Ch­ester cop gets pro­ba­tion for sex as­saults

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS -

ME­DIA COURT­HOUSE » For­mer Ch­ester Po­lice Of­fi­cer Al­bert Dion Ross was given four years of pro­ba­tion and or­dered to reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender for 15 years un­der Me­gan’s Law af­ter plead­ing guilty to two counts of in­de­cent as­sault in two crim­i­nal cases Tues­day.

“I think that he should have got­ten more,” said vic­tim Carla Kirk­sey af­ter the hear­ing. “A slap on the wrist is what he got. It seemed to me that he wasn’t pros­e­cuted like a reg­u­lar civil­ian. The guide­lines should have been higher.”

Ross, 48, of Ch­ester, also pleaded guilty to one count each of ha­rass­ment and of­fi­cial op­pres­sion. All of the charges were mis­de­meanors of the sec­ond de­gree ex­cept ha­rass­ment, which is a third-de­gree mis­de­meanor.

Ch­ester City Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Otis Blair de­clined to com­ment Tues­day.

As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Christo­pher Boggs said the guide­lines for in­de­cent as­sault are pro­ba­tion to three months and of­fi­cial op­pres­sion is just pro­ba­tion.

“While I per­son­ally be­lieve that those are very low guide­lines, they are what they are and we have reached an agree­ment on th­ese charges,” he told Delaware County Com­mon Pleas Court Judge James Bradley.

Boggs also with­drew a third case at the out­set of Tues­day’s hear­ing be­cause he said the com­mon­wealth did not feel there was enough ev­i­dence to pur­sue those charges. Ross was rep­re­sent­ing him­self but had de­fense at­tor­ney Daniel Dono­hue on hand as stand-by coun­sel.

Ross was ini­tially charged in Au­gust 2017 fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by county De­tec­tive Robert Lyth­goe into claims that he had in­ap­pro­pri­ate non-con­sen­sual sex­ual con­tact while on duty with a woman when an­swer­ing a call for ser­vice at her res­i­dence on May 20, 2017.

The woman told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Ross placed the butt of his flash­light down the front of her tank top, be­tween her breasts, and stated, “Let me see,” re­fer­ring to her breasts.

Two more women came for­ward in the fol­low­ing months. One said he had asked to give her a hug while they were talk­ing and then grabbed both of her breasts, while the other said he had as­saulted her in an el­e­va­tor in the build­ing where the Ch­ester Po­lice De­part­ment is lo­cated by kiss­ing her, lift­ing her shirt, and plac­ing his mouth and hand on her breasts.

“As a woman and civil­ian I was took by sur­prise of a man in his po­si­tion to do such a thing to peo­ple like us,” Kirk­sey, the el­e­va­tor vic­tim, told Bradley Tues­day. “I would ask you to take into con­sid­er­a­tion how we feel out here, the things we have to go through to pro­tect

our­selves, and give him the harsh­est sen­tence that can pos­si­bly be im­posed on him.”

Bradley said he is typ­i­cally in agree­ment with sen­tenc­ing guide­lines, but shared Boggs’ mis­giv­ings about them here.

“In this par­tic­u­lar case, un­for­tu­nately, I think the guide­lines don’t be­gin to re­flect the grav­ity of the in­jury that this man has com­mit­ted,” Bradley said. “I’m hop­ing the Leg­is­la­ture will re­visit that is­sue and make the guide­lines ap­pro­pri­ate to the type of con­duct that’s in ques­tion here.”

The judge noted Ross has lost his job, which he said is “the min­i­mum that should have been vis­ited upon him,” and de­scribed him as a “dis­grace.”

“While Mr. Ross is ob­vi­ously a dis­grace to the badge and the uni­form, and to all the de­cent men and women who wear that uni­form, he is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of law en­force­ment,” Bradley said. “He is, un­for­tu­nately, a very rare bad egg.”

Ross was hired by the Ch­ester Po­lice De­part­ment in May 2013, but was rel­e­gated to cler­i­cal work and sup­port help be­cause lead­ers in the de­part­ment were con­cerned about his con­duct to­ward women dur­ing pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ment at the Ch­ester Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, the county prison in Con­cord and the Darby Bor­ough Po­lice De­part­ment, ac­cord­ing to sources.

Sources said po­lice lead­er­ship had fought against Ch­ester City Coun­cil hir­ing Ross due to those past is­sues. For three years, Ross worked in­side the de­part­ment with­out his cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Mu­nic­i­pal Po­lice Of­fi­cers Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Com­mis­sion but earn­ing a full po­lice of­fi­cer’s salary of $36,986. He was as­signed nor­mal street duty in early 2016 af­ter a se­ries of la­bor is­sues were set­tled, sources said.

Five of Ross’s al­leged vic­tims – in­clud­ing three in­volved in the crim­i­nal cases closed Tues­day – have also filed a civil suit in fed­eral court against Ross and the city al­leg­ing claims for due process, state cre­ated dan­ger, gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­ten­tional in­flic­tion of emo­tional dis­tress, and a Monell claim that the city ef­fec­tively es­tab­lished a cus­tom and pol­icy per­mit­ting sex­ual abuse by Ross and other of­fi­cers.

Ch­ester City Solic­i­tor Ken Schus­ter did not re­spond to a call seek­ing com­ment Tues­day.

“This was an un­for­tu­nate oc­cur­rence of events,” Ch­ester Mayor Thad­deus Kirk­land wrote in an emailed state­ment. “As things have un­folded over the course of sev­eral months, I re­main con­fi­dent in our ju­di­cial sys­tem, which is in place for mat­ters such as this.”

One vic­tim who asked to re­main anony­mous said she served as a judge of elec­tions for 20 years in the city, but Ross’s ac­tions de­stroyed her trust in po­lice of­fi­cers and the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

“I in­spired and en­cour­aged peo­ple to vote for this cer­tain po­lit­i­cal party, and come to find out that they knew Mr. Ross’s ac­tions and his be­hav­ior and his his­tory, and they still went against each other and hired Mr. Ross,” she said. “It has had a se­ri­ous ef­fect on me.”

“I’m just glad he got what he de­served,” said an­other vic­tim af­ter the hear­ing. “There’s been a lot of anx­i­ety. I’m just glad it’s over.”

“I’m sure that the vic­tims wanted a more se­vere penalty, but cer­tainly the penalty that he got is life-chang­ing,” said Ger­ard Schrom, rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiffs in the civil suit. “Me­gan’s Law is very strict and very harsh. He will have to re­port reg­u­larly and his life will never be the same. That’s the truth of it.”

As part of his sen­tence, Ross was or­dered to un­dergo a psy­cho­sex­ual eval­u­a­tion and com­ply with any rec­om­men­da­tions. He was also or­dered to stay away from the vic­tims. Pro­ba­tion will be overseen by the sex of­fender unit of Delaware County Adult Pro­ba­tion and Pa­role.

Al­bert Ross

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