A Reno police officer has been indicted on misconduct and lewdness charges, but his lawyer, David Houston of Reno, said Thursday that the case is based on false claims by a 17-year-old girl who offered him sex to avoid being arrested for driving under the influence.
Sgt. Paul Pitsnogle, 39, an 11-year veteran of the force, is accused of directing the naked teen to position herself on her hands and knees in the back of his patrol car while he masturbated, according to the two-count indictment handed up Wednesday evening by a Washoe County grand jury.
The indictment shows that Pitsnogle pulled over the teen and another passenger on an onramp to U.S. Interstate 80 in West Reno for suspicion of drunken driving in the early morning hours of April 3.
She was not arrested.
The officer's lawyer said Pitsnogle smelled alcohol when he pulled the teen over and that she performed poorly in field sobriety tests. Houston told The Associated Press, "It is an indictment based on improbable testimony that renders it almost absurd." He added, "Now we have a police officer, who has an impeccable, unblemished record with a history of commendations, whose career is ruined by the reckless allegations of a 17-year-old."
Pitsnogle and five other officers had received a "Commendation Medal" in February from Reno's police chief for his work helping hurricane victims in New Orleans.
Houston, one of Reno's most prominent criminal defense lawyers, also said the district attorney's office acted unfairly by publicizing the indictment before sharing it with Pitsnogle. He said Pitsnogle's young daughter was at school when part of the story aired on a local television station.
Washoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel J. Greco did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The Sparks Police Department has issued a statement seeking information from any females who may have had contact with Pitsnogle, a Sparks resident, in a situation "where he made them feel uncomfortable, or where he hinted or suggested that they could get out of a ticket or arrest by performing a sexual act."