Later, the mother, apparently happy with how things had turned out, told her daughter how impressed she was with Musallam.
That’s when the teenager told her what had really been going on. She said Musallam and a second officer, Yaser Shohatee, had each exchanged hundreds of text messages with her, according to the report. Musallam had her send a revealing photo of herself, it adds, and — on a different day — coerced her into a performing a sex act with her hand while in his car. Four or five times, the girl said, Shohatee had her visit his apartment — alone — in the middle of the night.
After her daughter told her what happened, the mother filed a complaint with internal affairs. Both officers were placed on modified duty in June 2018 while the NYPD investigated.
An NYPD assistant deputy commissioner determined this past March that both officers had raped the girl when she was 15 and incapable of consenting to sex. Paul Gamble, acting in the capacity of a judge, presided over an internal disciplinary trial in which the officers denied the allegations.
Acting on his recommendation, the NYPD fired the officers. Neither officer has been criminally charged. A spokesman for the district attorney told the New York Post the cases fell apart after the teen stopped cooperating with investigators.
The lawyers who represented the officers at their disciplinary hearings did not respond to emails from The Washington Post.
Musallam and Shohatee “targeted [the girl] as a particularly vulnerable individual they were morally obliged to protect but chose to take advantage of to satisfy their depraved interests,” Gamble said in his 41-page report recommending their termination.
Both officers denied the most serious accusations against them and stayed with the department at full pay until they were fired, four years after the allegations were reported to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, according to the New York Post.
Gamble, who presided over the disciplinary hearings, forcefully rejected the officers’ claims that they never had inappropriate contact with the girl, as well as their explanations for sending hundreds of texts to her, some late at night. Gamble described Musallam’s testimony as “evasive and calculated.” He called Shohatee’s denials “incredible.”
Musallam, who joined the NYPD in 2008, first met the girl when he responded to a 911 call her mother made about her missing daughter, who she suspected had run away, Gamble noted in his report. Musallam was still at the house when the girl returned.
The mother later asked Musallam to “look out” for her daughter and gave the officer the girl’s phone number. That allowed him to exchange 742 text messages and have 80 phone calls with the teenager between July 2015 and the end of 2016, Gamble found.
At one point, Musallam had the girl send him a revealing photo of herself, the report adds, which the officer said he kept as “insurance” in case the girl accused him of misconduct. Gamble said in his report that Musallam probably held on to the photo to undermine her credibility by suggesting “she possessed an unchaste character.”
Musallam never reported the photo to his superiors or to the girl’s mother, which Gamble found damning.
“Whether he retained the image as a trophy of his illicit relationship with [the girl] or as a cudgel against her credibility, there is no reasonable explanation for his continued possession … that is consistent with innocence,” Gamble said in his report.
After Musallam learned the mother had reported him to internal affairs, he called her for the first time in a year, according to the report. He told her he “had a family” and “didn’t want any trouble” — statements Gamble said could be interpreted as “intimidation … a thinly veiled invitation to recant her statements.”
The judge had this assessment of Musallam’s conduct: “The insidious and sinister nature of his repeated actions would cause any responsible adult, let alone a parent, to recoil in horror.”
Shohatee, who started with the department in 2005, met the teen when she was at the police precinct for the Explorers program, which she participated in from the fall of 2015 to the following spring, when she was kicked out. He said the girl was troubled and that he was trying to mentor the teen because her mother asked him to help, something the woman denied.
The girl told investigators they communicated over Snapchat for a few days before Shohatee eventually asked if “she would be down to have sex.” He also asked her to send him pictures of herself, the girl said, which she did.
From February to May 2016, Shohatee exchanged 857 text messages with the girl.
He told investigators he didn’t know how exactly old she was when they met but assumed she was 16 or 17 and in high school. He said that, at the time, he didn’t think it was a problem having more than 500 communications with a teenager but acknowledged to investigators “he could see how it would look.”
In addition to the texts, Shohatee admitted he met the girl three times late at night — twice in his apartment and once in his car. On one of those occasions, he claimed the two met at 12:30 a.m. after he’d gotten off work and that he took her to his apartment because she needed to use the restroom. He said she was in his apartment for a half-hour, but he denied having any sexual contact with her.
As with the text messages, Shohatee said he didn’t see anything wrong in having the girl in his apartment late at night and alone. He didn’t report any of it to his superiors or to the girl’s mother.
After watching Shohatee testify, Gamble said he found his “studied nonchalance as he advanced his assertions that there was nothing untoward regarding his conduct with [the girl] shocking.”
Gamble determined Shohatee raped the girl at least twice inside his apartment.
“The trauma … Shohatee’s conduct caused [the girl] is incalculable and may well last a lifetime,” Gamble said in his report.
While Musallam and Shohatee admitted to texting and even meeting with the teenager, the officers fought the most serious allegations, including having any sexual contact with her.
After hearings that spanned December and January, Gamble on March 3 issued his report recommending both officers be fired. Three weeks later, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea followed that recommendation.
The judge said the damage done by Shohatee and Musallam extends out to the police department and the community at large. By having sex with a 15-year-old participating in an NYPD youth program, he said the officers did “great violence” to the program and the department’s reputation.
“The damage to public trust is incalculable,” Gamble said.