Thursday, June 26, 2003

Walters jailed on sex charges

Published in the Current

George E. Walters, 42, of Coach Lantern Lane, Scarborough, pleaded guilty June 23 to state charges of unlawful sexual contact and Coast Guard charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. He will serve three years in military jails, followed by 12 years of probation in Maine, and will be required to register as a sexually violent predator in the state’s sex offender registry.

In a plea deal, Walters, who is a first class petty officer with 21 years’ service in the Coast Guard, will also be reduced in rank to the lowest enlisted rank. He will be given a bad conduct discharge from the Coast Guard upon completion of his sentence, during which he will not earn any Coast Guard pay or benefits. He will also not be eligible for any Coast Guard retirement benefits.

Walters pleaded guilty June 23 in Cumberland County Superior Court to three state felony charges of unlawful sexual contact, in a plea deal resulting in the dropping of 12 other state charges: three counts of felony unlawful sexual contact, one count of misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, six counts of misdemeanor assault, one count of misdemeanor sexual misconduct with a child and one count of misdemeanor violation of condition of release.

He was sentenced to five years for each of the three charges to which he pleaded guilty, for a total of 15 years, with all but three years suspended.

Upon his release, Walters must undergo “sexual abuse and sexual offender counseling/treatment,” according to a court order, which also prevents him from being in contact with any females under the age of 18 and prohibits him from owning or using a computer with an Internet connection.

Walters has been classified as a “sexually violent predator” under the state’s sex offender registration law, meaning he will also be required to register with local law enforcement wherever he lives every 90 days for the rest of his life. He received that designation rather than the less-serious “se offender” designation on the registry because of the age of the victims, according to Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam.

He will serve the three years from the state sentence at the same time as the Coast Guard sentence.

“Our objective was for him to serve this sentence in the (Coast Guard) brig rather than in state custody” at state expense, said Elam, who handled the state’s case.

After he finishes his Coast Guard sentence, he will have to come back to Maine to serve out 12 years of probation. If he violates that probation, he could go back to jail for as much as five years per violation, Elam said.

In conversation during a court recess June 23, Walters was heard to ask his wife to look into transferring his Maine probation to New Hampshire after he gets out.

Elam said he could apply for a transfer, but “it’s not automatic.”

“Our objective … was to be watching him” for a long time, Elam said.

Walters, qualified as a cook but working on the maintenance staff at the South Portland Coast Guard station, was charged by the Coast Guard Feb. 19 with possessing and receiving child pornography over the Internet.

The Coast Guard charges stem from a Scarborough police investigation into allegations of unlawful sexual contact with several victims. In court documents filed by Scarborough police Officer Robert Moore supporting those charges, three victims are named, as are three other girls who, the documents say, suffered “some degree of sexual molestation” by Walters.

The victims, all under 18 and most under 14 at the time of the crimes, were all known to Walters, and the unlawful sexual contact occurred in the Walters home while the girls were visiting one of Walters’ sons. Court documents say Walters repeatedly grabbed, touched and rubbed several of the girls on more than one occasion, despite the girls’ screams and cries for Walters to stop.

He was allowed to post $5,000 bail in July 2002, but was arrested in November 2002 and charged with violating his bail conditions by being in the company of a friend’s 10-year-old daughter on three occasions: at Scarborough’s Scary Hayride at Halloween, at a roller-skating party in Portland and a party at the Walters home.

Moore told the Current at that time that the mere presence of the girl in Walters’ company was a violation of the bail conditions.

Moore said he had no evidence that Walters abused the girl, but couldn’t be sure because the girl’s father wouldn’t cooperate.

In the process of investigating those charges, Scarborough police searched Walters’ home and computer and located a number of image files containing child pornography.

In the court-martial, Walters admitted downloading from the Internet or receiving by e-mail more than 50 images of people – mostly girls under the age of 18 – in situations and poses designed to “elicit a sexual response from the viewer.”

His wife Susan was in the courtroom almost the entire time. The two spoke and hugged a couple of times during breaks in the trial, and traded looks and glances throughout the proceedings.

“I’m supporting him 100 percent on all the charges,” Susan Walters told the Current. “I have since day one.”

At the same time, “I was very surprised there were so many” pornographic images. She said she had known he was downloading some images, but did not know how many.

She and her sons moved to be near family in New Hampshire and have been visiting Walters twice a week since November 2002. “They miss their dad,” Susan said of the couple’s sons.

The family has forgiven Walters for his transgressions. “He’s apologized for doing what he did,” Susan said. In fact, Susan said her husband has become a changed man in jail. “He’s more sensitive, he’s more emotional,” she said.

“I admitted I was wrong. That’s the hardest thing for most people,” Walters told the Current before his sentencing.

Walters’ civilian attorney, Peter Rodway, and his military attorney, Navy Lt. Heather Partridge, did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment for this story.