By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A former Havre probation officer was found guilty this morning of official misconduct for engaging in sexual acts with a woman he was assigned to supervise.
State District Judge David Rice convicted Edward L. Schmidt after a one-day nonjury trial.
According to the charging document, Schmidt required the woman to call him excessively, talked to her about sexual matters, and on three occasions masturbated in her presence while touching her.
Rice returned the guilty verdict at 11 a.m. following closing arguments. Earlier in the morning he denied a last-minute request by the defense to dismiss the charge against Schmidt.
Defense attorney Dan Boucher argued on Tuesday afternoon that the charge should be dismissed because the state's case did not meet the statutory definition of official misconduct. In order for a public servant to be charged with the offense, the official must have committed a crime, he said.
Boucher cited several prior cases, including one in which a prison guard was charged with official misconduct for falsifying his time cards.
"In that case, the underlying offense was theft," Boucher said. "In this instance, there is no regulation or statute that the state alleges Mr. Schmidt violated."
If Schmidt engaged in the alleged behavior, it would be "boorish and inappropriate," but not illegal, Boucher said.
Assistant attorney general Barbara Harris told Rice she was confident that the state had met the requirements to prosecute Schmidt for official misconduct.
"He performed an act in excess of his lawful authority with the purpose to obtain advantage for himself through sexual gratification," she said.
Rice ruled against Boucher's request this morning.
The alleged victim was the first witness to testify on Tuesday.
Struggling sometimes to hold back tears, the woman said Schmidt often gave her rides in state-owned and personal vehicles, made sexually suggestive comments, and ejaculated on her sofa and carpet.
Harris asked the woman to describe her relationship with Schmidt.
"He was my god. I was dependent on him," she responded.
"What was the benefit to you to keep him happy?"
"I wouldn't go to jail."
The woman was on the stand for about two hours. Her testimony was followed by that of criminal investigator Ken Thompson.
Thompson described interviews he had with Schmidt and the alleged victim, and discussed evidence he collected in the case. Using an ultraviolet light, he identified several areas on the woman's carpet and sofa that might be seminal fluid, he said.
He removed the sections and sent them to the State Crime Lab in Missoula, he said.
During cross-examination, Schmidt's attorney Francis McCarvel tried to use Thompson to introduce evidence of the alleged victim's two convictions for filing false police reports. The effort was quashed by Rice, who sustained multiple objections by Harris to McCarvel's questions.
McCarvel told Rice he was confused at the rulings.
"This witness has a proclivity, a propensity, to lie to law enforcement," he said.
Rice responded by saying that law does not allow McCarvel to use the woman's criminal convictions to discredit her.
Griffin testified that she found seminal fluid on the couch sample, and that DNA found on the sample was consistent with that of Schmidt.
Under cross-examination by Schmidt's attorney Dan Boucher, Griffin conceded that the sample included DNA from at least two people, and that she "can't say specifically who the donor was."
Griffin also said she found no evidence of seminal fluid on the carpet sample and that DNA is not unique to seminal fluid. It can also be transferred from hair, blood, saliva and sweat, she said.
After the prosecution had rested and the witnesses were dismissed, Boucher argued that the case be dismissed. The Schmidt worked in Havre for 11 years as a probation and parole office with the state Deparmtent of Corrections. He resigned in September, five days after a meeting with Thompson in which he was told that his DNA was found on the woman's couch.
Official misconduct is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.