A Prince George's County police officer charged with five counts of assault, including assault with intent to murder, has put himself out of reach of the police department's disciplinary procedures.
A series of steps taken by the recently retired officer, Franklin Edward Iaquinta, and his attorney are described as an "end run" around internal police disciplinary procedures by Police Chief Jack E. McHale.
Those same steps have also made Iaquinta's chance for acquittal of the criminal charges seem good. If he is acquitted, he will remain eligible to receive a $9,000-a-year county pension which he can now collect, according to a county retirement official.
The charges against Iaquinta resulted from a shooting incident outside a Palmer Park nightclub last fall.
Following that incident, Iaquinta was hospitalized for psychological tests. Then a county medical review board declared him mentally unfit to be a police officer. Finally, Iaquinta was granted retirement from the force on a mental disability pension. County retirement officials would not elaborate on the nature of Iaquinta's mental illness, citing confidentiality requirements.
Iaquinta, who had been on sick leave from the department, retired Feb. 1.
If the mental disability finding that was the basis of his retirement is made the cornerstone of the defense at his trial on the assault charges, Iaquinta might be acquitted by reason of insanity.
Such a defense would be "the next logical step," according to a police source, and a county prosecutor acknowledges that Iaquinta's mental disability retirement probably will affect the criminal case. "It doesn't make it any easier as far as that goes," said the prosecutor, "but we'll go forward with it."
Under county pension law, conviction would bar payment of Iaquinta's pension. An acquittal would leave the way clear for him to collect it.
Sam Serio, Iaquinta's attorney, would not comment on the case.
The shooting occurred Oct. 21 outside the Club Le Baron, 7801 Barlowe Rd., Palmer Park.
Iaquinta, off duty at the time, became involved in an argument with several patrons in the club's parking lot and allegedly brandished a police service revolver, according to police accounts.
During a scuffle, police said, the gun fired several times and James R. Oxley, 27, was wounded in the left arm. Oxley was treated at Prince George's General Hospital and later released. Iaquinta was treated for head and back lacerations.
Commenting on Iaquinta's retirement, Chief McHale declared: "The guy pulled an end run around us before we could do anything. This is Catch-22. When his doctors said he was sick we put him on sick leave. We can't take any disciplinary action before the case is adjudicated.
"Then he goes to the medical review panel and says he's mentally disabled. They certify that he is. Now we can't take any disciplinary action at all because he's no longer an employe," McHale said.