Court Is Asked to Drop Theft Charges
Saturday, February 11, 2006
A married Fairfax County police detective who was having an affair with a married woman has charged the woman's husband with stealing computer equipment from the county government center.
The actions of Officer William E. Baitinger, a 23-year veteran of the Fairfax force, prompted an internal affairs investigation, which found that Baitinger used his police cruiser, computer, telephone and other county resources to further his affair with the wife of his investigative target, according to the disciplinary findings issued last summer and filed in Fairfax Circuit Court yesterday.
Baitinger's punishment: 46 hours off without pay and a transfer back to the street from the detective section at the Fair Oaks police station, records show. His salary, about $84,000 a year, was not affected.
Baitinger began investigating Donald E. Travers, who is accused of stealing computer equipment and tools, in August 2004. The investigation was launched by Travers's wife, Teresa, who sent e-mails to her husband's supervisors in the facilities management division, listing items she believed he had stolen.
Donald Travers was charged in September 2004 with three counts of embezzlement, and the county fired him after 19 years as a carpenter. He has not been tried on the charges.
Court records show that Travers told his attorney, Peter D. Greenspun, that his wife and Baitinger were having an affair, but Greenspun was hesitant to raise the issue in the embezzlement case. When Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Toni Fay confirmed the affair to Greenspun in April, he asked that the case be put on hold pending the outcome of the internal investigation. By July, police had completed their investigation of the detective, confirmed his illicit affair and suspended him for four days. They did not inform Travers or Greenspun until last month.
Fairfax police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings declined to comment on the delay, or any other aspect of the case, because it is a personnel matter.
Greenspun immediately filed a motion demanding that prosecutors drop the case because of "governmental misconduct." The motion alleges that Baitinger and Teresa Travers had been sleeping together before the investigation began. The police review found that the relationship began "during the early stages of the Donald Travers investigation."
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney held a hearing on Greenspun's motion yesterday. Travers had a host of friends and co-workers on hand ready to testify about the affair and Baitinger's investigation. Baitinger, 46, waited outside the courtroom while the case was argued.
Ney asked Greenspun, "Other than the fact that this just doesn't look good, it looks extremely bad," how did the affair affect the criminal case against Travers?
Greenspun noted that Teresa Travers's initial e-mails said she did not want her husband to lose his job. But now that her relationship with Baitinger has blossomed and she has divorced her husband, she has told others that she wants him jailed, Greenspun said. The lawyer also said delving into such matters in front of a trial jury might turn the jury against him or his client, an issue that would not have come up without the Baitinger affair.
Fay said it was all irrelevant. "The evidence in the case," she said, "is that Mr. Travers, a county employee, stole property from the county. That doesn't change whether Baitinger is sleeping with his wife or not."
The judge asked Fay, "From the standpoint of the commonwealth, isn't it very important to have an appearance of fair play in all respects?"
Fay said, "That's Mr. Horan's decision to make," referring to Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.
"He's made his decision," the judge said. "This case is going forward."
But Fay said no decision had been made about prosecuting Travers. Greenspun said Horan should drop the case to send the message that "conduct so outrageous, outlandish, vile and disrespectful to the judges, the prosecutors and the other officers of the police department . . . will not be tolerated."
Ney gave Horan 10 days to decide whether to proceed. Horan did not return calls yesterday.