New York, NY — Two NYPD officers have been fired after they were found guilty of the rape of a 15-year-old girl who reportedly wanted to be a police officer and was part of the department's explorer program. Over the course of two years, officers Sanad Musallam, 34, and Yaser Shohatee, 41, groomed and abused their victim and are now being held accountable for their crimes.
According to NYPD disciplinary documents made public this week (emphasis added):
Both Respondents have been found guilty of shocking professional and sexual misconduct. They abused the trust reposed in them by this Department and violated their oaths of office. It bears stating in explicit terms that The Minor was victimized by two uniformed Members of Service assigned to the same precinct. The evidence supports a finding that Respondents individually targeted The Minor as a particularly vulnerable individual they were morally obliged to protect but chose to take advantage of to satisfy their depraved interests.
Beginning in 2015, and continuing into 2016, these two officers built a sadistic relationship with their victim, texting, calling, and repeatedly sexually abusing her. Showing just how difficult it is to hold bad cops accountable, the allegations were made in 2017 yet these two monsters remained on the payroll for four more years as the internal "investigation" took place.
A spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez told Gothamist that the officers were not criminally charged at the time because their victim — who was a child — declined to participate in the legal proceedings.
According to officer Shohatee, he first met the victim when her mother brought her to a local police department seeking help for her "problematic" behavior. At this time she joined the department's Explorer Program, which helps to guide youths into becoming NYPD cops. But instead of guiding this youth into a law enforcement career, Shohatee began grooming her.
Though Shohatee claimed his relationship with the girl was in a mentor-to-child status and completely professional, the court found otherwise. Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Trials Paul Gamble wrote that this narrative was “self-serving and largely unworthy of belief.”
"This pattern of misconduct violates the long-standing moral and legal proscriptions against adults interacting with minors as if they were peers. The insidious and sinister nature of his repeated actions would cause any responsible adult, let alone a parent, to recoil in horror," the judge wrote in his findings.
Musallam could not claim that his actions were professional as investigators found hundreds of sexually explicit text messages on his phone, which were reportedly discovered by his own wife.
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Musallam was also found to have raped the girl while off duty.
“Whether he retained the image as a trophy of his illicit relationship with The Minor or as a cudgel against her credibility, there is no reasonable explanation for his continued possession of the photograph that is consistent with innocence,” Judge Gamble wrote.
Shamefully enough, the defense attorney for the officers claim that it was the girl who manipulated the officers and not the other way around, painting the adults, who were several decades older than the girl, as the victims in this case. Luckily, the judge did not buy this defense.
Two officers being accused of raping a teen is unfortunately not an isolated incident in the NYPD. As we reported, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, both NYPD officers received no jail time for allegedly handcuffing a teenager, placing her in the back of their unmarked police-issued van, while both officers raped her in the back of the van. They said the act was consensual. The teen, however, steadfastly held to her position she’d been raped. During the investigation and trial the cops’ defense team engaged in what many claimed was an elaborate character assassination both pre-trial and during the proceedings. Her lawyer relayed the broader implications.
Michael David represented the teenager. He called the sentence “outrageous” and told reporters:
It’s sending the worst message to victims of police sexual misconduct in America, that police could kidnap someone, rape her, and throw her on the street, and get away with it.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez reportedly wanted to see the two ex-cops behind bars but again blamed the victim for having inconsistencies in her allegations. However, it must be noted the prosecutor’s office is the one which offered the cops a plea deal.
These defendants engaged in a shocking abuse of power which they finally acknowledged...While I would have preferred to see them serve prison time, they are no longer members of our police department and with today’s plea are convicted felons.
Martins and Hall were initially charged with rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping. However, in March of 2019, those charges were reduced to official misconduct and accepting a bribe, a far cry from the forceful, unwelcome, and unwanted rape the teen alleged took place.