LAWRENCE — After leaving him on the payroll for more than a year while he awaited trial, Mayor William Lantigua wants to fire Police Officer P.J. Lopez who was found guilty of a bribery scheme in federal court Tuesday.
Lopez, 47, was convicted of bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent for arranging a kickback scheme with M & W Towing of Lawrence and its owner Wilson Calixto. After a week-long trial, a jury deliberated for three hours before finding Lopez, a 16-year police officer, guilty. He remains free, with some restrictions, until his sentencing Jan. 14 at U.S. District Court in South Boston.
Lopez, who earns $60,000 annually, was on paid administrative leave since Sept. 25, 2012 when he was indicted. Despite requests from city councilors and retired Police Chief John Romero, Lantigua allowed Lopez, who supports him politically, to stay on the payroll.
However, in a statement released yesterday afternoon, Lantigua said after learning Tuesday that Lopez was convicted he immediately transferred him to unpaid leave and started termination proceedings. A required termination hearing for Lopez was scheduled for Oct. 17 at City Hall.
“There is no place in our Police Department for this type of behavior. My response is consistent with our shared belief that an accused is presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers,” Lantigua said, in the statement.
“The jury spoke. Any doubt as to Officer’s Lopez’s guilt is now removed. Lawrence’s reaction to the verdict will be swift, but also respectful of Officer Lopez’s Civil Service rights. Our shared desire to maintain an effective police force whose sole mission is to safeguard the peace and protect our citizens remains of paramount importance,” Lantigua said.
In the same statement, Interim Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said, “As troubling as this conviction is, it should not discredit the fine men and women of the Lawrence Police Department who work with the utmost integrity protecting our citizenry on a daily basis.”