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Copyright 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.
Portland Press Herald (Maine)

June 24, 2005 Friday, Final Edition


City police officer pleads guilty to trespassing at woman's home

GREGORY D. KESICH Staff Writer

Portland

A Portland Police officer resigned and pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing Thursday after a woman complained that he had forced his way into her apartment to have sex.

Officer Stephen Taylor, 38, was fined $1,000 and will serve no jail time for the misdemeanor offense that put an end to his 18-year career with the department. The woman was in court and was satisfied with the plea, said Deputy Chief of Police William Ridge.

Taylor has been under investigation since April 24 when the woman, who was not identified by police, reported that she woke up April 19 to find the officer in her bedroom. Earlier that evening she had invited him over after his shift, she said, but had changed her mind and locked the door. Taylor used a tool from his truck to force open the lock and let himself in.

Taylor's lawyer, Peter Rodway, said his client's actions were not criminal but Taylor pleaded guilty to avoid the embarrassment of defending himself against more serious charges. He said Taylor is recently divorced and has two young children.

"He pleaded guilty because they were threatening to indict him with felonies that they couldn't prove," Rodway said. "Steve Taylor did the right thing and spared everybody the trauma of a trial."

According to Ridge, Taylor and the woman had known each other for some time. On April 19, she saw Taylor on patrol parked in his cruiser near the Forest Avenue Rite Aid and went over to talk with him.

She invited him back to her house, which is nearby, and they drank coffee. He returned to work, but at the end of his shift he came back to the house.

"The woman related that she told Officer Taylor that he could come back that night but later felt tired and opted to go to bed," Ridge said. "She locked her apartment door and outer storm door and went to bed."

Rodway said that the woman had asked Taylor to wake her if she was asleep when he came back. When she didn't answer the door, he used a tool to "slip the lock," Rodway said.

What happened next is in dispute.

Rodway said the woman told police that she felt she had no choice but to have sex with Taylor.

"She said the circumstance forced her to have sex with him," Rodway said. "She was claiming that she couldn't say no."

Taylor saw the situation differently.

"Not once did she say or do anything to make him think she didn't want to have sex," Rodway said. "To him, she was receptive."

While sexual assault did not become an issue in this case, Maine's law says a victim who feels threatened does not have a duty to resist an attacker.

Five days after the incident, the woman contacted another Portland police officer she knew and he encouraged her to make a complaint. Internal affairs investigators interviewed Taylor and the woman, and referred the matter to the district attorney's office.

Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam, who handled the prosecution, left the courthouse Thursday without speaking to reporters.

Taylor was hired in 1987 and has patrolled in Portland and on Peaks Island, Ridge said.

In 2001, Taylor was one of two officers involved in an excessive-force lawsuit that resulted in the city paying $600,000 to a criminal suspect who said he suffered a permanent brain injury after he was beaten by police.

At first Taylor reported that he had hit Vincent Dorazio with his baton, but he changed his report and said he had hit him with his gun. Taylor's false report damaged the city's case, leading to the settlement, according to the city's lawyers. He was suspended for 10 days June 14, 2001.

In 2002, District Attorney Stephanie Anderson announced that a grand jury cleared Taylor and Officer Kevin Haley of criminal wrongdoing. Anderson said that Dorazio's injuries had been overstated.

The incident, and a handful of other excessive-force lawsuits, brought tougher scrutiny on the police department, including a review by the U.S. Department of Justice. Rodway said that scrutiny could have contributed to the way authorities handled this case.

Taylor's guilty plea put an end to his criminal case. His resignation put an end to the internal affairs investigation, Ridge said. The criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify Taylor for police work, Ridge said.
 
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