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Friday, January 23, 2015

Charles Locke: A Bad Cop in Cleveland

     In October 2007, Charles Locke, at the age of 35, joined the Cleveland Police Department. In 2009, he received some publicity when he arrested serial killer Anthony Sowell. Five years after this high point of his law enforcement career, Locke experienced his policing low point. He endured the disgrace of being arrested by his fellow police officers.

     On July 10, 2014, patrolman Locke was taken into custody at the Fourth District police station and booked into the Cuyahoga County Jail on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor.

     Upon Locke's arrest, the chief of police suspended him from duty without pay pending the disposition of the case. At his arraignment, the Cleveland Municipal judge set the officer's bond at $250,000. This meant that Locke, to buy his way out of custody, would have to raise $25,000 in cash or put up sufficient collateral.

     Investigators with the department's internal affairs office had acquired video footage of officer Locke, on two occasions, having sex with a 15-year-old girl. In one of the cellphone videos he wore his police uniform.

     Locke had met the girl at an east side recreation center where she played basketball and he worked off-duty as a security officer. The girl's family became suspicious when they heard rumors that the security guard had developed relationships with some of the female basketball players. Moreover, a witness had seen the girl talking to Locke near his car.

     A week following his arrest, Locke's attorney, Deanna Robertson, at her client's bail reduction hearing, asked the judge to lower the bond to $10,000. In arguing her case, Robertson pointed out that Mr. Locke did not have a criminal record and had a family to support. (He certainly wouldn't be going back to the recreation center to resume working the security job.)

     According to attorney Robertson, her client was not a flight risk. "He has no desire," she said, "of continuing his adult life running from the law." The lawyer described Locke's financial situation as bordering on "poverty." In other words, he did not have the means to become a fugitive.

     Chris Schroeder, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, informed the judge that the high bond insured that the suspect wouldn't contact the girl. "Charles Locke," he said, "is a police officer who had sex with a child while wearing his uniform. Entrusted with protecting the people of Cleveland, Locke betrayed that trust and took advantage of one of the city's most vulnerable citizens to sexually gratify himself. His behavior cannot be justified, rationalized or excused."

     The judge did not reduce officer Locke's bail. The 43-year-old would remain in custody.

     Jeff Follmer, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association told reporters that the union was not supporting officer Locke in this case. How could you defend a police officer seen on video having sex with a minor?

     On October 2014, Charles Locke pleaded guilty to five counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of possessing criminal tools. Following his plea the police department fired him.

     Locke's sentencing hearing commenced before Judge Carolyn B. Friedland on November 19, 2014. When it came time for Locke to address the court, the defendant, in a disjointed, rambling statement, said that at the time of the sexual assaults he had been exhausted from working 90 hours a week as a police officer and a security guard. Most nights, he said, he slept less than three hours.

     The defendant asked Judge Friedland, when imposing her sentence, to take into consideration his life before the incidents involving the girl. "This is not who I am," he said. "I was out of my mind." The former officer, in speaking directly to his victim's parents who were in the courtroom, said, "I'm ashamed…I am so sorry."

     Defense attorney Robertson said this to the judge: "My client is a man, not a monster. He made an isolated, unfortunate mistake. He lost touch with reality."

     Assistant county prosecutor Chris Schroeder read a letter from the victim who was not in the courtroom. She wrote that she had trusted officer Locke. Since the crimes, she has struggled in school and has been depressed. "I cannot concentrate," she wrote.

     Judge Friedland sentenced Charles Locke to 19 years in prison. 

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