Authorities are investigating whether a veteran D.C. police officer was running a prostitution ring out of his Southeast Washington apartment, where they found a 16-year-old girl who had been reported missing, according to documents unsealed in federal court.
The officer, who has been on the force 24 years, had not been arrested as of Thursday evening, but he was put on paid administrative leave as police continued their investigation. The teenager told police that the officer took nude photos of her and arranged for her to have sex for money, the court papers say.
News of the allegation broke publicly as another D.C. police officer was in U.S. District Court facing a federal charge of producing child pornography. Marc L. Washington, 32, was arrested Monday on allegations that he took pictures of a semi-nude 15-year-old who had run away from home.
Authorities said it does not appear that the cases are related, but the specter of having two officers from the 7th District station house in Southeast Washington investigated on crimes linked to sexual abuse of minors has shaken the 4,000-member department. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the department “is very concerned about the recent allegations of egregious conduct.”
Lanier acknowledged that the cases could make the force look bad, but she said that “misguided actions of a few in no way reflects on the professionalism, dedication and integrity of the department.”
The Washington Post is not naming the 47-year-old officer because he not been charged with a crime and was not identified in the search warrant application, filed in U.S. District Court. Efforts to reach him were not successful.
It was unclear how investigators came to focus on the officer and the apartment on Stanton Road. The court documents state only that detectives investigating a family’s report of a missing 16-year-old girl learned that she might be at the officer’s residence.
Police went to the apartment Tuesday night and the officer answered the door after repeated knocks, according to court papers. He let them in, and they reported that they immediately smelled marijuana. Detectives were told that two females were in a bedroom; one was the missing teen, the court documents stated, and the other was an 18-year-old.
Officers stayed at the apartment through the night and most of Wednesday, and after getting a search warrant, they confiscated nine pairs of shoes, one bra, two boxes of condoms, computers and cellphones. The court documents stated that they also took a mirror with names written on it and that the 16-year-old told police that the names were of women who had worked as prostitutes.
A high-ranking D.C. police official said authorities are still sorting through conflicting statements and trying to determine precisely what was happening in the apartment. How the officer met the girl was not described in documents made public thus far.
According to court documents, the girl told police that she had gone to the officer’s apartment at least twice and that the officer took nude photos of her wearing sparkly high-heeled shoes and showed them to a potential customer. The man liked the photos, and was scheduled to meet her and pay $80 for sex, the girl told police. Of that, she said, $20 was to go to the officer. The girl said that the officer was to pay for her hairstyle, shoes and new clothes, and that her working name would be “Juicy.” It was not clear whether the girl ever met the customer.
The girl said that six other women worked out of the apartment and that advertisements were posted on the Internet site backpage.com, the documents said.
In U.S. District Court on Thursday, authorities were dealing with the separate case involving Marc Washington. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola said he wanted to release the officer to stay with his father in Waldorf, Md., and be put on electronic monitoring. But Facciola stayed the order 24 hours to give prosecutors a chance to appeal.
“It is despicable for anyone to do this,” Facciola said of the alleged conduct. “For a police officer to do this is beyond anyone’s imagination.”
But with Washington’s gun and badge no longer in his possession, the judge said it “reduces substantially” the possibility of the officer being able to abuse his previous position of authority. The arresting officer told the judge that Washington’s police powers had been revoked and that he was in the process of being suspended without pay.
The officer’s attorney, Michelle Peterson, told the judge that her client “understands the serious nature of the charges, but they are just that – charges.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari Redbord said that investigators recovered dozens of photos from Washington’s camera, including images of two semi-nude females who appeared to be minors, and that they think there may be other victims. “He committed this crime on duty, in uniform and with a firearm,” Redbord said in arguing for Washington to remain in custody. “He picked the most vulnerable of victims in our community.”
Magda Jean-Louis, Jennifer Jenkins, Keith L. Alexander and Samantha Hogan contributed to this report.
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