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Over the next year, Cruise's relationship with officials in the Miami field office steadily eroded. He was told his performance wasn't satisfactory and was denied a promotion and pay increase. Gill made his life difficult by questioning his whereabouts and activities at all times and berating him for the smallest infractions. He was scheduled for a random drug test in March 1999 that turned out to be not so random because a supervisor had added his name to the list. (An EEOC investigator noted in June 2000 that the Secret Service was unable to verify Cruise was randomly selected.) At the time Cruise chalked it all up to a bad interpersonal relationship with Gill, who had the power to make him squirm. He asked his dad for advice and got it: Work harder and keep your head down. "I was of the school where you keep your mouth shut, you don't make waves," Tom Cruise allows. "I regret that advice in hindsight."
Cruise's professional travails were undoubtedly linked to his personality, a younger, brasher version of his father's hard-charging self-assuredness that probably came across as arrogance in a twentysomething agent. Especially in a blue-eyed, baby-faced New Englander who could easily pass for a high school student. "I've known Patrick since he was a boy," former U.S. postal inspector and family friend Roger Hunt confides. "He's a great kid and a good agent. There is a certain cockiness because he was raised in [the Secret Service]. He's got some of his father's experience along with his own." Tom Cruise concurs. "He grew up in the Boston Irish-Catholic way," he explains. "We are very parochial, and we think our way is the right way and being assertive is the way we get things done. Maybe they thought he didn't come in appropriately subdued, maybe that ruffled some feathers."
In April 1999 Patrick Cruise flew back to Miami from a protective mission in New York City. Somewhere between La Guardia Airport and Miami, American Airlines lost his luggage, he says. He informed his supervisor Gill, because his government pager was lost with the luggage. Cruise says Gill acted like he had stolen his own luggage to get money from the airline. The Secret Service launched an investigation into the incident that eventually resulted in a 30-day suspension for Cruise, allegedly for lying to airline personnel and misusing his office because he identified himself as an agent. Cruise, outraged, is appealing that decision.
The elder Cruise began calling and writing old friends in the service, asking for help in stopping what he felt had clearly become a campaign of harassment against his son. He found his former brothers often were reluctant to get involved and some even actively turned against him. The process has caused him to reexamine his feelings about the agency to which he had dedicated much of his life. "People that are members of the Secret Service are elevated in the eyes of their friends and community and also in their own mind," he speculates. Cruise says he couldn't believe it when a friend of 25 years told him that if the service was going after someone, he must deserve it. "It hurts more than anything in the world," he grumbles. "Being an agent was everything to me. I loved the job and I loved the people. Having my son want to follow in my footsteps was truly wonderful."
Together, close-knit father and son have formed their own investigative team and estimate they've sunk more than $175,000 into a legal defense. Tom works his contacts in the service and other government agencies to unearth information that could help his son. He has filed complaints with the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General against Frank Estrada and several other agency personnel, and attempted to have two Secret Service attorneys disbarred in their respective states for their actions in regard to his son's case.
The legwork has proved useful. For instance Tom learned that when his son was in the hospital in September 1999, Poitras wasn't the only special agent who had been instructed by superiors to get his medical records. The father claims another special agent asked his wife, a clerk at the hospital at the time, to steal Patrick Cruise's medical-record information prior to Cruise giving the Secret Service the right to have them. He thinks Poitras then lied to Cruise to get him to sign a medical release form so the records could later be used to fire and prosecute him.
Indeed the service attempted to get the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida to file criminal drug charges against Cruise, based only on the hospital toxicology report later proven false by more tests. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined the case. (After Patrick had recovered from mono and returned to work, the agency put him on administrative leave for three months while it investigated possible drug use. A rigorous drug test of Cruise's hair proved the hospital report wrong. The service was also notified in a letter from Dr. Christopher Holland, a senior medical-review officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, that the hospital testing was not reliable enough to justify "any significant punitive action against this agent based solely on this drug test result.")