Trial begins for policeman accused of sexual assaults

Prosecutors open case against police veteran.

January 25, 2011 

Suspended Anchorage police officer Anthony Rollins stands with defense attorney Susan Carney in Boney Courthouse Jan. 25, 2011, during the first day of his jury trial in which he is accused of 14 counts of sexual assault and six counts of official misconduct for misusing his position as a law enforcement officer.

BILL ROTH / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

A woman who reported to rape counselors in 2009 that an Anchorage police officer forced her to commit an oral sex act set into motion an investigation that uncovered what prosecutors called a series of sexual assaults by the on-duty and uniformed officer.

Detectives would go on to find five previous sexual assault victims from Anthony Rollins' past, prosecutors said Tuesday in court during opening arguments just before the woman herself took the stand.

Rollins, 43, faces 20 criminal counts, including charges of first- and second-degree sexual assault, official misconduct as a police officer and criminal use of a computer. The first alleged assault occurred March 24, 2006, and the last happened April 16, 2009, according to documents filed in court. The Anchorage Police Department suspended Rollins shortly after the last assault was reported and announced the allegations that July when a grand jury indicted him.

Rollins has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

During opening arguments Tuesday, assistant district attorney Brittany Dunlop laid out the state's case against the 13-year Anchorage police officer. The prosecutor told jurors that witness testimony and evidence presented in the coming weeks will prove Rollins either inappropriately touched or had sex with the women.

None of them wanted the sex, Dunlop said, calling the crimes "a predatory abuse of power."

"Anthony Rollins was a wolf in sheep's clothing, and because of his position he had access to some of the most vulnerable victims, women he believed wouldn't report or wouldn't be believed if they did report," Dunlop told the jury. "It was exactly because of that power imbalance that most of the victims in this case thought that their cases would never be brought to justice."

That was until the first woman to tell her story to detectives came forward. A subsequent investigation and forensic evidence would soon corroborate her story, Dunlop said.

Evidence collected from under Rollins' fingernails matched the woman's DNA, and an analysis found more of her cells in the sample than Rollins' own, Dunlop said. A check of Rollins' pants and underwear also found her DNA, Dunlop said.

DISPUTING THE CHARGES

Dunlop, using a bulleted PowerPoint presentation projected on a screen in the courtroom, then explained what happened next with the unfolding investigation: Through various means, detectives started finding other victims who said they'd either been forced into sex or fondled by Rollins.

Susan Carney, a private attorney from Fairbanks appointed to defend Rollins, gave a much shorter opening statement.

Carney disputed that some of the sex acts ever happened, and she claimed some of them were consensual.

"They all boil down to bad sexual behavior," Carney said. "We're not asking you to approve of adultery. We're not asking you to approve of people having sexual dalliances at work. We're not asking you to condone any dereliction of duty. But none of these things are sexual assaults."

Carney also indicated that Rollins would take the witness stand in his defense.

"His fate and his life are in your hands," Carney told the jury.

A DUI STOP

Testifying Tuesday, the first alleged victim to come forward described, crying at times, how she came to be in Rollins' custody during an arrest for drunken driving.

The 25-year-old said she had a few beers that night with dinner, then a cocktail or two at home, and drove in a pickup to the Chevron gas station at the intersection of the Old Seward Highway and International Airport Road to get cigarettes.

Two police cars pulled up, lights flashing, and officers asked her to perform field sobriety tests because someone had reported her swerving. She failed the tests, and the officers put her in Rollins' patrol car.

It would be her second drunken driving arrest, the woman said, and she remembered shaking her head and wondering why she hadn't learned from the first one.

It was an uneventful ride to the Fourth Avenue police substation, where Rollins used a machine to test her breath-alcohol content: at 0.159, over the legal limit of 0.08, though the woman already assumed she would be found guilty, she recalled on the witness stand.

Rollins filled out paperwork and let her attempt to call a friend, though the attempts were unsuccessful. Rollins was professional and courteous during that time, and Rollins used an audio recorder that he'd placed on a desk, she said.

AT THE SUBSTATION

Rollins then turned the recorder off, she said. He stood her up and she thought they were headed to the Anchorage jail, she said.

"He said, 'Now that we're off the record, I wanted to ask you about your tongue ring,' " she testified. "He turned me around and said, 'Why don't we go back in here and talk about it.' "

She thought it was strange when Rollins asked if the tongue ring excited men, and if she got excited when men noticed it. He kept asking her about piercings, and she told him her left nipple was pierced.

He grabbed her breast, she said. Then Rollins put his hands down her pants and started kissing her neck, she said. Still handcuffed, she backed up against a chair and the wall behind it, and Rollins pressed his body against hers, she said.

The testimony that followed described Rollins forcing the woman into an oral sex act, during which the woman said she bit Rollins.

"How hard did you bite him?" Dunlop asked.

"Not hard enough," replied the woman, sobbing.


Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.

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