An Alabama State trooper post commander was recently convicted of a sexual misconduct and sentenced to the maximum one-year in prison allowable for a Class A misdemeanor.
However, our Birmingham sex crimes defense attorneys have learned that the 51-year-old defendant in this federal case is requesting a change of the language in his Judgment and Commitment Order, written by the judge handling the case.
Specifically, he is asking that reference to the word “rape” be removed from that sentencing order. In a motion filed by his attorney, the request addresses the use of the word “rape.”
It’s a fair request. “Rape” and “sexual misconduct” mean two very different things from a legal standpoint, and use of either term should not be used flippantly or without careful consideration.
The judge in this case wrote that the defendant used his position and authority as a trooper to coerce a 20-year-old female to engage in sexual contact with him. Technically, it is not the way we would define the crime of rape Code of Alabama 13A-6-61.
Sexual misconduct, as defined in Code of Alabama 13A-6-65 holds that a person engages in sexual intercourse where consent was obtained by the use of any fraud or artifice.
The penalty difference between rape and sexual misconduct is huge. Rape is a Class A first-degree felony, punishable by a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 99 years in prison. Sexual misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor, is punishable by a maximum of 12 months.
In this case, the 26-year veteran trooper (who had served as both captain and chief of the Birmingham post prior to this incident) was reportedly in uniform behind the woman at a self-scan store. As he watched her scan her items, he realized she did not scan and pay for one of her items. He then proceeded to follow her out of the store and approached her. He showed her his badge, told her why she had followed her and requested her name and phone number. He said he would talk with the store and see how they wanted to proceed and that he would be in touch.
Several days later, he called her and said the store had agreed to leave the matter to him. He requested that she meet him at a gas station. He was in his patrol car. He patted her down for a wire and told her that she could potentially be facing felony charges. He said he would “make it go away” if she engaged in certain sexual acts with him.
Later, the case was reported. He was fired and arrested. He later pleaded guilty to the sexual misconduct charge, and his 12-month sentence was suspended in favor of two years of probation.
However, the issue over the wording of the order is important. That’s why his attorney is requesting the word “sexual act” be used instead of “rape.”
First, his attorney argued, rape is not an accurate legal description of what occurred. And secondly, that word could negatively impact his security ratings with the federal Bureau of Prisons, as well with future employment prospects.
The judge has yet to rule on the matter.