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Trooper has been in trouble before; Target of prostitution probe escaped prosecution in 2002 incident

Titus Z. Taggart, the state trooper now the subject of a probe into bringing prostitutes from Canada into the United States, was also investigated a decade ago about a violent incident involving a woman on Chippewa Street.

Taggart, off-duty and in civilian clothes, was seen striking a woman in the face and knocking her to the pavement near the Chippewa Street bar district in early 2002, two law enforcement officials told The Buffalo News.

But Taggart caught a major break from the State Police when he was suspended for three days rather than being prosecuted criminally, the two officials said.

"We were surprised, and we wondered if he got special treatment because his father was a colonel in the State Police," said one official, who had direct knowledge of the incident and spoke to The News on the condition that his name not be published.

Witnesses, including two off-duty police officers, told police they saw Taggart and the woman, both dressed in flamboyant clothing, near a parking ramp adjacent to the Chippewa Street entertainment district, the source said.

Taggart made vulgar remarks to the woman, and when she responded with a crude remark, he struck her in the face, causing her to fall, the witnesses told police.

Buffalo Police detectives initiated a criminal investigation but soon after were contacted by State Police, who asked to take over the investigation.

"From our point of view, it should have been handled as a criminal case," said the law enforcement official.

Sgt. Kern Svoboda, State Police spokesman in Albany, declined to comment on why Taggart was suspended or to discuss the possibility that he received favorable treatment because of his father's position.

"It's all speculation. If you could show me some documentation, we could go from there," Svoboda said. "We're prohibited by law from releasing the results of a personnel matter. We're not going to comment on this."

Law enforcement officials recalled Taggart's suspension last week after he was suspended in connection with an internal investigation into prostitution parties allegedly run by him and other troopers.

The News was unsuccessful in repeated efforts to reach Taggart, 41, of Amherst.

He is assigned to patrol the Thruway in Western New York. His father, Arthur Taggart Sr., is a retired State Police colonel.

A reporter did speak to Taggart's cousin, Derrick Luchey, a former state trooper who was kicked out of State Police after being convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 1990s.

Luchey defended his cousin, saying he is wrongly accused of running prostitution parties.

"Maybe people think I don't have the best credibility, but [Taggart] is a good kid. These allegations against him are false," Luchey told The News. "They take some information, and they turn it around against you. That's what they do."

Taggart's father, the retired Lt. Col. Taggart, won numerous honors and commendations for his work with the police agencies.

Luchey was a trooper from 1985 until 1992. He also ran a Buffalo collision shop. He was arrested in early 1990 on felony state drug charges, after authorities accused him of running a Buffalo drug network with cocaine imported from New York City.

While he was awaiting trial in that case and was confined to his home, Luchey was arrested on a federal drug trafficking charge in June 1991. In the federal case, he was charged with selling 2 pounds of cocaine to an informant working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In December 1992, Luchey was sentenced to 20 years to life in state prison by the late Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski.

Rogowski called Luchey a "disgrace" to law enforcement, noting that he was dealing drugs while on active duty as a trooper.

Luchey later pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in the federal case, but in light of his lengthy state prison term, the federal judge added no more jail time.

According to state records, Luchey was released on parole in October 2004 and released from parole supervision in 2007. He now runs a Buffalo business that sells T-shirts and other clothing.

"[Luchey] is living a quiet, law-abiding life, and I'm very proud of him," said John V. Elmore, a Buffalo attorney who represented Luchey and knows his family.

Elmore declined to comment on the Titus Taggart allegations.

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com