Paso case shows sex­ual mis­con­duct by po­lice should be treated as a crime

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE TRI­BUNE ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

District At­tor­ney Dan Dow is proud of his rep­u­ta­tion as a strong sup­porter of vic­tims of sex­ual as­saults.

He’s an avid pro­po­nent of the “Start by Be­liev­ing” school of thought, and his of­fice has taken on hard-to-win cases of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault. For ex­am­ple, it’s twice pros­e­cuted Rian Mabus, a man in his 30s who was ac­cused of rap­ing an in­tox­i­cated woman. Both tri­als ended in hung ju­ries, but the of­fice plans to pros­e­cute Mabus a third time.

That per­sis­tence made it even harder to fathom why the District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice de­cided not pros­e­cute dis­graced Paso Robles po­lice Sgt. Christo­pher McGuire for al­legedly rap­ing a woman he first met when he re­sponded to her home on a call of sus­pected do­mes­tic abuse.

If ever there was a case to put be­fore a jury, this seemed to be the one — not only for the sake of jus­tice, but also to re­store con­fi­dence that law en­force­ment of­fi­cers are not above the law.

Plus, there was DNA ev­i­dence: A sam­ple of se­men col­lected from the al­leged vic­tim’s garage matched McGuire.

But the District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice says that’s not enough. The DNA sam­ple is ev­i­dence that sex­ual ac­tiv­ity took place, but it doesn’t prove a rape was com­mit­ted.

This comes down to a he said/she said sit­u­a­tion, and when prose­cu­tors are de­cid­ing whether to pur­sue charges and they have two rea­son­able in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the ev­i­dence — one point­ing to rape and the other to con­sen­sual sex — “if one points to in­no­cence, you have to go with that,” Dow said dur­ing a meet­ing with The Tri­bune Ed­i­to­rial Board.

That point of law — com­bined with in­con­sis­ten­cies in the al­leged vic­tim’s story — led to the de­ci­sion against fil­ing charges, prose­cu­tors said.

TAR­GETS OF SEX ABUSE

It is not a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion to an ugly episode.

Whether or not the sex was con­sen­sual, McGuire was way out of line in hav­ing any sort of sex­ual con­tact with an al­leged vic­tim of do­mes­tic abuse, and

it’s out­ra­geous that he can’t be crim­i­nally pros­e­cuted.

As cliche as it sounds, we’re go­ing to say it: There ought to be a law. It’s rep­re­hen­si­ble to use a po­si­tion of author­ity to sex­u­ally prey on women who should be able to de­pend on po­lice to keep them safe.

Some states, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, do pro­hibit po­lice from hav­ing sex with de­tainees who are in cus­tody.

But it’s not just de­tainees who are vul­ner­a­ble, as re­searcher An­drea Ritche points out in an op-ed she wrote last year for The Wash­ing­ton Post.

“A 2015 in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Buf­falo News, based on a na­tional re­view of me­dia re­ports and court records over a 10year pe­riod, con­cluded that an of­fi­cer is ac­cused of an act of sex­ual mis­con­duct at least ev­ery five days. The vast ma­jor­ity of in­ci­dents, the re­port found, in­volve mo­torists, young peo­ple in job-shad­ow­ing pro­grams, stu­dents, vic­tims of vi­o­lence and in­for­mants.”

The same ar­ti­cle notes that sur­vivors of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence also are tar­gets.

“One of­fi­cer quoted in an in­ves­tiga­tive re­port by the Philadel­phia In­quirer said, ‘I would see women that were vul­ner­a­ble where I could ap­pear as a knight in shin­ing ar­mor.’ ”

RECORDS OF SEX­UAL MIS­CON­DUCT

In Cal­i­for­nia, a new law that took ef­fect the first of the year opens some po­lice dis­ci­plinary records to pub­lic scru­tiny, which at least makes it more likely that such episodes will be­come pub­lic.

For ex­am­ple, a pub­lic records re­quest re­cently un­cov­ered in­for­ma­tion about a po­lice of­fi­cer in Burlingame who was fired for of­fer­ing to help a woman with her DUI case in ex­change for sex.

The case had been re­ferred to the San Ma­teo District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, but it de­clined to press charges.

“We ul­ti­mately de­ter­mined that there were no charge­able vi­o­la­tions that we could prove beyond a rea­son­able doubt,” a deputy district at­tor­ney wrote in re­sponse to a ques­tion from KQED.

Some ju­ris­dic­tions are push­ing back against mak­ing po­lice mis­con­duct records pub­lic.

