-degree grand theft, forgery of a bank check and uttering a forged bill.

All three charges are third-degree felonies, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison for each count. Prosecutors said it is "questionable" whether a judge could order the sentences to run consecutively if Savage is convicted.

Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans said Savage has no criminal history and the charges are not connected to his job as police chief.

"These allegations do not involve any official malfeasance," said Evans, who presented the case to the grand jury. "It doesn't involve the police department or the city. It seems this is more of a domestic matter."

The charges are connected to an escrow check issued to both Savage and Boyd in November, Evans said. Savage is accused of forging his ex-wife's signature, depositing the check in a bank and keeping the money, he said.

Even though Savage's name was on the check, Evans said that, "under the law, you can't sign the name of another with the intent to defraud."

Boyd asked the FDLE to investigate in late January and State Attorney Bruce Colton decided to ask a grand jury whether the office should prosecute.

"In a case like this, where we have a close relationship with his office, we didn't want it to look like it was either vindictiveness or favoritism on our part," Evans said. "He is law enforcement, and he is chief of police of one of the most active law enforcement agencies in our circuit. So we asked the grand jury to make the decision whether he should stand trial."

Savage has cooperated with the investigation and given several statements to FDLE agents, Evans said. Savage's attorney could not be reached Wednesday.

The Fort Pierce city manager's office said Savage "relinquished his duties and responsibilities" Wednesday. City Manager Dennis Beach said Savage would remain on administrative leave without pay until the courts determine whether he is guilty.

Assistant Chief Sean Baldwin will be acting police chief.

The city manager's office and the police department stressed that the charges are related to Savage's personal life.

"It is my hope that a positive resolution of the charges occur(s) soon and Chief Savage is able to return to a city that truly appreciates his skill and commitment," Beach said.

The forgery allegations first came to Beach's attention in a confidential May 3 memo from Savage. Savage described meeting with FDLE investigators about an "allegation made against (him) for violating a court order dealing with an escrow settlement."

On July 31, Evans sent a letter to Savage inviting him to appear before a grand jury Wednesday, which Savage declined to do. Two days later, Savage sent a confidential memo to Beach asking to step down as chief at the end of the day on Aug. 4.

"I do not desire to compromise the integrity of the police department," Savage wrote.

He followed that memo with another, saying his attorneys advised him to remain chief until the grand jury's decision. His arrest Wednesday leaves him in limbo until the case is resolved.

Savage, 57, was born in Jacksonville and served in the Army in the Vietnam War, earning several medals.

According to his personnel file, he joined the West Palm Beach Police Department in 1970 and became the department's first black captain. He also was the first black president of the Treasure Coast Chiefs and Sheriffs Association and a leader in other law enforcement groups.

Savage studied public administration at Florida Atlantic University and finished his doctoral degree at Lynn University in 1990.

He was named the Fort Pierce Police Department's first black chief in 1997. His salary, as of April, was more than $106,000.

He married Boyd in 2000, making a splash in the local and national media. They were divorced in 2005.

Boyd testified last year that she caught Savage at the couple's Fort Pierce condominium in 2004. He was in his underwear and his secretary, Rosetta Smith, was hiding in their guest bathroom in a nightshirt, she said. Both denied having an affair.

An unidentified group began sending anti-Savage propaganda, prompting an FBI investigation into fictitious e-mails between Savage and Smith. The FBI determined that Savage's computer was not hacked into by someone outside the police department.

When St. Lucie County sheriff's officials released Savage's arrest report Wednesday, they included public records law and a handwritten memo from Savage dated Wednesday: "I do not desire to have any personal information released to the media, due to my status as a public official."


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