Madeline Ackley Arizona Republic (CNT) City News And Talk #phoenix-az
Sexual misconduct charges have been dropped against a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy who admitted to having sex with a victim of a case he was investigating.
Deputy Gary Kaplan, 46, was arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of committing two counts of unlawful sexual conduct by a peace officer, but charges were dropped Friday by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Kaplan was assigned to investigate a case of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence that occurred in Mesa, according to a probable cause report filed by police in Maricopa County Superior Court.
When police contacted the victim on Oct. 2, she stated in an interview that on July 22, Kaplan drove her from a court building in Mesa to her residence in his unmarked sheriff’s vehicle.
Kaplan allegedly returned to the victim’s residence later that day asking to see her dog, the victim said in the report. This was the first incident of sexual contact Kaplan had with the victim.
The report stated that Kaplan and the victim arranged to meet again at her residence in mid-August, when they allegedly had sexual contact a second time.
After Kaplan was arrested and questioned, he confessed to engaging in two acts of sexual contact with the victim while he was investigating her case. The police report confirmed the case was cleared on Aug. 17, which showed the sexual incidents occurred while the investigation was still ongoing.
Court documents showed the victim told Kaplan she had become pregnant, and Kaplan allegedly offered to pay for an abortion.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s office declined to pursue criminal charges because the law prohibits law enforcement officers from having sexual contact with a person in police custody, or those who are suspects in an ongoing investigation. Since the victim was neither in police custody nor a subject of an investigation, charges could not be brought, according to a statement released by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
“This in no way diminishes the alleged conduct,” according to the statement. “We are extremely concerned and shaken any time a peace officer violates the trust given to them by the community, especially members of the community who go to them for assistance. MCAO is discussing whether to seek a legislative change to this statute.”
Joe Clure, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, said he does not defend Kaplan’s conduct, but he was surprised a criminal case was pursued.
“I found it really, really odd that they went the criminal route on this … a day one rookie in the police academy or anybody who can read the English language should have been able to figure out” that Kaplan’s conduct wasn’t criminal, said Clure.
Clure blames the political climate surrounding policing and the fact that it’s a reelection year for Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.
“There is a very hot election going on, and I believe that had the election not been happening, this would probably not have happened.”
Penzone’s office said it does not comment on ongoing investigations but said in a statement: “MCSO will continue to hold our employees accountable for behaviors that are in conflict with our values. As the Sheriff, I will be intolerant of violations of public trust and/or abuse of the law.”