Badge of Dishonor

When a love triangle spiraled out of control, three cops took the law into their own hands.

Raise Your Voice
Jeffrey Moore as he looked shortly after he was - jumped by three cops.
Jeffrey Moore as he looked shortly after he was jumped by three cops.
If Jeffrey Moore's marriage wasn't as exciting as it once was, it was at least stable. At 41, he was a bit of a dreamer, a passionate man with salt-and-pepper hair and bluish-green eyes, whose nightly job as a bartender left him free to pursue golf during the day. His wife, Marilyn, was a lithe, blonde beauty with a pretty smile; she was a few years older than he, but could pass for a woman in her 30s. They'd been married 12 years, had two children, and had recently moved into a nicer house with a pond in Strongsville.

But one day in January 2003, the phone rang. Jeffrey answered. The caller, an anonymous woman, spoke cryptically, telling him to check his phone records. His wife was seeing someone, she said, and it was more than a friendship. She couldn't say more -- she had already said too much. Click.

Jeffrey stewed for hours. When Marilyn got home, he confronted her. She claimed that she was just friends with the man. Jeffrey didn't believe her, but he let the matter drop. He would investigate further on his own.

Weeks later, Jeffrey was cleaning out a closet when he found a valentine addressed to his wife. It was from a man named Kevin Fischbach. Jeffrey ransacked the house. Hidden all around him was evidence of his wife's affair: flowers, two stuffed bears hugging, even a picture of Fischbach, dressed in his police uniform, holding the helmet he wore while patrolling on his motorcycle.

This was the man who was sleeping with his wife.

"It's about honor," Jeffrey says. "And he carries this badge of honor and chivalry, but at his core, he rots with deceit."

Marilyn had met Fischbach about five months earlier in the Halle Building at Euclid Avenue and East 12th Street, where she worked as a nutrition coordinator for Head Start. A 12-year veteran of the Cleveland police, Fischbach held a second job as a security guard in the building. He was a handsome man with a mustache and a confident swagger, and he always seemed to be looking at her.

Before long, they were flirting. He wanted to know her age. She wouldn't tell him. Then she announced one day that it was her birthday.

How old are you? he asked.

She still wouldn't tell. So he bought her white roses and showed up at her desk.

They started going for coffee together. A romance developed, and they began seeing each other outside of work. "He did everything he probably could to get me to fall in love with him," she would later tell authorities. (Marilyn and Fischbach both declined interviews with Scene. Details of their relationship were culled from police and court records.)

But there was a dark side to his attention. He seemed obsessive at times, showing up at inopportune moments when she was out of the office, just to say hi. He went through periods of not sleeping or eating.

Then there was his nickname. His friends called him "Psycho." It was even emblazoned on the back of his motorcycle helmet. When she was later asked why, Marilyn put it as delicately as she could: "He was a rather impulsive person."

Jeffrey angrily confronted Marilyn with the evidence of her affair, but she refused to talk about it, he says. He wanted to salvage their marriage. He told himself that she was just going through a midlife crisis, and he was concerned about the kids, especially when he learned of Fischbach's nickname.

"Are my children gonna have a stepfather whose nickname is 'Psycho?'" he wondered. "This guy could have control over my children's lives."

At the same time, Fischbach was trying to pull Marilyn out of the marriage. Divorced, with kids himself, he demanded that she leave her husband, going so far as to give her the business card of a good lawyer. "Either I got divorced, or he was just gonna try to end the whole thing," Marilyn told authorities.

Knowing that his wife's affair was continuing, Jeffrey began spying on her. He hooked a recorder to a spare phone jack and taped her calls. He covertly installed a GPS unit in her car to track her movements. He found out Fischbach's address and cruised by, looking for his wife's car. Marilyn's two worlds were soon to collide.

It happened one spring day, a few months after Jeffrey had discovered proof of the affair. He called his wife's work about an hour after she was supposed to arrive and learned that she hadn't shown. So he drove to Fischbach's house, where he found Marilyn's car. Jeffrey banged on the door.

"Where's my wife?" he demanded.

She came out. They argued, then left in separate cars. But when he tried to talk about it later, she begged off, he says. Her way of dealing with the conflict was to avoid it.

A month or two later, Jeffrey ran into Fischbach again. It was on West 6th Street, near the Metropolitan, the upscale restaurant where Jeffrey worked. Fischbach and two fellow cops had stopped at the nearby Starbucks.

Jeffrey was talking to his wife on his cell phone when he saw Fischbach walk out the door. "Your boy's right here," Jeffrey told his wife. Then he went to confront Fischbach.

"Stay the fuck away from my wife," Jeffrey said, sticking a finger in Fischbach's face.

Jeffrey walked away, toward work, and heard one of the cops taunting him as he left.

Several months later, in August, Fischbach's father, a retired police officer, passed away. Marilyn told Fischbach that she wanted to attend the funeral.

Jeffrey learned of his wife's plans from the secretly tapped phone. He found the obituary in the paper the next day. The funeral was to be held at Our Lady of Angels Church on Rocky River Drive. Jeffrey decided to show up.

He planned to leave a note on his wife's car to let her know he had caught her red-handed. But when he saw his wife rise to receive communion, he was filled with rage.

"You're going to stand up in front of God and take the blood and the flesh of Christ as an adulteress with your adulterer?" he thought.

So he sprang from the pew and intercepted her in line. "Fuck you," he whispered to her.

She begged him not to make a scene, and he walked away. But the skirmish caught the attention of some cops in attendance. One of them, Officer Brian Fischer, recognized Jeffrey from the Starbucks confrontation and told Fischbach.

Fischbach wasn't about to let Jeffrey get away with this disrespect.

"Hello?" Fischbach answered his phone.

"Don't hang up," Marilyn said.

Fischbach was in no mood to talk. In fact, he told her, they might never talk again, "because what happened the other day is unforgivable."

"What happened the other day?" she asked innocently.

"Somebody coming to my dad's funeral that shouldn't be there," he answered.

"I didn't know he was gonna do that," she protested.

"Ah, bullshit," he said.

"How would I know?"

"Because that dude's an asshole," he answered.

She tried to explain, but Fischbach cut her off.

"That dude's a straight-up fucking freak," he said. "And you know what? He gets paid back tonight."

Marilyn explained that she only saw her husband when she got up to take communion.

"I'm gonna give him a communion, all right," Fischbach said.

"If I knew he was ever gonna be there, if I ever thought that, then I just wouldn't have gone," Marilyn said. "Are you there?"

He had hung up, but the conversation had been caught by Jeffrey's phone tap.

Marilyn called Jeffrey's cell to warn him. He didn't answer, so she left a message: "I kind of heard that it wasn't appreciated too much you were at the funeral, and I don't know. Just be careful wherever you are. Bye."

She also left a message for him at work. When Jeffrey returned the call, she warned him to watch his back.

That night, Fischbach, Brian Fischer, and their supervisor, Lieutenant Robert Stitt, worked traffic detail for the Indians game. Afterward, they changed into civilian clothes and went to the Velvet Dog for drinks. They planned to confront Jeffrey Moore about his appearance at the funeral. A little after midnight, they arrived at the Metropolitan.

What happened next is in dispute, but Jeffrey's version of events seems the most plausible, because it's supported by independent witnesses.

In the dim light of the restaurant, Jeffrey didn't notice Fischbach at first. Stitt ordered up three beers, and Jeffrey brought them over, then left to serve other customers.

A few minutes later, Jeffrey saw Fischbach staring and recognized him. It looked like his wife's warning was about to come true. Jeffrey pointed out Fischbach to one of the barmaids; this was the guy his wife was seeing, he told her, the one he had been warned to look out for. Jeffrey turned his back to Fischbach and patted it, as if to say, "I'm watching my back."

But he worried that the cops would lie in wait for him when he left work. He imagined being left in a Dumpster. Better to confront them in public, he decided. So he went to the bar, picked up Fischbach's beer, and remarked, "I shouldn't even serve you. I thought you didn't drink."

Stitt protested that they were good, paying customers and that Jeffrey shouldn't talk to them like that.

Jeffrey went to clean up some glasses left by another customer and put them in a dish rack in the kitchen. When he walked back out, he saw Officer Fischer smirking.

Jeffrey confronted him.

Suddenly, Stitt rushed Jeffrey and gave him a two-handed shove to the chest. Jeffrey bent backward over a railing, then rebounded to push Stitt back.

The three cops sprang into action. Fischbach grabbed Jeffrey. Punches rained down. Jeffrey tried to defend himself, but he was overpowered. He crumpled to the ground, where the beating continued. His head was stomped. Light flashed through his brain. He felt he would lose consciousness.

Then, as quickly as it started, it was over. Jeffrey doesn't know how it stopped. The cops walked out, complaining about Jeffrey and threatening to sue.

Jeffrey was left to nurse his wounds. His lips were puffy and bloody, his face swollen and scraped. He put some ice on the swelling and finished his shift. Before he went home to his wife, Jeffrey stopped at the Justice Center to file a complaint.

When Internal Affairs got word, Fischbach offered his version of that night, telling the investigator that the incident had been blown out of proportion. It was just a shoving match, he claimed. No one was punched or kicked.

"If someone made the statement that you said you were gonna go over to the Metropolitan and give him some 'communion,' would that be an accurate statement?" the investigator asked.

"No sir," Fischbach said. But the traffic cop was lying; his words had been taped.

Fischbach was charged with dereliction of duty, assault, and menacing. At trial, he pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, John Carlin, claimed Fischbach had gone to the bar on a mission of peace, to tell Jeffrey the affair was over. It was Jeffrey who had been the aggressor and started the fight, he argued.

But the story didn't hold up. Jeffrey and his wife testified about the advance warning. The officers couldn't keep their stories straight -- Stitt seemed to contradict Fischbach and Fischer by saying that they had gone to the Metropolitan to get food, not talk about the affair. And several independent witnesses supported Jeffrey's account of the events.

In his closing argument, Chief City Prosecutor Anthony Jordan beseeched the court to send a message: "We don't care if you pass out tickets for a living," Jordan said. "We want you to be a law-abiding citizen. And if you don't, you're going to be brought to court, and you are going to be met with the full force of the law."

Judge Mabel Jasper agreed, convicting Fischbach on four misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail, $1,600 in fines, and 100 hours of community service.

The other two officers, who maintain their innocence, are still awaiting trial, and Fischbach has appealed. But the court may be the least of their worries. When the legal proceedings finish, they'll face the challenge of trying to keep their jobs. Moreover, Jeffrey has filed a civil suit against the officers and the city.

Although Fischbach's conviction was a victory for Jeffrey, it brought cold comfort. Under questioning at trial, Marilyn revealed that she had slept with Fischbach even after the beating. Jeffrey was stunned. "That's it," he now says. "If she wants to be with him, she can be with him. I don't even care anymore."

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