County Attorney's Office Explains Not Charging Former Cop Christopher Balmaceda With Sexual Abuse
Despite the fact that police recommended that former Glendale cop Christopher Balmaceda be charged with one count of sexual abuse and four counts of luring a minor for sexual exploitation for allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to teenage girls -- kissing and touching one of them -- the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will not charge the former officer with a crime.
See our story on the County Attorney's decision here.
The MCAO has an explanation.
Following our post about the decision yesterday, MCAO spokesman Jerry Cobb sent us a detailed explanation of his office's decision not to charge Balmaceda.
"It's clear something inappropriate was going on here between a former police officer and a student. Nobody finds that acceptable," Cobb says. "The Maricopa County Attorney has never hesitated to hold law enforcement officers accountable when we can prove they've broken the law. However, in this case our office did not have the necessary evidence to prove a chargeable offense."
For starters, Cobb goes on to say, Balmaceda refused to make any statement and did not consent to be interviewed for the criminal investigation.
Apparently, the only time Balmaceda discussed his alleged crimes was during an internal investigation conducted by the Glendale Police Department, during which he admitted to sending the text messages to several girls and kissing another alleged victim.
As Cobb points out, coerced testimony -- like that given during the internal investigation -- isn't admissible in any criminal case.
The other problem, Cobb says, is that investigators were unable to recover "any of the text messages from the various cell-phone service providers, so we were unable to corroborate the content or context of the messages Balmaceda sent the victim. Without the specific content of the text messages, there was no way to prove Mr. Balmaceda intended to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor, and hence, no way to prove the luring counts."
Cobb says yet another problem with the case was the age of the victim.
"The sex-abuse charge that was submitted required us to prove that the touching was without consent because the victim in this case was older than 15 (this particular burden of proof is not required in cases involving victims younger than 15, since they cannot give consent)," he says. "In the police report, the victim stated she told Balmaceda to "go for it" when he touched her, and that she was 'going along' with the texts being sent by Balmaceda in an effort to gain information on him for reporting purposes. These statements make it highly problematic for us to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury that there was a lack of consent."
Despite the Glendale P.D.'s telling New Times yesterday that it was confident in the case it built against Balmaceda, Cobb says, the detective who led the investigation "fully supports" the MCAO's decision not charge the former cop.
He says finding "identifiable criminal acts," as the Glendale Police Department claims it has, is "not the same thing as finding sufficient evidence to meet the substantial burden of proof the State faces at trial.
"Frustrating though it may be, our office has an ethical and professional obligation not to file charges when there is insufficient evidence, and not to bring cases that have no reasonable likelihood of conviction," Cobb concludes. "It is our hope that at a minimum, the internal investigation can be used to strip Balmaceda of his Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) certification so he can never again serve as a police officer [in Arizona]."
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