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Sunday, April 13, 2008

[MD] "I didn't know if I called 911, if he'd come back"

A judge on Monday cleared a former Salisbury Police Department officer [Tracy Ross Sparpaglione] of charges he raped a woman while on duty and in full uniform... After the rape accusation came to light, the Salisbury Police Department fired Sparpaglione four days later on May 30... His issued .45-caliber handgun remained holstered on his body during sex and he also held authority as the woman's arresting officer for an alleged domestic disturbance earlier... Baltimore attorney Leslie Stein, representing Sparpaglione, contended the sex was consensual. He also questioned the woman's credibility, pointing to previous psychiatric care she received and at least three separate occasions she alleged sexual offenses were committed against her...

As a woman I have to ask who it's okay to rape. If a woman has been raped or sexually assaulted before - she can't report rape again? She's used up her right to report? She's all raped up. For many of us that's personally frightening.

And women who have counselors or therapists can't report rape by officers? Exactly how many of us then can't complain if someone wearing a gun demands sex?

I keep separate files that I don't post here on this blog, of officers who are turned on by the parties they encounter when they are called out on a domestic report. There is a pattern.

These predators perpetrate with the power of their badge, clearly knowing how to pick their victims. They know how the story ends.

That an officer can even claim "consensual sex" when they are on duty & dealing with someone who's credibility has obviously been legally compromised - because the victim is party to a police report - is an outrage. That alone - even consensual sexual contact with a party of a police report - should be treated as a rape - or worse.
The imbalance of POWER in those situations demands that we as communities stop accepting this. Then officers who get-off on vulnerables would have to think twice about picking their potential victims straight off the report sheets of their work calls. Police can't screw the people they arrest, or those who they are specifically called out to protect. We allow this with our silence.

Kudos to Salisbury Police Department for firing this officer - but is he on his way to filing suit for wrongful firing, and reclaiming his badge, with backpay?


EXCERPTS FROM NEWS REPORTS LEADING UP TO LAST WEEKS ACQUITTAL OF OFFICER SPARPAGLIONE. HOW THINGS WORK:

Former Salisbury Cop Indicted on Sex Charges
WBOC-TV 16
Kye Parsons
06/04/2007; Updated 06/05/2007
A Wicomico County Grand Jury on Monday indicted a recently fired Salisbury police officer who is accused of raping a woman he arrested late last month. Twenty-six-year-old Tracy Ross Sparpaglione of Laurel, Del., was indicted on second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offense, misconduct in office and first- and third-degree burglary charges. The grand jury indictment indicates that on the date of May 26, Sparpaglione arrested a Salisbury woman for second-degree assault. Following the woman's release later that day, Sparpaglione allegedly went to her Priscilla Street home and raped her, according to the grand jury statement of charges. After the rape accusation came to light, the Salisbury Police Department fired Sparpaglione four days later on May 30... Sparpaglione faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of second-degree rape...

Maryland Officer Accused of On-Duty Rape
The Daily Times
PJune 5, 2007
..."The Salisbury police officer, while on duty, is alleged to have engaged in very serious criminal activity," [State's Attorney Davis] Ruark said. "Mr. Sparpaglione faces very serious days ahead of him"... Salisbury Police Chief Allan Webster said Sparpaglione is "no longer an employee" of the department... According to court documents, on May 25, Sparpaglione arrested the victim at her residence on charges of second-degree assault after she allegedly struck her mother-in-law in the lip with a half-full water bottle. In the early morning hours of May 26, Sparpaglione allegedly used "trickery, fraud or subterfuge" to unlawfully gain access to her house, Ruark said. At this point, the alleged rape occurred... Sparpaglione was first suspended pending an initial investigation by the Salisbury Police Department and the Maryland State Police. He was discharged May 30, four days after the allegations surfaced...

Charged with rape, ex-officer posts bail
The Daily Times
Greg Latshaw
June 7, 2007
An ex- Salisbury patrolman charged with raping a woman he had arrested during Memorial Day weekend was released from jail Wednesday after posting $150,000 bail... Bail was granted because Sparpaglione , who has been married for three years and may already have new work ties to the area, doesn't pose a "significant risk" of fleeing future court appearances, Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge Donald Davis said... Sparpaglione has been charged with second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses, first- and third-degree burglary, and misconduct in office. Four of the six charges are felonies, and he could face 30 years in prison if convicted, said State's Attorney Davis Ruark... SPD officials have declined to comment on the ex-officer's performance record, citing it as a personnel matter... Assistant State's Attorney Patrizia Coletta had requested there be no bail or that it be set at no less than $250,000... the trial date will be set in about two weeks...

