No criminal charges will be filed against a veteran male Santa Fe Police Department detective who was accused of sexual assault by a female patrol officer in the department.
Public documents show the two cops offered different explanations of an encounter at the male officer’s home, no “rape kit” was collected, and the alleged crime was not reported until three days later.
First Judicial District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco last week sent a letter to State Police—the agency investigating the incident—saying the evidence doesn’t support prosecution.
“I have determined that the facts and evidence do not substantiate a criminal prosecution in this matter,” she wrote to State Police Sgt. Scott McFaul on Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old officer who made the accusations quit her job on Monday, and the 53-year-old man she once called her “mentor” is on restrictive duty pending the outcome of a personnel investigation that will determine whether any city policies or procedures were violated.
The patrol officer wrote in a resignation letter that she had to quit after less than two years on the job because the man she accused still works at the department and “he has friends there who are in positions of authority.” She also says the department lacks policies to deal with such incidents.
Police Chief Ray Rael indicated in public statements “that he did not believe my report and reinforced my opinion that I would be unable to return to work without reprisal,” she wrote.
Both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator were first placed on paid administrative leave. Then, the male officer was permitted to return to work while the female continued to take leave. She subsequently used all her sick time as well as sick time donated to her by other officers.
“I was not granted extended paid administrative leave by the City of Santa Fe to recover from a gender-based crime perpetrated by another officer in the police department,” she writes.
But police spokeswoman Celina Westervelt says the union contract covering officers “grants the authority to place an officer on paid leave only if they are under investigation for a serious criminal act in conjunction with an internal affairs investigation. So any other act of putting somebody under paid leave would be in violation of the union contract,” she says.
Westervelt adds that SFPD has one of the highest ratios of female officers in the state—“almost 15 percent female,” she says.
The patrol officer gave two interviews with State Police, recounting how she went to the detective’s home on July 31 after he told her about marital problems with his wife. To add another layer of complexity, his wife works at the Solace Crisis Treatment Center, an advocacy organization for sexual assault victims in Santa Fe. The couple had been friends with the female officer for years.
The patrol officer says the detective answered the door with his shirt off and she followed him to his bedroom, where he began kissing her.
“She replied, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no this is not gonna happen, this is not okay,’” the police report states.
“He ignored what she said,” the report says. “He pulled her into his body and pulled down her bra and started to kiss her breast.”
The woman told police that’s when she “froze and just let him and didn’t say anything else.” The report says she “felt like she should have been able to just pull away and leave, but she didn’t want to be rude.”
The detective performed oral sex on her, she told investigators, and afterward they talked about his wife. She also told investigators that the cunnilingus was “really enjoyable” and that she didn’t stop him.
“I just feel like I went out of my body and he didn’t stop,” the woman tells SFR of the incident over an hour-long interview in which she cried several times.
She told investigators that the detective “‘went down’ on her again and just kept doing it several more times. The last time he did it, she told him ‘Don’t do it again’ but he did.” Later, she says, the two briefly had sex at her suggestion, but he could not maintain an erection and did not ejaculate.
“She said she didn’t think the case was prosecutable,” an investigator wrote, “because there was no physical evidence.”
Claire Harwell, the project director of the Community Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence Project, is working as an advocate for the female officer in the case. She tells SFR the “vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by persons who know the survivor.”
She says if a sexual encounter begins with someone saying “No,” then that answer should be enduring.
“Why would we assume that we can go forward without an affirmative yes?” she says, adding that nonconsensual sexual encounters are violent acts in which a perpetrator takes possession of a victim’s body. “A very large majority of us freeze up as a result of being placed in that kind of fear,” she says.
The male detective’s version of events paints the encounter as consensual. He sat down with his attorney and State Police investigators to give a statement describing the night.
“He said no force was ever used during the incident,” the investigator wrote of the detective’s recollection. “Not at any time did [the female officer] say she did not want to have sex. She could have left the residence at any time. He did something stupid by being intimate with a friend, but did not commit a crime.”
The woman’s resignation letter alleges the incident occurred “due to a larger cultural problem within the department” that makes SFPD “a difficult place for female employees to work.”
“This city takes sexual harassment very seriously,” Santa Fe spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter tells SFR. “…We have a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.”
John Day, the female officer’s attorney, says no civil suit is being filed in relation to the incident.
“This is not about money,” he says.
Interim HR Director Sandra Perez replied to the female officer on Monday in her own letter that says the city is launching a sexual harassment investigation.
“I just hope this wasn’t for nothing,” the patrol officer tells SFR. “I hope this changes the culture at the department.”