A Baltimore police officer accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl inside a station house will avoid serving time in prison but will have to resign from the force under a deal made yesterday with city prosecutors.
William D. Welch, 41, entered an Alford plea, in which he does not admit guilt but concedes that the state has enough evidence to convict him. Circuit Judge John C. Themelis entered a guilty plea for misconduct in office and sentenced Welch to a suspended 10-year prison term and three years of supervised probation.
Prosecutors dropped a second-degree rape charge that could have put the Timonium resident behind bars for 20 years.
"He didn't go to prison. To that extent, I'm happy," said Warren A. Brown, Welch's defense attorney. Welch agreed to resign from the Police Department by Monday.
The prosecution's case was complicated by the disappearance of crucial evidence, including the rape kit, clothing and discarded wet wipes that DNA analysis had concluded contained genetic material from Welch and the girl. The evidence was missing as early as May and has not been found, but it had been tested before it disappeared.
Brown said he had recommended that his client accept the prosecutor's offer because the DNA evidence pointed to him and the victim "would be kind of credible" on the witness stand. Brown also said the missing evidence would hurt his client's credibility.
"Baltimore City police officers aren't really held in the highest esteem by jurors," he said. "With the missing evidence, the jury might believe that it was cops trying to help another cop."
Brown has said there was nothing corrupt in the disappearance of the evidence, calling it "a blunder."
Assistant State's Attorneys Temmi Rollock and Jennifer Williams declined to comment on the outcome of the case. Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, said Jessamy approved the plea agreement because it ensured "public safety" by removing Welch from the police force.
Burns said prosecutors were most concerned about the victim's credibility under cross-examination. The Sun does not identify those who allege sexual assaults.
The alleged incident occurred July 16, 2006, when an officer stopped the girl on Pulaski Highway after seeing her illegally seeking an unlicensed taxi. Police learned that there was an open warrant charging her with prostitution in Baltimore County.
While awaiting transfer to Baltimore County, Welch led the girl into an interview room in the Southeastern District station on Eastern Avenue. Alone with her, Welch flirted, confronted her about the marijuana he said he had found in her purse and told her that he could charge her with a crime, prosecutors said.
According to the victim's account outlined in court documents, Welch said the marijuana offense would disappear if the girl performed a sexual act. She didn't respond, according to court documents, and told him that she needed a way to dispose of the marijuana, which she said he helped her dump down a toilet in the station house.
When they returned to the interview room, according to court records, they had sex. The girl told authorities that she didn't express any objections.
"When it comes to putting a victim on the stand who is credible and can withstand cross-examination and impeachment, we have to have her say, 'No, I did not want to have sex with him' -- that it was not consensual - in order to get the rape conviction," Burns said. "There can be no equivocation whether or not it was consensual."
The girl told Baltimore County police about the alleged encounter after she was taken there.