A former corporal for the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department has been arrested for allegedly raping a woman after promising her that he would drop a DUI charge in exchange for sex.
53-year-old Steven Paul Mertz has been charged with first-degree felony counts of rape by threat of forcible compulsion and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by threat of forcible compulsion. He is also charged with second-degree felony counts of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault by threat of forcible compulsion, a third-degree felony count of bribery, first-degree misdemeanor counts of coercion and indecent assault, and second-degree misdemeanor counts of obstruction of the administration of law and official oppression.
The alleged rape happened on October 16 after the victim was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. According to the affidavit, Mertz brought the victim to the Pennsylvania State Police Fern Ridge barracks for blood-alcohol testing. Mertz offered to drive her home and during the drive, Mertz offered to drop the DUI charges if they continued to talk “somewhere more private,” according to the affidavit.
Mertz is accused of parking in a cul-de-sac and raping the victim while still in his uniform. He then took the victim to her home and left a business card and the name of a judge she would see the next morning.
Investigators also recovered text messages between Mertz and the victim, in which he offered to call the judge and attempt to get the charges dropped.
Mertz was arraigned on Wednesday, October 23. His bail was set at $50,000.
No other victims are suspected at this time but anyone else who may have experienced inappropriate behavior involving Merz has been asked to contact the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former sex crimes prosecutor who now works on civil cases, representing victims in lawsuits. Here are some thoughts from Brian on the legal rights of those who have been sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers:
While most police officers are good people, there are sadly some who abuse their power by sexually exploiting the citizens they are supposed to protect. When a police officer sexually assaults someone they have detained or arrested, the victim of that crime has legal rights.
Reporting the sexual assault to the police can result in criminal penalties for the officer, but the available legal options don’t always end here. In some cases, the victim may also have grounds for a lawsuit against the department due to negligence. For example, the department may be considered negligent if they were aware of a history of sexual misconduct involving the officer but failed to act on that information.
If you or someone you love has been sexually assaulted by a police officer, you can learn more about your legal options in a free consultation with one of our experienced sexual assault victims lawyers.