Former Saratoga County sheriff’s Sgt. Shawn Glans was handed a $1,505 fine and given a one-year conditional discharge after admitting he slapped a Saratoga Springs man before ordering an illegal search of his car in November.
Glans, 48, abruptly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of official misconduct and a violation charge of harassment Tuesday afternoon in Halfmoon Town Court. In addition to the fine and conditional discharge, Justice Lester Wormuth ordered Glans to have no contact with Colin Fitch — the man he was accused of slapping — for a year.
Glans said little before he was sentenced, but as he left the proceeding, he acknowledged there was more going on during his fateful pre-dawn encounter with Fitch than is showed on an 86-second video recorded by Adam Roberts that went viral across the Internet last fall.
“At a later point,” he said when asked if he would discuss details of the incident. “Yes.”
Outside court, Matt Chauvin, Glans’ attorney, claimed his client was goaded by two individuals who had a history of suspect behavior at and around the Wal-Mart where they filmed him. He said the video didn’t show how the interaction escalated or what the men did to draw the ire of law enforcement.
“They were baiting Mr. Glans,” he said. “This interaction started in a joking fashion, very pleasant, all parties laughing. And the two individuals the officers had contact with that night were goading and baiting and pushing the buttons.”
Brandon Rathbun, an assistant prosecutor in the Washington County District Attorney’s Office who attended the hearing, requested Glans receive three years’ probation, undergo anger management and be assigned community service. Wormuth, however, sided with Chauvin’s request for leniency for Glans, who resigned from jobs at the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office and the South Glens Falls Police Department after the footage of him accosting Fitch went viral.
“We asked for more, but we respect the judge’s decision,” said Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, a special prosecutor assigned to the case after Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen recused herself.
Glans was among a trio of deputies who responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle observed behind a business on Route 236 in Halfmoon around 1:50 a.m. Nov. 7. The vehicle was later found unoccupied, but with a .22-caliber rifle in the back seat, parked outside the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 9. An attorney representing Fitch and Roberts in a civil matter arising from the incident claims the deputies tracked them down in the store and frisked them before demanding to search the vehicle. Video outside the store captured by Roberts on a cellphone shows Fitch refusing to consent to a search, which prompts Glans to slap him and wrest his keys from his hands.
Roberts points the camera away from the men before Glans makes physical contact with Fitch. The slap is only audible in the video, a point Chauvin reiterated outside court.
“The allegation there was a slap to the face we dispute categorically,” he said. “[Fitch] was making a fist and sort of gripping his keys and after having been goaded and baited and pressed and pushed, it sounds like there was a reaction [from Glans] … that reaction was off camera.”
The video was posted on the sheriff’s website later that evening, and Glans was quickly suspended. He was charged Nov. 10 with a misdemeanor count of official misconduct, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison. Fitch and Roberts filed a notice of claim against the county Nov. 11. Their attorney said the forthcoming lawsuit will also name Glans and will focus on the deputy’s violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
Asked by email to comment on Glans’ sentence, Fitch said the former deputy will never get what he deserves.
“He’ll walk free just like every other law enforcement officer that abuses their power,” he said. “It’s truly sad to see what this country is coming to.”
Chauvin said Glans decided to plead guilty to all charges after he deemed offers from Jordan unacceptable. He said Glans was punished enough by having to resign his jobs and retire from law enforcement over “one moment in time.”
“This is not someone who is a career criminal or who has a history of criminal offenses,” he said. “This is someone who served honorably for 27 years, both in the military and law enforcement.”