Ravens stadium worker says team security chief assaulted her
By By Justin Fenton and Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun|
Dec 31, 2014 | 8:03 PM
Darren Sanders, head of security for the Baltimore Ravens, is accused of groping a stadium worker and forcing himself against her after a home game in December. (Baltimore Sun Video)
An M&T Bank Stadium worker told police that the Baltimore Ravens' director of security groped and forced himself against her as she walked him through the facility after a December home game, court documents show.
The alleged incident, which Baltimore police say was partially observed by a witness, prompted the department to file a fourth-degree sex offense charge against Darren I. Sanders, 48, on Tuesday night. The accuser also detailed the alleged incident in a peace order filed against him last week.
Sanders' attorney, Andrew Alperstein, denied the allegations, calling them "totally fabricated."
The Ravens, meanwhile, placed Sanders on paid leave and he will not travel with the team to Pittsburgh, where they will face the Steelers in a wild-card playoff game Saturday. The NFL also said it was looking into the allegations.
The charges are the latest controversy for the team, which saw five players arrested over the offseason. Sanders, a former cityhomicide detective who has worked for the Ravens for more than a decade, figured prominently in the team's heavily scrutinized investigation of the Ray Rice assault.
"We've had to deal with things all year," running back Justin Forsett said Wednesday in the Ravens' locker room. "As a team, we focus on the things we can control and the game on hand."
Alperstein said Sanders has "had nothing but an exemplary career, both with the Police Department and the Ravens. He wouldn't get to the position he's in if he didn't."
Police released an incident report, but the most detailed allegations come in a report filed by the alleged victim as she sought the peace order, which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
The woman, who is not being identified by The Sun because she is an alleged victim of sexual assault, wrote that she works for a cleaning company at the stadium. After the team's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 14, she overheard a man on the phone who sounded as if he was having trouble finding his way to a particular entrance.
She said she walked the man to a security guard, who asked her if she would escort the man to his destination. The man she was escorting asked her polite questions about herself, but his "mood changed" as they walked outside, she wrote.
"He started talking about how sexy I was, how he liked me," she wrote in the report. "I felt like he was becoming increasingly inappropriate."
She said he grabbed her buttocks, and she said, "Really? Don't do that." He did it again and said he liked her and wanted her phone number, she wrote. She said she could smell alcohol and decided to direct him to a spot where she could leave him.
In a lobby on the third floor of the stadium, he pressed against her and kissed her neck and attempted to make her grab his genitals, police wrote in charging documents. She said a nearby elevator opened at that moment, and he stopped and walked away.
Police wrote in charging documents that she told four co-workers about the incident, and security called police on her behalf.
Police also said they found a witness who observed part of the alleged incident.
Alperstein said the accusations were untrue and "a disservice to real victims."
A fourth-degree sex offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in jail or a fine of $1,000, or both. Police issued a summons instead of arresting Sanders, whose address in court papers is listed as the Ravens' team headquarters in Owings Mills. He is to appear in court on Feb. 9.
The woman applied for a peace order after learning through police who Sanders was, according to court papers.
"Later I learned that this man is a former BCPD police officer and as a result I fear for myself and my family's safety," she wrote in seeking the order. "I cannot anticipate how he will respond to me if and when I see him at work again."
A judge granted a temporary peace order, and it is scheduled for a court hearing Tuesday.
In his role overseeing security, Sanders figured prominently in the controversial handling of Ray Rice assault on his then-fiancee in February. As questions about the incident mounted, the team provided statements from top officials including Sanders, who said he had attempted to obtain surveillance video of Rice striking Janay Palmer at an Atlantic City hotel-casino.
Sanders said Rice told him that he had slapped Palmer but denied punching her. A security video released later showed Rice punching Palmer. Rice was cut from the team and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The league later commissioned an outside review of how it had handled the case.
Rice has since married Palmer and his indefinite suspension from the league has been overturned, but he has not been signed by another team.
Forsett expressed surprise about the allegations against Sanders, saying it sounded out of character.
"As far as I know, Darren has been a great guy," Forsett said Wednesday. "He's helped me, getting me settled in here. … Darren will be in my prayers."
Before retiring from the city Police Department and becoming the Ravens' security director, Sanders moonlighted as a security guard for the team and became close to team owner Steve Bisciotti.
In 2004, Sanders traveled with Bisciotti to a University of Maryland basketball game in North Carolina and accidentally discharged his weapon inside the arena. He was charged by police there and later paid a $100 fine, according to Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Bill Wood.
Bennie Thompson, a former player and coach, said Sanders frequently invited close friends from the organization to Bisciotti's suite at the stadium for "fight night parties," when big-name boxers battled on TV. The parties usually occurred once or twice a year and were limited to team employees, including players, front office workers and security members, Thompson added.
"Darren is a good guy. He invited people to have a good time. We ate and drank and watched the match," Thompson said Wednesday. "Everybody else does it at their house; he just does it at the owner's suite."
Last year, Sanders appeared with Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts at City Hall when the Ravens donated three motorcycles and 12 motorcycle jackets to the department.
The current investigation has been relayed to the NFL, with a representative from the league's security department visiting Ravens' offices in recent weeks to explore the legal matter, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
It was not immediately clear how Sanders' legal situation applies to the recently revised NFL personal conduct policy that governs players, coaches and all team employees.
"We have been looking into it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email.
Baltimore Sun reporter Mark Puente contributed to this article