Chester cop gets probation for sex assaults
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.