Suspended Lawrence city police officer Kevin Sledge will serve a minimum of 10 years without parole in state prison for raping an intoxicated 23-year-old mother while he was on duty and in uniform in 2008.
Sledge, 48, of Salem, N.H., was sentenced this week in Newburyport District Court by Judge Richard Welch, who said the victim “was drunk as can be” and that Sledge “took advantage of that,” as reported by the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.
A 12-person jury found Sledge guilty of rape and three counts of indecent assault and battery a week ago.
“The sentence is a harsh sentence. The defendant did indeed violate a position of trust,” Welch said as he sentenced Sledge to 10 to 12 years in state prison. Welch also sentenced Sledge to five years of probation concurrently on each indecent assault and battery charge after his release from state prison.
Sledge, a police officer for 17 years, raped and repeatedly assaulted the woman in his personal car, a silver Jaguar he parked behind the police station on Sept. 26, 2008. Sledge was assigned to the booking room and repeatedly left his post to go to his car to rape and fondle the woman.
When arrested, he was immediately suspended from the department and stripped of his paycheck once indicted.
He will be required to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender counseling, pay various fines, and have no contact with the victim, her family or the victim’s best friend, Regina Perry, who testified against Sledge during both rape trials. A jury deadlocked in his first trial in September 2010.
“I made the wrong decisions and I apologize to the court,” said Sledge, who appeared in court handcuffed and wearing suit pants, a dress shirt and a green tie.
The victim sat in court yesterday with her mother as MacDougall read a three-page impact statement she’d written. The woman, who’d gone out that night to celebrate her 24th birthday, said she and her two children suffered after she was raped and assaulted. She said she wasn’t “much of a mother” and her son missed a lot of school because she was too “paranoid” to walk him there.
“Every time, I (saw) a silver car, I put my head down and my heart would pound hoping it wasn’t him,” she said.
She said she was deeply depressed, eventually evicted from her apartment and went to live with her kids in homeless shelters in Lowell and later Waltham.
“Never would I have thought trusting a police officer was gonna end in a disaster,” she said. “I thought I had no chance going up against a cop, but I did it anyways.”
Welch acknowledged reading the letters from Sledge’s family and noted “there are two sides of a person.”
While his family considers him a loving and supportive person “and they can’t imagine him going to jail,” the other side of Sledge is “a man who committed rape and indecent assault and battery,” the judge said.
Before sentencing Sledge, Welch commended the victim.
“You displayed remarkable courage when you testified,” he said. He acknowledged the “huge hole in her life” caused by the crimes, but urged the woman to draw on the courage she displayed reporting the rape and testifying.
“Hopefully you can build on that,” Welch said.
Shawn Sledge, 40, Sledge’s nephew, said he also hoped the victim “can move on with her life and be happy. … Our hearts go out to her.”
Shawn Sledge said he flew in from Atlanta for yesterday’s sentencing. He had hoped Welch sentenced his uncle to a shorter prison sentence.
“It’s somewhat harsh … I do understand the judge’s comments that he was a police officer and a protector of the law. I understand the decision he made, even though I don’t think it’s the right one,” he said.
Last week, when the guilty verdicts were handed down, Sledge’s wife, Bernice Aguirre, burst into an emotional tirade in the courtroom.
At the start of yesterday’s hearing, Welch warned that such outbursts would not be tolerated and “any sort of display of emotion” would result in a contempt of court arrest.
With the exception of Welch’s voice, there was silence in the courtroom as Sledge’s sentence was announced.
An older, gray-haired woman sat alone in the back of the courtroom yesterday. After the sentence was announced, she immediately got up and left the courthouse. She was one of 12 jurors from Sledge’s first trial last September.
Sledge was previously acquitted of a separate rape charge in 1999.