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The Crack in the Shield

The next day, Brian and some of the other suspended cops went to the PBA to seek legal assistance. Gallagher cried six times, and Brian later remembered, “I said, ‘Holy shit, I can’t believe this here. He was always cement.’”

Afterward, Brian sat with Rathbun in a car. Rathbun was also crying, and Brian later recalled, “I said, ‘Maybe it’s not so bad.’ He took out his wallet and showed me a picture of his son and said, ‘See this? How could you ever tell him?’”

When he reached Cathy’s house, in Brooklyn, Brian still had not broken down. She was red-eyed when she met him at the door, and he later remembered, “I said, ‘Are you crying?’ She said, ‘No.’ I went upstairs and I burst out crying.”

Back at his own apartment in Rockaway, Brian stopped to speak with his landlord. His brother Greg remembers, “Brian said, ‘That was me in the paper,’ and he said, ‘I know it was, Brian.’ Brian said, ‘If you want, I’ll move,’ and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Over the days that followed, Brian would visit his mother’s house only when the night hid him from the eyes of the neighbors. He was reluctant to attend a birthday party for his brother Greg, and his sister-in-law, Carole, remembers, “His first concern was what would the kids think of him.”

During the party, Brian and Carole retired alone to a corner. Their conversation touched on the suicide of Donald Manes. Carole said that the man should have ridden out his troubles, just as Brian should ride out his own difficulties.

“I said, ‘People forget fast,’” Carole remembers. “I said, ‘Look at Richard Nixon.’”

Through the family, Brian contacted a lawyer. Brian asked about the possibility of pleading insanity resulting from a sort of battle fatigue. Brian later said, “They call it the war on crime. The war on drugs.”

At one point, Brian sought advice from a veteran of the Seven-Seven who had once been arrested for armed robbery. Brian also described his predicament to a psychic. Cuti remembers, “The psychic told Brian that he probably wouldn’t continue being a cop.”

On another day, Brian walked into a church in Rockaway and confessed his sins in the Seven-Seven to a priest. Brian later remembered, “I thought he was going to fall over and take a heart attack, but he didn’t even bat an eye. He said, ‘I’ve heard worse. Just get a good lawyer and be prepared for what might happen.’”

From the church, Brian headed home and telephoned Winter. The answering machine was on and eleven more of Brian’s words went on tape. Brian later remembered, “I felt so clean and pure. I said, ‘Hank, this is Brian O’Regan. I don’t hold anything against you.’”

Around that time, Winter began testifying before a grand jury. He and Magno helped the Special Prosecutor’s Office secure indictments against thirteen cops and prepare cases on about a dozen more. Brian was charged with some 80 crimes.

“It’s funny how you can be good for your whole life, for so long, and then...” Brian later said.

On November 4, Brian called Cuti and said that he had been notified to surrender the following Thursday. He said he planned to show up in dark glasses, a hooded sweatshirt, and a hat.

“He was scared to death,” Cuti says.

The following day, Brian stopped by Cathy’s house and gave her white carnations for her twenty-fifth birthday. He also drove to a notary public in Queens with a will he had typed himself. He later made an appointment with Mike McAlary, the New York Newsday reporter who had broken much of the story behind the investigation.

At 10 P.M., Brian met with McAlary and this writer at the Ram’s Horn diner in Rockaway. Brian spoke for four hours and then went home. Cathy called him, and he told her that he planned to surrender with the others and that he might shave for the arraignment. He then drove through the rainy pre-dawn darkness to his mother’s house.

Five hours later, all the indicted cops except Brian arrived at the IAD building. They came out an hour later in handcuffs and rode to Central Booking. They had all taken prisoners there in the past, and they did not have to be told the procedure for photographing and fingerprinting.

At 11 A.M., a clerk on the fifth floor of Brooklyn Supreme Court announced that the first item on the calendar was Indictment SPOK 224. Gallagher shuffled in wearing a black jacket. His shoulders were slumped. His head was bowed.

“Step up, please, Mr. Gallagher,” the clerk said.


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Dec 8, 1986 issue of New York