Ex-officer testifies in rape suit

September 21, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

A former county police officer being sued by a woman who claims he raped her while on duty testified yesterday that she consented to have sex with him in his patrol car.

"I knew that I made a real bad mistake and the chances of me having a job were really slim," Michael Ziegler testified in U.S. District Court. "My emotions got the best of me, and it was a stupid thing to do."

Mr. Ziegler, who was an 18-year veteran of the force, was charged with rape in the Nov. 15, 1990, incident, but agreed to resign in March 1991 in a plea bargain with prosecutors. The rape charge was dropped and he was convicted of the lesser charge of police misconduct.

The Laurel woman filed a $70 million suit alleging that Anne Arundel police administrators were so tolerant of sexual harassment that it endangered women throughout the county.

Monday she testified that Mr. Ziegler stopped her near her former boyfriend's house in Pasadena after she left a local bar. She said she had been drinking, and he offered to drive her home instead of arresting her. But first, she testified, he took her to a church parking lot on Davidsonville Road and raped her in the front seat of his squad car.

But Mr. Ziegler testified that she fondled him and performed a sex act on him as he drove and that she agreed to have sex with him.

Under cross-examination, Mr. Ziegler said he had stopped the woman on 221st Street after he saw her driving without her lights on and weaving on Mountain Road about 1:30 a.m. She told him she did not want to be arrested because it would cause problems with her children, Mr. Ziegler testified.

Although Mr. Ziegler said he could smell the alcohol when she got out of the car and also thought he smelled PCP, he did not arrest her or perform a field sobriety test.

"I didn't think I had probable cause to arrest her and get a conviction based on the evidence I had," he said. "I had a soft spot in my heart after hearing her story and I did not want to cause her another problem."

The woman's lawyer, William Gately, questioned Mr. Ziegler's judgment and said the woman's blood alcohol content was .11 when she was taken to the hospital four hours after he stopped her. Under Maryland law, a blood alcohol content of .10 is considered the level of intoxication.

"What do you think it would have been four hours earlier?" Mr. Gately asked. Mr. Ziegler countered that alcohol affects people in different ways. He admitted that he would have gotten additional evidence if he had required a field sobriety test.

Mr. Ziegler also testified that when he pulled into the church parking lot, he and the woman began to kiss and he got out of the car to take his clothes off. He testified that he had sex with the woman on the front seat of the patrol car and then took her home. He said she did not protest. When she arrived home, the woman called police.

Mr. Ziegler also said he radioed dispatchers when he stopped the woman and then told them that he was finished. But he did not notify them, as required by department regulations, that he was driving a woman home.

Instead, he called his sergeant and told him he had to go home and check on his children and make sure the furnace was working. Mr. Ziegler did go home, according to his wife's written testimony.

Mr. Ziegler's lawyers contend that the woman is lying to make money from the case. A witness, Jeff Novotny, 33, testified yesterday that about two months after the incident, he saw the woman in a Crofton bar and she told him that she was not raped but thought she could get $100,000 if she claimed she was.

"I didn't particularly like Officer Ziegler. I was arrested by him and I don't think he treated me too good," he testified.

Mr. Novotny said that the night he saw the woman, he also saw the brother of an assistant state's attorney at the bar and told him of the conversation. The next week, he said, he was questioned about the conversation by another assistant state's attorney.

But Robert Reed, a polygraph examiner for the county Police Department, testified that when he questioned Mr. Novotny about the conversation, Mr. Novotny said he was "hazy" about where it took place.

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