Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ex-APD cop is to plead guilty today

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger, Albuquerque Tribune
Thursday, January 26, 2006

A former Albuquerque police officer was expected to plead guilty today to sexual assault charges involving women he encountered on bogus traffic stops.

Christopher Chase, who is also named in six lawsuits that have cost the city more than $1.4 million in claims, could face up to 15 years imprisonment under the plea agreement.

Had he been found guilty at trial, his sentence could have been more than 140 years.

Chase, 31, was a patrolman based in the Foothills area command but was fired after he was indicted June 2003 on 32 charges that included five counts of rape and two counts of criminal sexual contact.

Teenage boy (assault allegations): Federal jury awarded $17,000 in December 2004.
Woman, 34: Federal jury awarded $943,380 in February 2005 plus $150,000 in attorney fees in April 2005. Case is under appeal.

Woman, 18: Case settled in state District Court for $300,000 in November 2005.

Woman, 42: Pending in federal court.

Teenage girl No. 1: Pending in federal court.

Teenage girl No. 2: Pending in federal court.

Under the plea agreement, scheduled to be entered this morning before state District Judge Denise Barela Shepherd, Chase will plead guilty to four counts of rape, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of criminal sexual contact and one count of aggravated battery.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Fricke said the plea agreement still includes every victim of a sexual assault. The charges also involve a teenage male relative of a high-ranking law enforcement official whom Chase is accused of beating with a flashlight and assaulting with a gun during a traffic stop in September 2002.

Prosecutors say Chase randomly selected vehicles to pull over, then forced himself on the motorist, most of whom had not committed any traffic offense. The incidents occurred while Chase was either on- or off-duty, and while he was using his marked police car.

One female victim was stopped twice - in September 2001 and again in February 2002 - and raped both times. Afterward, the woman said Chase washed her hands with a sanitizer to hide any traces of his assault, a criminal complaint states.

Two of the victims were high school girls who were driving with several male companions in January 2003 when Chase stopped their car and took the girls one by one to his squad car to fondle, the complaint states.

Fricke said he did not know why Chase decided to accept the plea deal now.

"Negotiations have a will of their own," he said.

Chase's attorney, Jacquelyn Robins, did not return a call to her office.

Chase was a 1999 graduate of the 80th Cadet Class of the Albuquerque Police Academy. His wife, Darla, has remained by his side at nearly every court appearance during the past two years. They have two children.

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