The mother of a teenager who testified that a police officer encouraged her to undress in his patrol car said she and her daughter did not report the incident immediately because "I didn't understand what the proper procedure was for reporting a rogue cop."
The mother took the stand Wednesday in the Washoe District Court trial of Paul Pitsnogle, a Reno police sergeant accused of misconduct by an officer and open or gross lewdness.
The woman said her daughter was traumatized and nearly hysterical when she returned home after being pulled over by Pitsnogle in the early morning hours of April 3.
"We thought long and hard about how hard this would be if she told the truth," the woman testified. "Our concern right now is that Sgt. Pitsnogle can't wear a uniform again and can't do this to another girl. This man was a pervert with a badge and a gun and a uniform."
The teenager, who was 17 at the time but has since turned 18, testified Wednesday that she was afraid to call police because Pitsnogle might respond to her home.
She testified that Pitsnogle implied he could be bought off in return for sexual favors after he pulled her over for a curfew violation and threatened her with arrest for drunken driving.
Attorneys for Pitsnogle, 40, an 11-year veteran of the police force with no prior citizen complaints, contend the teen initiated the encounter to escape a drunken driving citation and now hopes to use the criminal case to bolster a civil suit.
An 18-year-old friend who was a passenger in the car the night of the stop testified Wednesday that after attending a concert, the two teens went to a fast food restaurant, ate tacos at her house, changed clothes and were going to another friend's house when they were pulled over.
She said the young driver was terrified by the stop because they had been drinking and had smoked marijuana before the concert. The teenage driver also had been pulled over the night before, but had
not been ticketed.
Both teenagers testified they had only a few sips of beer from the time the concert began at about 8 p.m. until they were stopped more than five hours later.
The passenger said Pitsnogle had his searchlight beamed at the back of the stopped car, making it difficult for her to see much, even though she re-aimed the rearview mirror in an attempt to see the patrol car.
Once Pitsnogle and her friend got into the cruiser, all she could see was the car's interior dome light, which went off when cars passed by on the freeway onramp where they were stopped, the passenger said.
In testimony Tuesday, the teen driver said that after asking her to step out of the car to do sobriety tests, Pitsnogle asked how she could tempt him into not arresting her.
"He told me if I was arrested I'd lose my license until I was 21 and have a probation officer. I told him I'm a good student and I work with kids. I was scared of being labeled as a person with a DUI," she said.
Eventually, she said he thrust his pelvis toward her, and she offered to perform a sex act on him.
"He said, `That would be tempting, that would tempt me. It's a good idea."'
The teen said Pitsnogle led her to the back door of his patrol car and he got in the driver's seat.
She said he told her, "'I can't touch you and you can't touch me, so think of something else."'
"I said, `So I have to take my clothes off?' He said, `that's a good idea."'
She said Pitsnogle masturbated in the front seat as he directed her to pose naked in the back seat.
While the charge of misconduct by an officer is punishable by up to four years in prison, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco said the law mandates an initial sentence of probation. Only if probation is revoked would prison time be served. The gross misdemeanor charge of lewdness carries a sentence of up to one year in jail.
The case, with a lengthy witness list dominated by police
officers, is expected to last at least through Friday.