Former officer acquitted

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Teen accused him of sexual contact

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer 

An Isle of Wight jury acquitted former Smithfield police officer Lawrence Washington of two charges related to the alleged sexual misconduct against a minor at Windsor Castle Park on Oct. 8, 2017.

Washington had been charged with sexual battery, a misdemeanor, and sex abuse of a child, a felony. 

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Following an all-day trial, it took the jury less than an hour to deliver its verdict.

During his trial Thursday in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court, Washington testified that at about 4 a.m. on Oct. 8, he came across two teenagers parked at Windsor Castle Park during a night shift as a Smithfield police officer. 

The minor involved in the case, referred to here as “J.D.,” and J.D.’s friend, were sleeping in the car together, according to Washington. Washington said he asked the two minors to step out of the vehicle separately in order to talk to them and pat them down. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight Deputy and Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys, Steve W. Edwards and Patrick Clark, argued that Washington had asked the alleged victim to lift her shirt to reveal her breasts, touched the alleged victim’s breast and shined a flashlight into her underwear during the pat down. Washington said he never patted down J.D. Rather, he said that she’d lifted her shirt to expose her underwear on her own volition after he’d asked her if she was wearing anything underneath. 

Washington said that throughout the entire interaction, both teenagers were pleading with him to not tell their parents, J.D. saying repeatedly that her mother would “disown” her. 

Both teenagers were from Poquoson and testified that they’d told their parents that they were staying overnight with respective friends on Oct. 8. According to both, they were on multiple sports teams together in high school.  

Prosecutors argued that if the teens did not want their parents to know what they had been doing, why would J.D. make up a story about alleged sexual misconduct.

Washington’s attorney, Joshua Goff, reaffirmed Washington’s testimony and emphasized that Washington had actually patted J.D.’s friend down twice due to the young man later putting a shirt on. Goff argued that Washington was promoting the minors’ safety by checking on them at the park. Goff told the jury said that no sexual abuse or battery occurred that night. 

A tearful J.D. said that Washington had separated the two teens and asked them questions about their whereabouts before he allegedly asked her to lift her shirt, touched her breast and shined his flashlight into her underwear.   

Prosecutors argued in favor of sexual battery, noting that Washington had no body camera footage, which was against protocol. 

During his testimony, Washington said that he’d been having issues with his body camera months prior to Oct. 8, and that the most recent cord that he’d been issued for his camera was so short that it had come unplugged.  

In closing arguments, both Edwards and Goff appealed to the importance of common sense. “You saw what I did,” Edwards said of J.D.’s teary testimony. 

In closing, Goff called into question the legal description of “custodian” and “supervisor,” arguing that Washington hadn’t held either role during his interaction with the alleged victim, which, if agreed upon by the jury, would upend the felony charge. Goff also argued that, while Washington had gone against Police Department protocol, no sexual battery occurred. 

At the onset of the trial, Edwards asked the jury if they believed there was a problem with people often making false claims of sexual abuse, leading the judge to bring up the recent Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearing and its ability to influence the jury. No jurors spoke up. 

Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct while in high school during his confirmation hearings recently before the U.S. Senate — accusations that generated a good deal of media coverage and comment. 

Washington’s family was jubilant to see him granted “free to go” by the judge. Washington had no comment immediately following the trial. {/mprestriction}