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Ex-Phillipsburg cop rape trial: Woman testifies about actions after traffic stop in 2017

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2018 @ 11:34 AM

Ex-Phillipsburg police officer Justin Sanderson’s trial facing 19 counts, including for sexual battery, interfering with civil rights, rape, gross sexual imposition, kidnapping and unauthorized use of the Ohio law enforcement gateway system.

When a 21-year-old Greenville woman’s car was pulled over after she had been drinking and driving without a license, she expected to go to jail.

Instead, she was handcuffed and taken to Phillipsburg’s office building in the early morning hours of May 20, 2017, according to her testimony in the rape trial against ex-officer Justin Sanderson in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Sanderson, 33, is on trial for 19 counts including rape, kidnapping and other charges involving four alleged victims during three incidents in May and June 2017. He has pleaded not guilty.

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MORE ON THIS TRIAL: Ex-cop accused of rape says he was ‘professional’ with prostitutes

The woman said Sanderson asked her “what he should do about what’s going on, what he should do, what punishment,” she said. “My response was more tears and snot and I don’t really know and I don’t know why you’re asking me that in the first place as a police officer.”

The woman — who is not being named by this news organization because she is a possible sex crime victim — said she was handcuffed and that Sanderson had her do a field sobriety test in the village building, which she said he said she failed. She said she gave permission for Sanderson to do a pat down.

“It was not like a normal pat down; it was more feeling,” she testified. “As he went down my body, he pulled up my dress and pulled down my shorts and underwear.”

During testimony that Judge Steven Dankof ruled was not to be audio or video recorded, the woman said Sanderson kissed her backside after he partially unclothed her and that she was still handcuffed. 

“I didn’t say anything to him,” she said. “I didn’t tell him to stop or keep going. I didn’t know what was happening.” She added that she felt “sick.”

MORE ON THIS TRIAL: Prosecutors: Ex-officer on trial for rape sought ‘vulnerable’ women

The woman said he performed oral sex on her, that she didn’t say no, didn’t give permission and explained why she didn’t say anything when the handcuffs came off and her black dress was removed.

“I was scared,” she testified. “He was a big guy and also a police officer and at that point, he had already done things to me” and later added, “I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop it.” 

Afterward, the woman stated Sanderson said “he wouldn’t tell if I didn’t tell. At that point I assured that I wouldn’t tell.” 

The woman said she got dressed and that Sanderson also drove his cruiser to her Greenville home, where he asked for and got her phone number. 

“I really couldn’t believe what happened,” the woman said, adding that she called a friend and told her mother that she felt she had been taken advantage of by a police officer.

The woman testified she texted with Sanderson and that he said he had a wife and children but that they could meet up again for sex, which they did.

When asked why, the woman replied: “After the first time I felt really dirty and guilty and just scared and I just didn’t know how to think about it. It didn’t feel real … I knew as soon as it started that it wasn’t going to make me feel any better. It made me feel worse.”

Asked why she didn’t call police, she said: “I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I didn’t even believe me.” 

The now 22-year-old woman testified that a friend called police after he saw Sanderson’s photo associated with a media report that he was being investigated for sex crimes.

On cross examination, the woman said she didn’t initially tell investigators about the second encounter because it was consensual and that it “didn’t make the first time OK.” 

The woman testified that she had two or three beers and at least one shot while out with friends in Dayton’s Oregon District. She also said she was just a couple days from taking a test to get her license back after losing it due to a drunk-driving charge. 

The woman said she blamed herself. 

“I felt guilty. I feel bad,” she said. “I felt dirty and used, I guess.”

Defense attorney Anthony VanNoy asked the woman if it was true she had consensual sex with Sanderson the night she was pulled over. She said, “No.” 

She also testified that friends urged her to contact law enforcement. 

“They all wanted me to go and tell the police what happened,” she said. “I wasn’t confident that they would believe my accusations.” 

The woman also testified that she doesn’t know the other three alleged victims. The trial is scheduled to resume this afternoon.

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