The Tri­bune re­quested the county to re­lease all records in the McGuire case, but the re­quest was de­nied on Fri­day.

DISTRICT AT­TOR­NEY DAN DOW TOLD THE TRI­BUNE ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD HE MAY SPEAK TO LO­CAL LAW­MAK­ERS ABOUT THE NEED FOR STRICTER LAWS PRO­HIBIT­ING SEX­UAL MIS­CON­DUCT BY PO­LICE.

OTHER AL­LE­GA­TIONS AGAINST MCGUIRE

From a re­port that was leaked to The Tri­bune, we know there were mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against McGuire, who re­signed from the Paso Robles Po­lice Depart­ment in Oc­to­ber.

In ad­di­tion to the al­leged rape in­ci­dent, he also was in­ves­ti­gated for hav­ing con­sen­sual sex with an­other woman while on duty — some­times in a po­lice car. And, he was ac­cused of co­erc­ing yet an­other woman into ex­pos­ing her breasts by threat­en­ing her with ar­rest.

The District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice looked at “a lot of po­ten­tial charges” against McGuire, As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Eric Do­broth told us, in­clud­ing mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds, but it lacked the spe­cific in­for­ma­tion needed to make a case.

For ex­am­ple, the woman who re­ported that McGuire had threat­ened her with ar­rest un­less she “flashed” her breasts was un­sure what year the in­ci­dent oc­curred, Do­broth said, and since there is a three-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions on that crime, it was nec­es­sary to pin down a date.

But it’s McGuire’s re­la­tions with the al­leged rape vic­tim — as de­scribed in the sher­iff’s re­port leaked to The Tri­bune — that are es­pe­cially dis­turb­ing, start­ing with how he met her: He was in­ves­ti­gat­ing a re­port that her boyfriend had sex­u­ally as­saulted her.

At the end of the call, McGuire al­legedly stayed be­hind af­ter other of­fi­cers left, then bul­lied the woman, start­ing with a rep­ri­mand for call­ing him “of­fi­cer” rather than “sergeant.”

Ac­cord­ing to the woman’s ac­count to the in­ves­ti­ga­tor, McGuire then in­structed her to hug him, and he then grabbed her hand and placed it on his gen­i­tals.

The woman al­leged McGuire re­turned some days later, raped her in her garage and later threat­ened to con­tact Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices and have her chil­dren taken away from her if she told any­one about the in­ci­dents.

How­ever, there were in­con­sis­ten­cies that con­trib­uted to the pros­e­cu­tion’s de­ci­sion against fil­ing charges..

For ex­am­ple, the woman said she and her daugh­ter made some baked goods for the of­fi­cers who re­sponded to her home dur­ing the al­leged as­sault by her boyfriend. She called the Paso Robles Po­lice Depart­ment and left a mes­sage for McGuire to that ef­fect, which could be in­ter­preted as an in­vi­ta­tion to a po­lice of­fi­cer who, ac­cord­ing to the woman, had al­ready en­gaged in abu­sive be­hav­ior.

Again, pros­e­cu­tion should not hinge on whether or not McGuire was in­vited back into the woman’s home; he should not, un­der any cir­cum­stances, have used his author­ity to worm his way into her life in the first place.

All things con­sid­ered, we be­lieve jus­tice would have been bet­ter served had the case been brought be­fore a jury, though we agree cur­rent crim­i­nal laws would have made it hard to con­vict. That must change.

If it’s il­le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia for a ther­a­pist to have sex­ual re­la­tions with a pa­tient — which it is — doesn’t it fol­low that the same law should ap­ply to other pro­fes­sion­als who work in po­si­tions of author­ity and en­counter vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, es­pe­cially armed po­lice of­fi­cers?

Dow told The Tri­bune Ed­i­to­rial Board he may speak to lo­cal law­mak­ers about the need for stricter laws pro­hibit­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct by po­lice. That’s good to hear. We be­lieve Dow is truly se­ri­ous about sup­port­ing vic­tims of sex­ual abuse, and we strongly urge him to fol­low through.

JOE JOHN­STON jjohn­[email protected]­bune­news.com

As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Eric Do­broth, left, and District At­tor­ney Dan Dow held a news con­fer­ence in dis­cuss their de­ci­sion not to charge for­mer Paso Robles po­lice Sgt. Christo­pher McGuire with sex­ual as­sault.

Paso Robles Po­lice Depart­ment

McGuire re­signed from the Po­lice Depart­ment on Oct. 1.

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