LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Two sergeants were fired for their part in a widespread sex scandal involving nearly a dozen Lakeland police officers after a civilian crime analyst detailed trysts with the men in police and fire stations, patrol cars, motels and even in a parking lot after a memorial service for a slain officer.
Sue Eberle told officials she had consensual and sometimes coerced sex with the officers and a firefighter, and that she once was propositioned by a city worker. Eberle's accounts were largely corroborated by her sexual partners and others within the police department, and published in a graphic report by the county's top prosecutor.
The Ledger reports Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack fired Sgts. David Woolverton, 38, and Rusty Longaberger, 45, on Monday for conduct unbecoming, failure to report misconduct and neglect of duty.
"These are the first steps the police department is taking, but there are also other multiple departments throughout the city (that are) also involved," Womack said. "This is a very multifaceted investigation. So we are moving through it very quickly, as we can, and methodically, as we can, making sure all things are done correctly."
Eberle told investigators that Woolverton, a traffic homicide unit member, came to her office twice and forced her to have sex on top of her desk. He has repeatedly denied the accusations, according to the investigator's report. Woolverton said they did have consensual sex in his vehicle at a park and also admitted exchanging explicit text messages with her.
Longaberger said he drove to Orlando to have sex with her two to three times while she was attending training last year, according to the report.
Three city employees have resigned, and others — such as the former assistant chief of the department — have retired. Five other officers have been placed on either administrative leave or modified duty. The newspaper reported that more disciplinary actions could happen later this week or next.
Jerry Hill, Polk County's state attorney, wrote in a report last month that the investigation revealed an extraordinary amount of sexual conduct that was committed both on-duty and off-duty officers.
"We find the conduct of a number of sworn officers, including some officers of rank, to be at best a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst their actions indicate a moral bankruptcy that exists amongst some individuals within the ranks at the Lakeland Police Department," he wrote.
Eberle, who has retained an attorney, recounted for Hill how she had sex in police cars, cemeteries and motels with different officers — and in the parking lot outside a reception that followed the December 2011 funeral of Officer Arnulfo Crispin, who had been fatally shot on duty. She also said officers and some supervisors pressured her for sex, groped her while working and texted her photos of their genitalia.
Eberle's attorney, David Linesch, has said she was targeted because she was weak and that the men knew they could take advantage of her. The married mother of two is on paid administrative leave.
The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault. However, Eberle has gone public with her story, appearing alongside her attorney and husband at a recent news conference about the allegations.