September 4, 2010

Trooper facing accusation of sex on duty

At issue is whether engaging in the act was illegal or only a violation of department rules.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A longtime Maine State Police trooper is on administrative leave while the Attorney General's Office investigates an accusation that he compelled a woman to have sex with him while he was on duty, police sources say.

The trooper says the sex was consensual, which would violate the department's rules but not necessarily the law, the sources say.

The Department of Public Safety confirmed that a trooper is on administrative leave while being investigated for allegations of misconduct.

"An allegation was made against this trooper in early July. We referred it to the Maine Attorney General's Office and we have fully cooperated with their investigation," said the department's spokesman, Steve McCausland.

He said it is standard procedure to put a trooper on leave with pay while an attorney general's investigation is under way.

"We're not getting into the details of what the allegation was," McCausland said, including where the alleged incident occurred.

The Attorney General's Office would not confirm or deny the investigation.

Sgt. Michael Edes, president of the Maine State Troopers Association, said he was aware of the probe but could not comment on an unresolved personnel matter.

"There is an ongoing investigation that's now being handled by the AG's office against one of the troopers and we're waiting to see which way it goes," Edes said.

The Portland Press Herald is not naming those involved in the case.

The newspaper does not name people accused of sexual assault until they are the subject of court action.

The newspaper also does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.

According to sources, the incident occurred in July as the trooper was taking the woman from York County to a homeless shelter in Portland.

The woman was not under arrest and was being transported voluntarily after an incident in York County.

The woman later contacted Portland police and made a complaint. Officers there referred the case to state authorities after determining that the alleged incident happened outside the city's jurisdiction.

Portland police referred questions about the incident to state police or the Attorney General's Office.

Cyndi Amato, executive director of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, said sexual involvement by an officer on duty is wrong -- whether it's legal or not.

"If someone is trusting their safety to police to transport them from one place to another, whether in custody or not, there's that trust they are not going to cross a professional line to do anything to hurt the person," said Amato, who was unaware of the case.

"At the very least, it's a betrayal of trust. At the other end, it's an abuse of power."

An officer who engages in sexual conduct while on duty faces professional penalties, but whether such activity violates the law depends on the status of the sexual partner.

It is illegal for an officer to have sex with someone who is in police custody, even if force or the threat of force is not used, because the victim is in such a subordinate position that they lack the freedom to refuse or consent.

However, if a person who participates in a sexual act with an officer is not in custody and participates willingly, the case is not so clear-cut legally.

One recent case involving illegal conduct occurred when a Cumberland County corrections officer was arrested for having sex while on duty with an inmate who he said was his girlfriend.

The officer was fired, charged with sexual assault and sentenced to 60 days in jail in a plea agreement.

The Attorney General's Office is designated as the investigating agency when the subject of a probe is employed by the state police.

"We have arrangements with most of the state law enforcement agencies to essentially do any investigation that may involve allegations of criminal conduct," said Brian MacMaster, head of investigations for the attorney general.

The agency sometimes investigates non-state law enforcement officers who are involved in criminal conduct if it has enough manpower and another agency, such as a county sheriff's department, is not able to do so, he said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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