Elschlager faces federal charges
Former trooper accused of misuse of police power
Covert photographs and video, a saved ball of hair, GPS tracking and stalking behaviors, unwarranted traffic stops, car tampering, phone calls and text messages were laid out in a criminal complaint filed before a federal magistrate as probable cause for federal charges against a former Ohio State Highway Patrol Marietta post commander Thursday.
William P. Elschlager, 48, of 305 Masonic Park Road, Devola, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp Thursday in Columbus to hear the charges of cyberstalking and deprivation of rights under color of law brought by Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and the FBI.
Elschlager was terminated by the highway patrol in March 2016 after being charged with crimes that January related to him allegedly stalking a woman he with whom he’d had an affair. Those charges were dropped this April and additional charges concerning private information found on his computer of 10 other women illegally obtained through the law enforcement automated database system were dropped Monday by the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.
He was released from federal custody on a personal recognizance bond Thursday, will appear back in Columbus today to have an ankle monitor fitted and is set to appear for a preliminary hearing before Kemp in Columbus at 11 a.m. June 8.
“I think this is possibly the first time we’ve brought forward this cyberstalking statute in this district,” said Glassman. “The GPS is the key to the cyber portion of the charge whereas regular stalking would focus on behavior crossing state lines. Both of those charges are federal crimes and thus the investigation was done in cooperation with the FBI.”
The second charge relates to the misuse of police power and authority.
“What it means is if you’re a police officer you can’t unreasonably search or seize someone under your police authority,” explained Glassman. “On at least one occasion he pulled her over for no reason.”
Other instances outlined in the complaint include six videos found on Elschlager’s phone of surveillance of Angela D. Bettinger, wife of fellow Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Bettinger, who had ended an affair with Elschlager in 2015. Also allegedly found was the personal information of 10 other women saved on Elschlager’s home computer obtained through the law enforcement automated database system.
“The evidence indicates that there is probable cause to believe that Elschlager, with the intent to harass or intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to harass or intimidate, unlawfully cyber stalked (Bettinger) by using an interactive computer service and/or a facility of interstate or foreign commerce, which caused, attempted to cause or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to (Bettinger),” said Special Agent Steven Pettyjohn in the complaint. “The evidence further indicates that there is probable cause to believe that Elschlager, while acting under color of law, deprived (Bettinger) of her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
George Cosenza, Elschlager’s attorney in the dismissed Washington County case, said Thursday’s hearing before Kemp was the first step in a long process for the district attorney and FBI.
“He’s not been indicted by a grand jury, he’s been arrested on a criminal complaint,” said Cosenza. “Next there would be a detention hearing and then he’s entitled to a preliminary hearing before his case would be heard by a federal grand jury drawn from residents of the entire southern district.”
If indicted, Elschlager’s case would then be assigned to a federal judge and both arraignment and trial dates would be set at that time, Cosenza said.
Glassman said he expected a grand jury indictment to take place before the preliminary hearing, which if that happens would nullify the need for the hearing.
Cosenza said he met with Elschlager in the Washington County Jail Tuesday night after Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him on his way home from work on Masonic Park Road, just off of Ohio 60.
“They arrested him on a federal criminal complaint, I just think this is overkill,” he said. “I think it’s a shame and I think that was unnecessary. If they had let him know there was a federal warrant out for his arrest he would have appeared on his own in Columbus, just like he’s appeared for every hearing in Marietta. It was done purely to embarrass him and make a show of it.”
Glassman said a summons couldn’t be filed on the basis of a criminal complaint, but that an arrest warrant could be issued.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks refused to confirm the arrest Wednesday or comment Thursday on the charges.
Elschlager still faces charges related to the alleged theft of evidence–guns– from when he was a patrolman in Delaware County.
“This new arrest is strictly federal, we did not coordinate with (the FBI) at all,” said Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
For the federal charges Elschlager could face up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted of cyberstalking and could face an additional year in prison if convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law.
At a glance
¯ William P. Elschlager, 48, of 305 Masonic Park Road, Devola, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp Thursday to hear the charges of cyberstalking and deprivation of rights under color of law brought by Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and the FBI.
¯ Cyberstalking is defined as the intent to harass or intimidate a person with the use of an interactive computer service which would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress.
¯ Deprivation of rights under color of law refers to the abuse of police power and authority to unlawfully search or seize an individual.
¯ Elschlager is set to appear for a preliminary hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp in Columbus at 11 a.m. June 8.
¯ U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman plans to present the case before a grand jury before the hearing.
Source: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman.