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'Things don't get much worse than this case,' chief says


By Jon Murray and Vic Ryckaert
The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS - An incident that led to an Indianapolis police officer being charged with rape Thursday began, prosecutors say, with a proposition.
"I'm going to give you an option," officer Anthony S. Smith reportedly told a woman with an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. "I can lock you up, but I really don't want to . . . or you can ride with me for an hour."
Marion County prosecutors filed charges of rape, criminal deviate conduct and other crimes, saying Smith later forced the 19-year-old woman to have sex with him or go to jail.
"Things don't get much worse than this case," Police Chief Michael Spears said during a news conference with Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. "These allegations are horrific. . . . This officer used his authority and position, allegedly, to satisfy his own desires."
The charges made public against Smith, 36, ended days of speculation fueled by a tight-lipped Police Department that refused to release many details. Smith turned in his gun and badge Aug. 15 -- the same day as the alleged rape -- and the chief recommended his termination Monday.
Public Safety Director Scott Newman said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's openness to investigating its officers had been proved repeatedly this year. Ten officers have been charged, jailed or investigated for alleged wrongdoing.
"If what has been going on for the last several months is an attempt to cover up police misconduct, it is the most spectacularly unsuccessful cover-up in history," Newman said.
The affidavit in Smith's case says the officer first denied the allegations but then asked to revise his statement. He then admitted to investigators that he engaged in sex with the woman. But he said it was consensual and denied threatening her with arrest.
Spears said investigators aren't done with Smith's case. They will look at other traffic stops by Smith to look for any patterns of conduct.
Among the evidence recovered from Smith's patrol car were condoms kept in the trunk.
The Indianapolis Star generally does not identify victims of sexual assaults.
Smith faces seven felony counts of rape, criminal deviate conduct, sexual misconduct and official misconduct and two misdemeanor counts of intimidation. The rape and deviate conduct counts each carry a penalty of six to 20 years in prison.
The incident began shortly after midnight at an Eastside gas station, where the officer discovered the woman's warrant for criminal conversion, a form of theft.
She accompanied Smith on several runs, a probable cause affidavit says. When the officer was outside the car, she made several cell phone calls to her boyfriend to tell him she was scared, the document says.
Police checked dispatch sheets to verify that Smith's runs that morning matched those described by the woman. Also, they confirmed the woman's phone calls to her boyfriend, the affidavit says.
Public safety officials said they would review whether investigators attempted to conceal the fact that one of their colleagues had been accused of rape after The Indianapolis Star inquired about the lack of details released in the Smith case.
A police report filed Friday lists the victim's name, birth date, address and home phone number. But its four-sentence narrative says only that the suspect is a black male, omitting the victim's statement that her attacker was an IMPD officer or that she was assaulted in a police car.
"That seems very unusual," Henry Karlson, a retired professor of criminal law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, said about the report's omission. "That would be a significant investigative factor. . . . That is troubling because it is a relevant consideration for the general public to know this is going on."
Officer James Barleston Jr., who wrote the report, could not be reached for comment, but Spears said Thursday that regardless of the report's contents, both criminal and internal investigations began immediately.
Spears said, "The fact of the matter is we received it, we documented it, we started an investigation, and he was out in a matter of two days."
Mayor Greg Ballard's office referred inquiries into the case to Newman.
"We will prevail upon the IMPD command staff to make clear that reports involving any criminal conduct by a police officer should be treated the same as any other citizen," Newman said.
"The same information has to be provided. Everyone will have to trust in the fairness of the process. That fairness involves openness."
Smith joined IMPD in April 2007. He is on suspension without pay pending his termination by the Merit Board.
This week, IMPD announced other incidents involving a falsely reported traffic accident and activity with a prostitute. Those cases resulted in the pending dismissals of two IMPD officers and the resignation of a civilian employee.
Karlson praised brass for an apparent "zero tolerance" policy toward any level of misconduct.

Wire Service
 
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