09/16/2010

Calif. cop accused of sexually molesting minor

Arrested Tuesday on suspicion of committing lewd acts with a minor and penetration with a foreign object

By Kimber Solana
Salinas Californian

SALINAS, Calif. — Salinas Police Chief Louis Fetherolf expressed his disappointment Wednesday following the arrest of a six-year veteran police officer accused of sexually assaulting a minor.

"It's a sad day for us in the Police Department," Fetherolf said. "It's a sad day in our profession whenever a police officer is accused of violating the law we're sworn to uphold."

Police Officer Lance Mosher, 44, of Pebble Beach was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of committing lewd acts with a minor and penetration with a foreign object, according to the Pacific Grove Police Department — the arresting agency.

Mosher becomes the fourth Salinas police officer in less than two years to be accused of committing a crime.

Mosher was released on a $200,000 bond and is represented by Salinas attorney Juliet Peck of the law offices of Lawrence and Peck.

Peck said Wednesday that her client "absolutely denies [all] allegations" against him and described the accuser as a troubled teenager.

Peck declined to give any specific details on the case, citing the continued investigation, but did say the accuser and Mosher have known each other "for a while."

"The accuser is a troubled teenager. She lacks credibility," said Peck, whose office has been investigating the allegations since April.

Mosher's arrest comes about four months after the allegations surfaced.

An unnamed accuser alleged that the molestation occurred in 2007, said Pacific Grove police Cmdr. John Nyunt. He declined to give any information about the teenager, including age and relationship with Mosher. Nyunt said his investigators knew Mosher was a police officer throughout the investigation. Police do not believe there are other victims, he said.

Fetherolf said the offense Mosher is accused of occurred in Pacific Grove while the officer, hired in December 2004, was off-duty.

Mosher was placed on paid administrative leave in April as his department conducted an internal investigation. The Monterey County District Attorney handled the criminal investigation, the chief added.

Fetherolf said the District Attorney's Office informed him Tuesday that they had gathered enough evidence to arrest Mosher.

He said Mosher's arrest is a setback for his department, which has tried to strengthen the public's trust and invite people to report crimes.

"Police officers know, when we swear an oath and hang on this badge, that we are held to a higher standard of conduct in the community," Fetherolf said. "And we are all endeavored to live up to that expectation."

He emphasized, however, that he hopes the community understands police officers are human beings who can have character flaws.

"This is a singular case of an individual in his private life," Fetherolf said, "but nevertheless still has a ripple effect throughout our city."

The Salinas Californian staff writers Leslie Griffy and Sunita Vijayan contributed to this report.

Republished with permission from the Salinas Californian.

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