John Patrick Magaw, brother of Trainer Police Chief James Magaw, told police he was high on PCP on New Year's Eve 2004 when he caused a nasty three-vehicle accident in Chester.
Yesterday - more than two years later - John Magaw was sentenced. But he wouldn't have been prosecuted at all if not for a tip to the Delaware County district attorney last year.
The state Attorney General's Office is trying to determine why Magaw's case - and those of at least two other relatives of the chief - slipped through the cracks.
According to witnesses, John Magaw, 48, of Trainer, was barreling down Fourth Street around 1:45 a.m. when he hit a car driven by Chester resident Samuel Johnson.
Magaw then sideswiped a minivan, struck a church handrail, and flipped his truck in an empty lot, according to the police report. Johnson was treated at a hospital for back and neck injuries and has since filed a civil suit against Magaw.
Magaw was booked by Chester police, but the paperwork disappeared. That was nearly 2 1/2 years ago.
Appearing yesterday before Delaware County Senior Judge Charles Keeler, John Magaw pleaded guilty to three counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of reckless driving. A spokesman for the district attorney said there was insufficient evidence to make the DUI charge stick.
"As Mr. Magaw stands here, he's probably lucky to be alive . . . as are the two individuals who were struck," said Assistant District Attorney Michael Dugan.
Magaw was sentenced to six years' probation, fined $850, and ordered to pay more than $15,000 in restitution.
The case sparked a probe by the attorney general's corruption unit that began last November and in recent weeks has stretched into the Chester Police Department.
Investigators have interviewed several Chester police officers, according to police sources. They're chasing down allegations that the charges against John Magaw were buried and that Chief Magaw's stepson, John Raymond "Johnny Buck" Elliott Jr., eluded prosecution for at least one alleged assault.
The case could be headed for a grand jury if investigators don't get the cooperation they want.
Chester Police Commissioner John Finnegan said yesterday his department had acted properly and has nothing to hide.
"We don't have any problem with [the investigation] at all," Finnegan said. "If something was done, we'd rather find out about it."
Elliott, 26, of Chester, has since been charged with gunning down a Chinese-restaurant owner last summer and is awaiting trial next month for first-degree murder.
State investigators have also questioned Trainer officials regarding a third relative of the chief's, according to a letter obtained by the Daily News.
In a December 2006 letter from Trainer Police Officer Chris Kimball to Trainer Mayor Eugene Maysky, Kimball alleged that the chief "took care" of a speeding ticket for his stepdaughter, Kristen Elliott, in early October - after Kimball logged the charges in the borough's computer system.
It wasn't until six weeks later, when news of the attorney general's investigation broke, that a police secretary hand-delivered the citation to district court, according to Kimball's letter.
"It's a very active and ongoing investigation," said Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett. Harley said at least one additional allegation has arisen involving a Magaw relative, but declined to provide details.
Chief Magaw, who has held the position since 1993, did not return phone messages yesterday. Meanwhile, morale is low in the Police Department, according to borough sources, but no one wants to publicly challenge the Magaw family, which has long been prominent in Trainer. The chief's mother, Mary Magaw, chairs the local Republican Party, and his stepdaughter, Shannon Elliott, is on the borough council.
"If you speak up, you're taking your job in your hands," said one borough employee, who asked that he not be named for fear of retribution.
"It's cutthroat down here," he said. "It really is." *