Toledo Police Officer Michael E. Moore, Sr., was acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing Thursday, but the vice-narcotics detective still faces an Internal Affairs investigation that could cost him his job.
Accused of paying a 14-year-old girl for sex, Mr. Moore, 45, was found not guilty of two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of compelling prostitution by a jury in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
The verdicts were announced after a four-day trial in which the now-16-year-old girl testified that Mr. Moore paid her $50 to have sex with him at a local motel and $20 for sex at a Rugby Drive apartment that was leased by a fellow police officer.
Mr. Moore took the stand in his own defense and denied that any such thing occurred.
After the verdicts were read just after 2 p.m., a jubilant Mr. Moore embraced his attorneys, Lorin Zaner and Lacey Rogers, before leaving the courtroom with his wife, who attended her husband's trial.
“God is good. All praise to God,” Mr. Moore said when asked for a comment. He referenced Psalms 108 and 109 “to see what I'm talking about.”
Visibly emotional, Mr. Zaner said later that his client never wavered about his innocence and declined offers the prosecution had made to plead guilty to lesser charges. He said there was “a large push” by Toledo Police to pursue the felony charges against Mr. Moore, whom he called “a decorated police officer who's done some wonderful work for the city in helping to clean up the city.”
“When you represent somebody that's innocent, it's the hardest thing there is to do,” Mr. Zaner said. “Getting a ‘not guilty’ justifies what I do, and we're very pleased with the verdict.”
During the trial, the defense attacked the character and history of the alleged victim, an admitted prostitute. She was in the courtroom with a victim's advocate when the verdicts were read and left quietly after Judge Michael Goulding dismissed the jury of six women and six men.
Toledo Police Capt. Joe Heffernan said the department’s internal investigation into the allegations will resume now that the criminal case has concluded. The internal inquiry halted when Mr. Moore took himself off the payroll Nov. 9, 2016.
“Once the Internal Affairs section has reached a conclusion of findings, they'll issue a report to the chief, and the chief will then set up a hearing and come up with a decision on his employment status at that time,” he said, adding that the outcome could range from exoneration to termination.
Mr. Zaner, who was highly critical of the police department, said it's unclear what's next for Mr. Moore.
“If he decides he wants to go back to work, I will do everything I can with his union attorney to provide whatever information I have to try to make that happen,” Mr. Zaner said. “I'm not sure it's a wise decision because obviously people are out to get him, but that's going to be his choice.”
Captain Heffernan said the police department looks into any allegations of misconduct by any of its officers, just as it did in Mr. Moore's case.
“Once we became aware of this situation, we gathered as much information as we could. We conferred with the prosecutor's office, and from there, once the prosecutor reviews the information we have, it's up to the prosecutor to come up with any charges,” he said.
Frank Spryszak, an assistant county prosecutor, told the jury in his closing argument Wednesday that he had worked with Mr. Moore on drug prosecutions, that they had put dope dealers in prison, and that no one was picking on the officer.
“Why on earth would I take a good detective off the street and put fake charges on him?” Mr. Spryszak asked. “What's the point of that? What do I have to gain from that? What does the state of Ohio have to gain from that? What does Lucas County, the city of Toledo have to gain from that? Nothing.”
Prosecutors said they were disappointed with the jury's decision.
“We believe very much that these events occurred,” Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, said afterward. “But whether or not a jury of 12 we can convince them beyond a reasonable doubt, in this case, we were not able to do that.”
He said the state faced some difficulties, including the death of a key witness, Arnecya Talley Moore. She was a former confidential informant for Toledo Police who worked with Mr. Moore and introduced him to the alleged victim.
Talley Moore pleaded guilty last Sept. 25 to procuring and soliciting after admitting she arranged meetings between the teen and Mr. Moore. She died of an overdose Oct. 12 shortly after she was released from jail on bond and before she could be sentenced.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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