Gallo case set to drag on, again

Marblehead Police Officer Chris Gallo looks on during a disciplinary hearing at Abbot Hall on March 29. Photo by Spenser Hasak

The winding saga of Christopher Gallo, a Marblehead police officer who has been on paid administrative leave since June 2021, is set to drag through at least the rest of this month and likely longer.

An initial disciplinary hearing — the first since the allegations were made — against Gallo was held on March 29, but after testimony dragged on throughout the day, officials decided to reconvene the hearing on April 26.

The allegations against Gallo are twofold — first that he allegedly committed time fraud by going home during periods when he was assigned to work patrol shifts — and the second stemming from a domestic disturbance where his girlfriend alleged she had been assaulted. In that incident, the Department of Children and Families found that he had neglected his two children.

Gallo was first suspended without pay for five days in June 2021, after Marblehead police received a report from the Inspector General’s office that included photographs of a police cruiser parked outside his home over the course of four months. During the period of surveillance, a police cruiser was allegedly observed outside Gallo’s home 104 times. Photographs documented 91 of those instances, and on 19 days there was evidence of multiple checks in one night, confirming the cruiser allegedly remained at his home.

He was then placed on paid administrative leave following the five-day suspension as an internal investigation into the Inspector General’s report played out. The investigation found that Gallo allegedly violated a number of department policies.

During that period, police were called to Gallo’s home for a report of a domestic disturbance in July 2021. Gallo’s girlfriend told police she had been assaulted by him, and while he was cleared of doing so, he was found to have allegedly let his girlfriend, who was drinking, operate a boat with his children aboard, despite the fact that her drinking made his children uncomfortable.

Gallo and his girlfriend also took the boat to and from Gloucester, where they both drank.

An investigation found that Gallo exercised poor judgment in the incident. He was found to have violated several department policies in that incident, including conduct unbecoming of a police officer.

As a result of the incident, the police department filed a 51A report against him alleging child abuse or neglect, after finding that Gallo’s children had suffered emotional abuse.

No determination has been made on the status of Gallo’s employment with the town, as the initial hearing was continued to April 26, when Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer will hear testimony from Police Chief Dennis King and Gallo himself. Kezer has said he intends to produce a document with determinations and recommendations based on testimony heard, though he did not provide a timeline under which he would do so.

Throughout the hearing, Gallo, wearing a gray suit, stared calmly across the table at Kezer, occasionally passing notes with his attorneys and checking his phone.

The hearing began with an opening statement from Town Counsel Jane Friedman, who laid out the charges against Gallo and the various investigative measures taken by the police department as well as the subsequent reports they produced.

Attorney Gary Nolan, who is representing Gallo, delivered a lengthy opening statement calling into question the veracity of the photographs that make up the crux of the case against his client, and repeatedly decried what he believed was a lack of due process in the investigation into his client.

“Everyone kept kicking Chris Gallo’s can down the road,” Nolan said, noting that Kezer is the third town administrator to have been involved in the case. “[They] let him sit there and rot.”

The photographs, Nolan said, were taken by former officer Timothy Tufts, the same person who resigned from the department after allegedly carving a swastika into a police cruiser. Tufts, he said, had a vendetta against Gallo, who was responsible for informing town officials that he was the one who carved the swastika.

He also called into question the fairness of the hearing, noting that as town administrator, Kezer is an agent of the town, and in his view could not then rule fairly on the case.

Nolan was aggressive in calling into question the entirety of the process surrounding his client — particularly the timeline in which the twin investigations played out.

After opening statements, Friedman called Sgt. Sean Brady, who authored the two reports into Gallo’s alleged misconduct, as a witness. Brady said he has had a close relationship with Gallo since he started working in the department.

During direct examination, Brady confirmed that an officer who worked from home during their shift would be in violation of their job description. He added that the department has no policies allowing officers to work from home, though he admitted that officers do occasionally return home while on the clock.

Much of Nolan’s questioning of Brady concerned his qualifications to conduct internal affairs investigations, with Brady saying he took a course on the process only after producing a report into the domestic disturbance, and the delayed timeline under which the investigation into the time fraud allegations took place.

He also sought to undermine the credibility of the photos themselves, at one point taking out his own phone and demonstrating to Kezer the apparent ease of doctoring the timestamps and locations of photographs on an iPhone.

And, despite Kezer saying he intended to limit the focus of the hearing to the allegations against Gallo, Nolan repeatedly brought up the theory that Tufts shared the photos. He indicated it was his belief they should not be admitted as evidence because of the apparent connection between Tufts and Gallo.

After Brady, Officer Theresa Gay testified about her time as one of the detectives looking into the domestic dispute, during which she interviewed two kids who were present at Gallo’s home during the incident.

In her testimony, Gay called the two girls that she interviewed “extremely credible sources” and recalled what each of them told her had happened.

The youngest daughter, according to Gay, said that after spending a few hours with their family on Brown Island, the two daughters made their way back home and decided to watch television. Later, Gallo arrived and sat down to watch television with them. According to her, both Gallo and his girlfriend had been drinking on the boat earlier, and the girlfriend came up from the basement acting drunk and causing a scene.

Irritated by the girlfriend’s behavior, Gay said the girls made their way upstairs. The youngest began to take a shower when she heard shouting and glass breaking. She then peeked out of the door and saw Gallo running up the stairs being chased by the girlfriend. The girlfriend then apparently cornered Gallo before he was able to get away and lock himself in with the older daughter in her room.

Gallo’s girlfriend then dialed 911 and reported that Gallo was beating her, the kids, and the dog, according to the daughter.

Gay then said that she spoke with the older daughter, whose recollection was similar to the younger daughter’s.

But, Nolan seemed to argue that Gay’s accounting of the events to the Department of Children and Families should be tossed out.

The hearing adjourned for the day after Gay’s testimony and will resume Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m.