Friday, October 3, 2008
Bad Cop, No Donut: West Jordan, Utah Cop Nelson Tuatagaloa Arrested And Charged With Forcible Sexual Abuse, But Victim May Have Been Drunk
West Jordan police officer Nelson Tuatagaloa (pictured at left) was arrested on Wednesday October 1st, 2008 for sexually abusing a suicidal woman while on duty. The 34-year-old Tuatagaloa, a two-year veteran of the force, was charged on Friday October 3rd with two counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse. Bail has been set at $100,000. Full stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, KTVX Channel 4, and KSL Channel 5.
According to the charging documents filed in 3rd District Court, Tuatagaloa was in uniform and on duty the night of September 29th, when he responded to the call involving the victim, who is identified only by the initials C.M. The victim was reported to be in distress and possibly suicidal. She was sitting in her car and had been drinking.
When Tuatagaloa and two other officers responded to the scene, he handcuffed her and put her in the front of his patrol car, then took her to Jordan Valley Hospital at 3850 West 9000 South for an evaluation. But upon arrival at the hospital, he pulled into a dark part of the parking lot instead of going to the emergency room and, without her consent, kissed the woman, touched her breasts, and digitally penetrated her vagina. He threatened to arrest her if she resisted. The encounter continued for several minutes before a radio call from a dispatcher snapped the officer out of it, after which he took her inside the hospital. At that time, the victim reported the incident to hospital workers.
Tuatagaloa's sister-in-law said doesn't know why the woman is making these allegations. She says Tuatagaloa is a good man who loves his wife and four children.
West Jordan police Chief Ken McGuire released this statement: "Our department was notified of Officer Nelson Tuatagaloa's alleged misconduct during a call for service. After reviewing the allegations, he has been put on administrative leave without pay pending an active internal investigation by our department and a criminal investigation by the District Attorney's Office. We are taking this situation very seriously and are fully cooperating with all parties involved."
If convicted on both counts, Tuatagaloa could face a sentence from one to 15 years in prison.
Analysis: I'm quite skeptical of this story. If the victim was emotionally distraught and inebriated, it seriously undermines her story. I suggest readers keep an open mind about this case. But if this woman is indeed emotionally disturbed and made up this story, then it shouldn't be held against her.