Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ex-APD officer gets 15 years in prison

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger, Albuquerque Tribune

Posted 3:45 p.m. Former Albuquerque police Officer Christopher Chase will spend the next 15 years in prison after being sentenced today for the sexual assaults or beatings he dealt out to seven motorists from 2001 to 2003.

Besides the criminal charges, former Albuquerque police officer Christopher Chase was also named in six lawsuits, filed in federal and state courts.

All cases have been settled, costing the city about $3 million.

State District Judge Denise Barela Shepherd rejected a proposal from Chase's attorneys for a lesser sentence but a 20-year-probation.

Instead, she gave Chase the maximum allowable sentence under terms of a plea agreement signed in January.

And because of his law enforcement background, Chase will be placed in protective custody, Shepherd said. He will spend 23 hours a day in his cell.

The former officer entered Alford pleas in January to 10 counts involving attacks on motorists while he was a patrolman based in the Foothills Area Command.

An Alford plea does not admit guilt but acknowledges that enough evidence exists to convict. In the state's eyes, it is equivalent to a guilty plea.

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 both on- and off-duty, and while he was using his marked police car.

The victims include three women and three teenage girls. 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.

Tears flowed freely during the emotional sentencing hearing. Several victims spoke, saying they no longer trusted authorities, including police, and that the assaults had changed their lives forever.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Fricke called Chase a serial rapist. "Chase is more than a rapist who rapes victims," he said. "He raped the city."

The former officer violated the public trust, his uniform and his badge, Fricke said.

Several people spoke on Chase's behalf, denying that he could have committed the crimes.

"There has never, ever been a doubt in my mind that they have got the wrong man," said his wife, Darla.

She then started crying, prompting Chase to cry.

Chase was fired from the Albuquerque Police Department after being indicted in June 2003 on 32 charges, including five counts of rape and two counts of criminal sexual contact.

He was freed on $15,000 bond, but Shepherd in January ordered him into the Community Custody Program, where he was forced to wear an ankle monitor and check in regularly.

Until recently, he had been employed as a foreman for a construction company.

Today the judge denied a request from Chase's attorney, Jacquelyn Robins, that Chase be allowed to turn himself in.

Shepherd ordered him taken into custody immediately. He will need protective custody even during his processing at the Central Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.

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