Trial to begin for officer charged with rape
The Daily Times
Greg Latshaw
October 3, 2007
Opening arguments are scheduled today in the trial of an ex- Salisbury patrolman accused of committing rape and burglary while on duty...

State delays rape case against ex- police officer
The Daily Times
Greg Latshaw
October 4, 2007
The Wicomico County State's Attorney's Office withdrew its case Wednesday against the ex- Salisbury patrolman charged with rape, but vowed to recharge him again in November. The legal maneuver, declared in court before Wednesday's trial, buys more time for investigators to analyze DNA evidence and will give the 19-year-old victim more time to heal, State's Attorney Davis Ruark said... "The state elected not to proceed at this time ... because of the traumatization of the victim, who is still undergoing the healing process, and also because issues of evidence still need to be resolved through analysis"... "A 'Nolle Pros' (declaration) is a temporary dismissal of the case," State's Attorney Davis Ruark said. "( Sparpaglione ) knows he will be recharged. The defense team knows he'll be recharged." Though "unexpected," the decision to drop the charges now helps the State's Attorney's Office to build the "strongest possible case" in the future, Ruark said. Prosecutors will seek a new grand jury indictment before Nov. 15 that "may include additional charges," he said... At this point, the alleged rape occurred, according to court records...

Ex-officer re-indicted on rape, burglary charges
The Daily Times
Greg Latshaw
October 24, 2007
A former Salisburypolice officer accused of rape and burglary while on duty was indicted Monday for the second time by the Wicomico County Office of the State's Attorney. Tracy Ross Sparpaglione , 27, of Laurel was first indicted by a grand jury in June, but charges were withdrawn Oct. 3 (the day of his trial) when prosecutors gave a notice "not to proceed" and formally dropped charges... Sparpaglione , who had not turned himself in as of Tuesday afternoon, originally posted $150,000 bail June 6...

Former officer acquitted of rape
Ex-Salisbury patrolman found guilty of misconduct on job

Salisbury Daily Times, MD
By Greg Latshaw
4/8/2008
A judge on Monday cleared a former Salisbury Police Department officer of charges he raped a woman while on duty and in full uniform, just hours after arresting her... His issued .45-caliber handgun remained holstered on his body during sex and he also held authority as the woman's arresting officer for an alleged domestic disturbance earlier, the prosecution argued. Baltimore attorney Leslie Stein, representing Sparpaglione, contended the sex was consensual. He also questioned the woman's credibility, pointing to previous psychiatric care she received and at least three separate occasions she alleged sexual offenses were committed against her. Ultimately, Judge Donald Davis found Sparpaglione guilty of committing misconduct in office... "The defendant, hands down, has conducted himself in the most unprofessional and disgraceful manner than what I've ever heard before," Davis said before clearing Sparpaglione of three sex offenses and two burglary charges. (But) I'm not persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt"... Sparpaglione testified he lied to the woman when telling her he returned to her residence later that night "just to check up on her." He actually had to finish a portion of the initial police report, which catalogues the facial features of a person arrested, he said. Sparpaglione said he did not want to admit this oversight to the woman... During intercourse, Sparpaglione testified he remained clothed in his police uniform and utility belt, which included a loaded firearm, baton and mace. Stein, in questioning the woman, asked why she did not cry out or fight the sexual act from occurring. She responded: "One, he's a police officer. Two, he's armed. Three, my son is in the next room." Stein also questioned why the woman did not shower, change her clothing or the bed sheets after sex. He also asked why she waited until the next day to report the offense -- especially when the same friend who had visited earlier came back later that night and she did not tell him of the alleged offense. "I was scared," she testified. "I didn't know if I called 911, if he'd come back"...

Ex-Cop Acquitted of Rape; But Ordered to Jail
wboc.com
04/07/2008
A Wicomico County Circuit Court judge has acquitted a former Salisbury police officer of charges he raped a woman while on duty soon after arresting her... Prosecutors argued that Sparpaglione intimidated the woman into having sex with him. But a defense attorney contended the sex was consensual and questioned the woman's credibility. The Wicomico State's Attorney's Office says there are no sentencing guidelines for misconduct in office. That means sentencing is entirely up to the judge's discretion.

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