Ex-officer sentenced in sex abuse

Balto. County policeman who molested girl over 10 years receives 5 years in prison

Baltimore & Region


A 15-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison for sexually abusing a young girl over the course of a decade, beginning when she was of preschool age.

Samuel Branstan Chambers Sr., 39, of Randallstown resigned from the department in October - a month after pleading guilty to a second-degree sex offense for abuse that occurred from 1991 to 2001. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed other charges against Chambers, including child abuse and attempted rape, for alleged abuse of the same child.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Mickey J. Norman said during the sentencing hearing that Chambers' good deeds as a police officer and years of public service stood "in stark contrast" to the abuse that Chambers committed at the girl's home.

Holding up a plaque that Chambers received in 1992 from a Rotary Club recognizing him as a police officer of the year, the judge pointed out that the award honored "service above self."

"Every single day, this man was going out and doing his job. And I suspect that when measured against that environment, he was doing an outstanding job," said Norman, a former Maryland state trooper. But "every single day," the judge continued, Chambers would also "subject [the victim] to the exact same kind of fear that he swore to fight against as a police officer. And the court will consider that as well."

Norman sentenced Chambers to 15 years in prison. Saying he was "mindful" of the positive things Chambers had done in life, the judge suspended all but five years and ordered him to also serve five years of probation.

Speaking quietly and haltingly, the victim, now 18, told the judge that she remains angry about what Chambers did and still cries herself to sleep sometimes. "He used to tell me this was our special thing," she said.

Prosecutor Sue Hazlett told the judge that Chambers began abusing the girl at such a young age and so regularly that she didn't realize his actions were inappropriate until her teachers began covering sex education at school.

The prosecutor played in court a portion of a phone conversation between Chambers and the girl that investigators taped. Told by Chambers that he had thought "it was our special thing that we had," the girl responded, "No. I was little, so I didn't really understand."

As he did during the recorded phone call, Chambers apologized yesterday for his actions. "I have embarrassed myself, my family and a career I loved so much," he told the judge. "I have to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and ask myself, `What have you done?'"

Lawyers for the former policeman had asked the judge to ignore state sentencing guidelines that recommend a prison term of five to 10 years on a second-degree sex offense conviction and instead sentence Chambers to probation and home detention.

Defense attorney William R. Buie III called several witnesses who testified that Chambers has been working at his brother's auto repair shop and has sought treatment at the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Disorders. He offered to the judge certificates and plaques of achievement - including one from the Baltimore County Council in 1995 naming Chambers an officer of the year.

Defense lawyer Warren A. Brown told the judge that Chambers should not be punished more harshly because of the "juxtaposition" - that "this offense is made more horrendous by the fact that this person is a Baltimore County police officer."

And the defense attorneys argued that probation and home detention would be enough punishment given all that Chambers has lost since being arrested a year ago.

But Hazlett, the prosecutor, asked Norman to think about a single year in the life of the victim when she was being abused - "at age 6, at age 7, at age 8, at age 9, at age 10, at age 11 and at age 12."

She added, "It's a lot of years."

jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun. com

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