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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

After outside investigation, sexual assault allegation against Pender deputy won’t lead to charges

Pender County Sheriff's Office deputies were involved in a shooting Thursday (Courtesy Pender County Sheriff's website)
After an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault against a Pender County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the district attorney’s office determined there was insufficient evidence to press charges. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pender County Sheriff’s Office)

PENDER COUNTY — The District Attorney’s office determined there was not sufficient evidence against a Pender County Sheriff’s Office deputy to prosecute; the decision came after reviewing an investigation performed by a neighboring law enforcement agency, stemming from a woman’s allegation that the deputy had sexually assaulted her.

The woman recently brought forward her complaint against the lieutenant in the Pender County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that the assault occurred last summer.

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Sheriff Alan Cutler said that when the woman reported the incident to his department, he asked neighboring Bladen County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) to conduct a criminal investigation. Asked whether he considered sending the matter instead to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which is often done in similar cases, he said that he did not consider it in this case.

“It all depends … We’ve used both [in the past] with the district attorney’s office. I just chose Bladen County,” Cutler said, noting that he turned to an outside agency for the sake of transparency.

Cutler declined to offer details on the victim’s identity in order to protect her privacy. He did say she was not related to anyone in the PCSO.

Cutler said he chose to not suspend the officer or enforce any type of disciplinary action due to the insufficient evidence that was presented to the district attorney’s office.

Samantha Dooies, spokesperson for District Attorney Ben David, said his office was notified of the allegation by the Pender County attorney on February 5. Before they were notified, Cutler had already requested an investigation by the BCSO and subsequently delivered the report to David’s office for a review, according to Dooies.

After a senior prosecutor reviewed the Bladen detective’s report and interviews, “it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to Dooies. Had enough evidence been discovered, however, she said the investigation would have resulted in a misdemeanor charge, not a felony charge.

“The allegation was regarding unwanted touching allegedly by [the deputy] of the complainant while [he] was not on duty,” Dooies said. “This contact was on a part of the complainant’s clothed body that is not included in the felony statutes and would have amounted to a sexual battery.”

The deputy was hired by the PCSO in October of 2011 and received a promotion from sergeant to lieutenant in October of 2019 — months after the alleged incident occurred — according to a requested employment record. He was assigned to the Sheriff’s Office civil division at the time of his promotion.

The deputy “has no demotions, suspensions, or dismissal actions,” according to Chief Deputy Michael Collier.

Sheriff Cutler said his department also conducted its own internal investigation after the district attorney’s office failed to find sufficient evidence to press charges.

“Bladen County and I presented it to the DA’s office. [The district attorney’s office] said there was not sufficient evidence to make a criminal charge,” Cutler said. “At which point we conducted our own internal investigation, and had there been any criminal or agency, policy-type wrongdoing, there would’ve been criminal action or disciplinary action, but there was not.”

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