Police officer charged with sex offense

Arundel rookie accused of photographing teen's breasts

February 21, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun Reporter

A rookie Anne Arundel County police officer has been charged with taking a cell phone picture of himself groping a teenager during a traffic stop, after threatening to jail her for drunken driving if she didn't cooperate.

Officer Joseph F. Mosmiller, 22, is accused of telling the 18-year-old and her female passenger to lift their shirts in the parking lot of a Pasadena church just before midnight Jan. 20, according to documents filed yesterday in District Court. When the friend refused, the documents say, Mosmiller took the photo and then let the women go.

He was charged Monday with fourth-degree sex offense, second-degree assault and two other misdemeanors. He was released yesterday afternoon on his own recognizance by District Judge J. Michael Wachs.

Mosmiller, who was hired in May and given a commendation for foiling a robbery in December, can return to work on desk duty, as can three other officers who were implicated in the incident, said Lt. David Waltemeyer, a county police spokesman.

He would not say how the three officers, who worked the same midnight shift as Mosmiller at the Eastern District, were involved.

"We worry that these types of allegations compromise the trust that the citizens have in us," Waltemeyer said.

The allegations against Mosmiller join a string of suspected police misconduct cases in the Baltimore area.

Four city officers were charged last year with rape in three separate incidents. Charges against two of those officers, accused of standing by while a third raped a woman at a police station, were dropped last month. The third officer was acquitted of a rape charge in that case last month but will stand trial on another. A fourth officer, who allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old girl at the same station house, is scheduled to go on trial in March.

Such cases shake the public's confidence in police, said Michael Lyman, a nationally renowned law enforcement expert and trainer who has testified in more than 300 civil and criminal cases involving police officers.

"People just don't feel safe when they hear of that kind of behavior from the officers who are sworn to protect them," said Lyman, who teaches at Columbia College of Missouri.

Neither Mosmiller nor the teenager returned phone messages left at their homes; The Sun is not identifying her because of the nature of the incident.

The teenager had picked up her friend from a bar late on Jan. 20 when Mosmiller stopped her car on Fort Smallwood Road because he suspected that the driver had been drinking, according to charging documents. After lecturing them about the dangers of drinking and driving, the uniformed officer offered to escort them home.

But on the way, Mosmiller turned onto the parking lot of the Community United Methodist Church, near the intersection with Duvall Highway, the charging documents said. The two teens followed.

There, he administered several field sobriety tests, then told the driver that she and her passenger would avoid jail if they showed him their breasts, the documents said. The passenger declined, but the driver exposed herself because she feared she "was not free to leave" until she did so, the charging documents said.

The officer told her that was not good enough, the documents said. He is accused of then placing his hand on her exposed breast and taking a photograph, using the camera on his cellular telephone.

Mosmiller did not file a report of the traffic stop and no drunken-driving charges were brought against the driver, police said.

She reported the incident that night, and the department's Criminal Investigation Division began investigating.

Mosmiller was placed on administrative duty and was served with a warrant Monday on the sex offense and assault charges, along with charges of false imprisonment and misconduct in office. He turned surrendered that night and was jailed on $250,000 bond.

His lawyer, Michael J. Belsky, argued yesterday at his bail review hearing that Mosmiller deserved leniency because he was engaged to be married, had a 10-month- old daughter at home and had received a commendation for thwarting a Dec. 19 robbery. The charges facing Mosmiller, Belsky told the judge, unfairly besmirch an "exemplary life."

Belsky described to the judge his client's life in a hardworking, two-parent home - his father a landscaper and his mother a nurse. He was described as a high school honor student and former altar boy.

"That's the type of man his family and friends know him to be," said Belsky, who also represented one of the two Baltimore officers accused of doing nothing to stop another officer from having sex with a female suspect at a police station.

Waltemeyer said the investigation into the Anne Arundel officers will also involve a review of policies and procedures, but he emphasized that Mosmiller is the only officer to face criminal charges, and that the investigation has not suggested that others were involved in "anything similar" to what Mosmiller is accused of.

"We don't want to paint all officers or all rookies with a broad brush," Waltemeyer said. "These allegations do not reflect on every officer in the department. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, officers make the right decision and provide professional service."

Ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Dan Lamothe contributed to this article.

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