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Former State Police head and three others violated ethics law by altering arrest report for judge’s daughter, Ethics Commission alleges

Defense lawyers call the case “much ado about nothing.”

State Police recruits at their graduation in Worcester last year.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The former head of the Massachusetts State Police Richard McKeon violated the state’s conflict of interest law when he ordered a trooper to remove embarrassing remarks from the arrest report of a judge’s daughter, lawyers for the state Ethics Commission charged on Friday, wrapping up three weeks of hearings.

Ethics Commission lawyers also allege that Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., as well as his First Assistant Jeffrey Travers, and State Police Major Susan Anderson abused their positions to help a Dudley District Court judge, Timothy Bibaud after his daughter was arrested in October 2017 and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

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They asked the Ethics Commission’s hearing officer to find the four violated the law and impose fines up to $20,000 apiece. The five-member Ethics Commission will make the final decision.

“Changing an arrest report based on who someone is or who someone might be related to violates the conflict of interest law,” said Ethics Commission lawyer Candies Pruitt. “The reason the state officials took the actions they did was because the woman was a judge’s daughter.”

Commission lawyers allege that Early asked Colonel McKeon to order the trooper who arrested Alli Bibaud to sanitize his arrest report by removing Bibaud’s admission that she had traded sex for heroin. Early also wanted to erase her rant that her father, a judge, would be furious about her arrest. The others allegedly helped carry out the plan.

Defense lawyers called the Ethics Commission’s case “much ado about nothing” and said the four officials treated Bibaud the same way they would any other defendant suffering from a substance use disorder. Irrelevant or salacious comments should never be included in reports submitted in court, they contended, noting that several court officials who testified in the case agreed with them.

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Michael Rusconi, who represents McKeon, said the judge’s daughter was actually treated worse than if she had been anyone else. She was treated as if “she’s just an addict . . . It’s not the way we want to treat people.”

Ethics Commission lawyers argued that Early planned to replace the original report in the court file with the sanitized one — but was thwarted when the acting clerk-magistrate told Early’s first assistant, Travers, that it couldn’t be done.

The episode, dubbed Troopergate, led to the abrupt retirements of McKeon and his second-in-command, Francis Hughes. Several months later, two other top State Police officials also retired. It was the first in a series of scandals that have roiled the State Police over the past five years.

The Ethics Commission in 2019 found reasonable cause to believe that Early, Travers, McKeon, and Anderson had violated the conflict of interest laws.

Worcester DA Early said his “head exploded” when he read the arrest report filed by Trooper Ryan Sceviour. In it, Sceviour quoted Bibaud as using crude language to say she traded sex for heroin, and offered the trooper sex in exchange for leniency. She also reported that her father, a judge, was “going to kill me.”

“You don’t make people needlessly suffer who are already suffering,” he said. “I abhor violence, but drugs and alcohol are a disease.”

Early said he wasn’t doing a favor for Judge Bibaud or his daughter by asking that the offending language be removed. “If it was brought to my attention, I would do it for anyone,” he said.

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Though he acknowledged ordering the offensive language removed from the report, he denied trying to replace the original report with the watered down version.

McKeon testified he felt the language in Sceviour’s report was “unprofessional” and “disrespectful” and vulgar and had no business in a report

“When I read it, it was in your face. It was vulgar. It was profane and it was unnecessary, in my opinion,” he said.

McKeon, through a deputy, Major Anderson, ordered Sceviour to write a revised report and bring it to Travers. Sceviour and the sergeant who originally approved his report were given negative “observation” reports for including the sensational language in the original report, which Sceviour said he believed was disciplinary.

McKeon testified that he decided to retire just a few weeks after the incident because then-Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett asked him to remove the negative reports from the troopers’ files — a request he couldn’t agree to.

“I said that’s a tough request,” McKeon testified. “It would be detrimental to do such a thing. It would diminish my authority as colonel.“

The details of Bibaud’s arrest and the efforts to water down the police report came to light after Sceviour filed a federal lawsuit a few weeks after the arrest, alleging that he was reprimanded for including the controversial details in his original arrest report. The discipline was later rescinded.

A federal judge dismissed Sceviour’s original lawsuit, but he filed a second suit, in state court, in June 2018, adding Early as a defendant.

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That case was settled in November of 2019. The state paid Sceviour $35,000 and issued a letter to him, signed by then-Colonel Kerry Gilpin, saying that he had acted in accordance with his training. He was also reassigned to a barracks closer to his home.

The Ethics Commission launched an investigation in 2018 following a five-month investigation by Attorney General Maura Healey, who declined to bring criminal charges. She said she didn’t find evidence that officials were seeking to derail or undermine the case against Bibaud.

But Healey asked the Ethics Commission to review the case for possible conflict of interest violations.

A separate review, conducted by an outside investigator at the request of the State Police, found in April 2018 that McKeon used “flawed judgment” when he ordered Sceviour to alter the police report.

McKeon and the command staff “eroded confidence in the management abilities of the [State Police,] both within the organization and among the public,” Kevin P. Burke, a former state public safety secretary, wrote in his report. He called McKeon’s actions “unprecedented.”


Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.