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Ex-Anchorage cop pleads guilty to computer crimes

Casey Grove

A former Anchorage police officer has pleaded guilty to charges that he used a police computer to illegally look up information about a woman he arrested, started to see casually and with whom he had sex.

As part of the Monday plea deal with prosecutors, Mark Moeller must permanently give up his state certification to be a law enforcement officer in Alaska.

Moeller, 25, was a rookie cop on patrol less than a year when the Anchorage Police Department announced in May that he had resigned following an Internal Affairs Unit investigation. Moeller was hired in late October 2011 and completed the academy in April 2012.

Police Chief Mark Mew said Tuesday that he had warned the recruits on the academy's first day about inappropriate behavior while on duty.

"I can't believe this guy didn't understand the expectations," Mew said.

The story of the charges against Moeller start with an arrest on Dec. 31, 2012.

According to police, the woman at the center of Moeller's trouble called dispatchers to say she was driving drunk that New Year's Eve on the Glenn Highway near Eagle River. She said she had gotten in a fight with her boyfriend and was too drunk to drive, police said. It was about 10:30 p.m., and Moeller found her on the side of the highway and arrested her.

In the following days, Moeller started calling the woman, police said.

Moeller also contacted the municipal prosecutors' office four times in less than a month asking that the drunken driving charges be dropped, according to the charging document in Moeller's case.

He was also using a statewide law enforcement database, the Alaska Public Safety Information Network, to check the status of the woman's license, the charges say. He said later in an interview with Internal Affairs that the woman had called him wanting to know if her license was revoked, the charges say. The investigators would also learn Moeller had earlier looked up records on his wife's sister.

The young police officer then checked on the woman's now-ex-boyfriend at her request, he said, according to the charges. Moeller was in Palmer for a separate case when he asked an Alaska State Trooper for a copy of a report on the ex-boyfriend. The trooper also sent Moeller pictures of a search of the ex-boyfriend's property, which he showed the woman, the charges say.

"Moeller stated that he destroyed the AST report by burning it at his house," the charges say.

Moeller's repeated inquiries to the prosecutor, Seneca Theno, about having the woman's drunken driving charges dropped had made Theno uncomfortable, and she called police supervisors Jan. 25, the charges say.

But Moeller had started to see the woman during that time, police said. At first, it was apparently just a friendship, but they had sex -- just once, police said -- on Jan. 28.

"I don't recall if he said that, or if she said that, or if both of them agreed," Deputy Police Chief Steve Hebbe said. "I think at the end of the day, we felt confident that we could only demonstrate one sexual encounter had occurred."

The investigators recorded conversations between the two, as well as interviewed them, Hebbe said.

After he was confronted with the Internal Affairs investigation, Moeller resigned in February. In March, police spokespersons announced his resignation and the charges: eight felony counts of criminal use of a computer, four misdemeanor counts of misuse of confidential information and one count of official misconduct.

The municipal prosecutors dropped the charges against the woman Moeller had arrested, and while they were unavailable Monday and Tuesday to comment on that aspect of the case, it was likely due to the fact the arresting officer was facing criminal charges and allegations of wrongdoing.

Mew and Hebbe admitted that would make prosecuting the woman difficult.

"Certainly having the officer interfering in the case and having a relationship with the defendant does not help our ability to get this thing through to trial," Mew said.

On Monday, Moeller pleaded guilty to one count of criminal use of a computer and one count of misuse of confidential information. He was not sentenced, but the plea deal comes with prosecutors' recommendation that he get a suspended imposition of sentence and two years' probation for the felony charge. The plea deal leaves sentencing on the misdemeanor to the judge's discretion.

Moeller -- dressed in a light blue shirt, red tie and gray pants -- declined to comment following his change of plea hearing.

Greggory Olson, an assistant attorney general with the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, said Moeller's plea agreement requires him to write a letter to the Alaska Police Standards Council relinquishing his certification as a law enforcement officer. The council would have likely stripped Moeller of the certification anyway, something he could appeal, but Olson said it made sense to include that requirement in the plea agreement.

"Why go through that process when he really can't be a police officer in the state at this point?" Olson said. "He's agreed to do it."

It's disappointing that the police department would put so much time and money into training Moeller, just to have him investigated for misconduct and, ultimately, unable to be a police officer.

"It's regrettable, it's unpleasant, but we felt that it wasn't a difficult decision to uphold the rules and maintain the public trust," Mew said.

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