Princeton Times

News

December 10, 2012

Ex-police officer sentenced to home confinement, probation

PRINCETON — A former police officer who admitted to soliciting bribery will serve the next six months on home confinement and face up to five years on probation, if he follows the court’s rules.

Christopher Scott Winkler, 26, of Princeton, appeared before Circuit Judge William Sadler Monday, where the court handed down a 1-10-year sentence on the criminal information to which Winkler pleaded earlier this year. Sadler then suspended the sentence in favor of the home confinement and probation alternatives.

“He will have to — to a certain extent — earn his lack of incarceration,” Sadler said, explaining that Winkler must adhere to a set of strictly imposed probation rules in order to maintain his status as a home confinement and probation candidate.

In addition, Sadler said Winkler has already experienced public humiliation and the loss of his chosen career as a result of the case. The judge said the court must not discount the burden of shame a criminal conviction places on the person who carries it.

•••

Winkler was sworn in as a Princeton Police Department officer in April 2010. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled in the required West Virginia State Police Academy program, where Winkler alleged he suffered a brain injury during a training session on handling multiple assailants.

After a period of time off duty, Winkler returned to work at the PPD, where in March 2011,  he was accused of intimidating and bribing a local teenager, while in uniform and driving a PPD cruiser.

According to information released during an October plea hearing, Winkler befriended the teen and provided him with a debit card, in exchange for dog-walking and personal massage services. Over time, the boy reportedly ran up a $2,300 debt on the card.

When Winkler confronted the teen, the former officer allegedly threatened to file a criminal complaint against the boy, unless he repaid the debt in a manner suitable for him. He also allegedly made references to a possible threat of a Child Protective Services report.

Believing Winkler was attempting to bribe the teen for sex, the victim and his mother reported the incident to the West Virginia State Police. Officers with the Princeton Detachment initiated an investigation, equipping the complainant with an audio surveillance wire and monitoring a confrontation that took place March 2, 2011, between Winkler and the minor.

Winkler was taken into custody.

During WVSP questioning, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler told the judge that Winkler indicated he had, at one time, agreed to decrease the debt by $100 for each sexual favor the boy performed.

Defense counsel William Flanigan argued that Winkler only admitted that he threatened “to prosecute someone he could not prosecute.

Winkler was charged with bribing and attempting to sexually assault the boy. During pre-trial negotiations, however, Winkler agreed to plead guilty to a criminal information convicting him of soliciting bribery. In return, the state consented to drop the sexual assault charge and to endorse alternative sentencing, rater than incarceration.

Ultimately, Sadler concluded Monday that the plea agreement was in the best interest of Winkler and the community.

“Although there were conversatons about sexual acts, there really were none that took place,” the judge said.

•••

A woman who addressed the court and asked for the strictest sentencing possible, disagreed completely with the plea agreement, the judge’s assessment and the sentence.

“I think it’s a disgrace to the community,” Lisa Holcomb said, after the sentencing.  “... He should go to jail. Home confinement is not going to teach him anything. He will do this again.”

During the hearing, Holcomb petitioned the court to send Winkler to prison.

She said she witnessed the victim turn from a “happy young teenager” to a miserable, depressed “shell of a man,” because of his relationship with Winkler.

She said the victim, who is now an adult, lost his “friends, family, self-esteem, and most importantly, the will to live.”

She hoped Winkler might suffer similarly.

“It has ruined [the victim’s] life, and I hope that Chris Winkler’s life is ruined as well,” Holcomb said. “ ... May God have mercy on his soul, because the devil’s got it,” she said.

•••

Winkler addressed the court during his sentencing, but he spoke so quietly that his statement was nearly indecipherable inside the cavernous courtroom.

In the only part that could be heard among gallery observers, Winkler told the court, “All my life I wanted to be a policeman.”

As part of the plea agreement, he can never be employed as a public servant on behalf of any governmental entity in the future.

Although Winkler will not serve a single day in prison, unless he violates home confinement or probation, Sadler said he believed the defendant would meet much more punishment than the court could hand down.

The judge counted the shame of the crime, the now-useless nature of Winkler’s law enforcement degree and the fact that he can never serve in the career to which he always aspired among the penalties Winkler will pay for his actions.

Although the judge did not limit Winkler’s home confinement sentence to six months, he advised Probation Officer Kimberly Moore that he would re-evaluate the situation then.

Because home confinement cannot be a condition of probation, Sadler said Winkler’s probation will begin once the home confinement sentence is complete.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

1
Text Only
News
AP Video
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins
Sports
Multimedia