If someone cheats you, you might go to the police. But what if the police have cheated you?
That’s what happened to him after he helped get an accused murderer off the street, says Steven Lawrence Sigal, 60.
Here’s his story: In February 2018, Sigal got a call from a man and woman he knew, asking if they could crash for a few days in the basement of his rowhouse near 17th and Dauphin in North Philly while they looked for a place to live. He agreed, and Michelle Waclawski, then 36, and Andrew Cruttenden, then 26, moved in.
Sigal was stunned to learn that her nephew, a suspect in the slaying, was the man living directly beneath his feet.
“I initially panicked, but then reached out to people I knew at homicide” from when he was a criminal defense attorney, he tells me. He surrendered his law license in 2010, after a couple of DUI busts that he says were brought on by a cocaine addiction. His big house, his Mercedes convertible, his profession were gone, and he was woke to how drugs were ruining his life.
These days he works in a law office as a paralegal. He lives with his three pet Shelties. He’s been clean and sober “since 6:30 this morning,” he says. “The only way I can approach my sobriety effectively is by taking everything one day at a time.”
Well, Sigal’s buddy in homicide directed his call to the right place, and cops from the homicide fugitive squad and the U.S. Marshals Service showed up at his home.
Sigal got his dogs out of the house and out of the way of the raiding party, which took Cruttenden and Waclawski into custody.
One of the cops mentioned to Sigal that he’d be eligible for a reward.
“I hadn’t even thought of that before,” he tells me.
Cruttenden pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years. ”I am directly responsible for him being brought to justice,” says Sigal.
The Crime Reward Fund, which is managed by the police commissioner, promises a reward for civilians who assist in the arrest and conviction of homicide suspects. Police Department Directive 8.13 promises “a standing cash reward of up to $20,000 for essential information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person for any homicide.”
Sigal applied for the reward and was turned down.
After a flurry of letters, his attorney, Tahir Mella, was notified Nov. 14 by the police commissioner’s special legal adviser, Francis Healy, that Sigal did not qualify for the reward. Citing language from the directive, Healy said a person must provide information “which is indispensable in establishing probable cause to arrest and convict any person or persons for homicide.”
Sigal did “not provide any information to establish probable cause,” wrote Healy. Sigal “provided the location of a homicide suspect and nothing more.”
The cops are “splitting hairs” and possibly settling old scores with a former courtroom nemesis, says his attorney, Mella.
In his letter, Healy sidestepped the issue that there was no need for Sigal to provide “probable cause” because Cruttenden was already wanted by police. Police did not make Healy available to me.
Attorney Mella has it right: The cops are splitting hairs. Sigal put the murderer right into their hands. What more did they want?
Cops often complain about a “no-snitch” culture.