Regardless of who is right about the time, the service's draconian response to this infraction indicates there were other motives. As Patrick's attorney pointed out at a July 12, 2001, hearing seeking reinstatement, the service has never fired, or even suspended, another agent for such a minor transgression. The attorney also provided examples to the judge of cases in which other agents had committed much more egregious offenses, and received little or no punishment. In one case, he said, a Miami agent actually fell asleep while manning a command post down the hall from where President Clinton was staying. The agent was merely reprimanded and has since been promoted. Frank Estrada admitted in a deposition to storing his personal boat on government property, a misuse of office that could be ruled a felony if the service took the same hard line toward a high-ranking official as it has toward a lowly agent. Cruise doesn't believe Estrada will get more than a slap on the hand.
No matter what happens, 27-year-old Patrick Cruise's career in the Secret Service is over. Even if he wins in court, there's no way he will be able to enjoy success in such a small world where there will always be whispers and the threat of payback. At best he can hope to salvage his reputation by getting his job back, and then transfer to another federal agency. "It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember," Cruise bemoans. "Walking away in disgrace is not an option." Another option he's considering is suing the pants off the Secret Service and several of its members, who he believes violated the rules and even the law in their quest to destroy the only career he ever wanted. "I will fight the Secret Service until I die, and you can quote me," Cruise says in his strong Boston accent. "I'm going to get the bastards and prove everything they did."