Former Auburn police officer pleads guilty to inappropriately searching woman

Staff writerJune 24, 2013 

A former Auburn police officer pleaded guilty Monday to fourth-degree assault for inappropriately searching a woman by reaching under her clothing during a traffic stop while he was still on the force in January.

John Michael Clemmons, 50, was given 80 hours of community service and a deferred sentence of 24 months. He agreed to forfeit his certification and not work in law enforcement as a result of the misdemeanor conviction.

He recently resigned from the Auburn Police Department, prosecutors said, and had been placed on administrative leave when the assault was reported, per department procedure.

According to court records and an independent investigation by the Puyallup Police Department:

About 1:30 a.m. Jan. 27, Clemmons was on patrol near The Sports Page tavern at 2802 Auburn Way N. He followed the 24-year-old woman as she drove out of the parking lot of after she had a drink with a friend.

She turned her lights off and sped up to try to get away from him, though his emergency lights were not on.

As she pulled into her driveway a few blocks from the bar, he parked and yelled for her to stay in her vehicle.

When he asked, she said she’d had a glass of wine and complied with his sobriety check instructions.

He handcuffed her in the back seat of his car, said she was not under arrest, and that they were going to talk.

Clemmons said he could arrest the woman for eluding, and she begged him not to take her to jail.

He asked what she’d be willing to do. The woman felt he was asking for a sexual act, but avoided the topic by offering to never drink and drive again.

Clemmons said he smelled marijuana and that he needed to search her.

The woman said that while she was still handcuffed, he felt underneath her bra and clothing below her waist. She said he also used his flashlight to look inside her pants.

He mentioned her license was suspended, removed her handcuffs and let her out of the patrol car, touching her knee as she left.

Clemmons said he needed more information, and asked if he could get her phone number and go into her residence.

She said no and he reached around her and grabbed her buttocks, again asking to go in the residence.

The woman told him she felt that he may be trying to arrest her for prostitution or offering a sexual act.

He replied that he wouldn’t arrest her for that and said he was off duty. (Court records and a police statement make clear he was on duty and in uniform.)

The woman left and went inside the residence alone.

Clemmons did not notify dispatch of the stop via radio or the computer in his patrol car.

Her cell phone showed information supporting the woman’s account of the traffic stop, according to Puyallup police, who independently investigated along with King County prosecutors.

Auburn Police said in a release Monday that while probable cause did exist for the original traffic stop, Clemmons violated department regulations.

“The Auburn Police Department takes these complaints seriously and will not tolerate this sort of behavior.” Cmdr. Mike Hirman said in the statement.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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