Comments Off on Jury finds former Nebraska probation officer, Thomas Peterson, 57, guilty of depriving four women of their civil, “bodily integrity” rights – at least one woman on probation for Methamphetamine

A federal jury has decided that a former Nebraska probation officer used his position to sexually exploit women assigned to him for intensive supervision.

Thomas Peterson, 57, was found guilty of depriving four women of their civil rights while they were on probation, specifically their rights to “bodily integrity.” He was also convicted of making false statements to a government agent and faces as many as nine years in federal prison.

Peterson was a state probation officer with the District 9 probation office in Kearney. Prosecutors said he subjected four women to unsolicited and nonconsensual sexual conduct between 2010 and early 2014.

The jury deliberated for less than half a day after listening to testimony for four days.

“For much of the past decade, Mr. Peterson had been using his (probation) caseload as his kind of personal hunting ground to troll for women,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp said in opening statements Monday.

“And what he did you’re going to hear is box them into a situation where they would submit to his sexual advances.”

Sharp argued Peterson used the power of his office to fondle the women and get them to fondle him, that he got them to perform oral sex on him and in at least one case had sexual intercourse with a probationer.

The women submitted, Sharp argued, because he had the ear of the judge and his word could mean the difference between them completing probation or going to jail.

“They submitted to him because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they made their probation officer mad,” he said.

But Lincoln defense attorney Bob Creager noted that Sharp did not allege that Peterson forced himself on the women or that they resisted him.

“There’s no doubt that Mr. Peterson’s judgment was poor, his sense of morality is not good,” Creager said, but asked the jury to really question why the women would engage in sexual acts with him if they didn’t want to.

“Keep an open mind,” he said. “Who’s taking advantage of who?”

During closing arguments Friday morning, Creager argued that someone can’t consent to sex and at the same time claim it violated their civil rights.

Prosecutors countered that some of the women didn’t speak up because Peterson had leverage on them.

But Creager argued the sexual acts were consensual and said the women might have seen them as opportunities to gather ammunition against their probation officer that could help them.

On Tuesday, a 34-year-old woman who was on probation under Peterson’s supervision twice testified that she performed oral sex on him two times.

“I just didn’t feel like I had any other choice,” she said.

Peterson knew she had been using marijuana and methamphetamine again and had even seen bricks of marijuana in her apartment during a surprise visit, meaning her probation could be revoked, she said.

If she reported him, “who did you think would have more credibility?” Sharp asked her.

“Mr. Peterson,” she answered.

On cross-examination, Creager pointed out that the woman got information from Peterson about warrants she might have against her or drug raids by the local police.

He also noted that Peterson asked her to have sex with him in previous encounters and she said no. There weren’t any repercussions, the woman testified.

Creager asked her if she reported Peterson’s conduct when she was no longer on probation, and she said she didn’t. She also testified that when an interviewer contacted her after her last probation term about an investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact between Peterson and one of the people he supervised, she had only positive things to say about him.

Attorneys gave their closing statements Friday morning and the jury returned with the guilty verdict just before 3:30. While reading the verdict to himself, Creager shook his head before Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf read it out loud.

Peterson has been on unsupervised release since his arrest and will remain free until he’s sentenced Oct. 20.



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