In Los Angeles, an agent guarding former President Ronald Reagan was found guilty in 1997 of having sex with a 16-year-old girl, possession of methamphetamine, and violently resisting arrest. The case came to light when the girl's father—a close friend of Agent Timothy O'Brien's—saw his daughter returning from the agent's house next door one morning, wearing only pajamas. Testimony indicated that O'Brien had sex with the girl for hours, often night after night, then gave her tabs of methamphetamine, or "speed," to help keep her awake during school the next day. When the girl's father confronted O'Brien, the agent drew his service weapon and threatened to shoot him, says William Pounders, the Los Angeles Superior Court judge who presided over O'Brien's trial. O'Brien was arrested at gunpoint but only after a brawl with two officers, in which one was injured. While O'Brien was not charged with perjury, in court, he lied repeatedly, says Richard Rosenthal, the Los Angeles County prosecutor who handled the case. "He was the worst perjurer I think I saw," Rosenthal said, "in 15 years of being a prosecutor." Pounders says, "In 18 years as a judicial officer, I have never had another case involving so many violations of so many different laws by someone who should have been above reproach." Testimony indicated that O'Brien—who said he had done advance work for President George H. W. Bush and been given specialized counterterrorism training—had taken methamphetamine while on a training trip to Washington. He had not been drug-tested since 1991. "The testing was minuscule—shockingly minimal, considering the circumstances," says James Blatt, O'Brien's attorney. "This was an eye-opener for all of us. We all thought of the Secret Service as this mystical agency that could do no wrong. It's not the case." O'Brien, fired by the Secret Service, was sentenced to six years in prison.
In August 1999, Washington police were called to Lulu's Bar in Washington, "where every day is Mardi Gras," as the bar proclaims. Two men had gotten into an altercation in the restroom, patrons said, and it ended in a shooting that left both men injured. One was an Air Force enlisted man. The other was Secret Service Agent Manuel Puente, recently transferred to join the PPD. The injuries were not life threatening. Puente was told to leave the force. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
In October 1999, Kenneth Blake, a thief who scoured Chicago-area hotels to steal handbags, dropped in at the Fairmont Hotel, where then first lady Hillary Clinton was staying. Secret Service Agent Mary Drury, a member of the Clinton detail, was at a hotel bar with another agent around 11 p.m., in violation of a strict service policy against agents drinking while carrying a gun. When Blake pilfered her purse, he took her .357-caliber Sig Sauer service weapon. It was the second time Drury had lost her gun, several knowledgeable sources say, and she had been promoted a grade between the first and second incident. In another incident, in 1993, Drury was driving home from a Chicago bar when she rammed her government car into a Chicago Transit Authority bus so hard that several items flew out of the trunk. Drury has not received any significant sanction from the Secret Service. Drury did not return phone calls. The service declined to comment. Blake received a 40-month prison term.
Law enforcement is among the world's most demanding professions, and given their unique responsibilities, Secret Service personnel can face higher stress levels than most cops. Special agents outside Washington spend long stretches away from their families, traveling for at least 30 days every 10 weeks. Many in the capital say they're burned out from the long hours they've put in since September 11. Many uniformed officers have been told they must work on one of their normal days off. Agents posted at the service's 118 field offices nationwide regularly wind up dropping criminal investigations they're working on to take their turn on the PPD in Washington. If an agent working with or on the PPD is exhausted, angry, or compromised in some way, current and former agents worry, it could jeopardize the safety of the president or other protectees.