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'Boneheaded' former Anchorage officer sentenced for misuse of police database

Jerzy Shedlock

A former Anchorage police officer was sentenced Friday for using police resources to share private information with a woman he’d arrested and then started seeing casually. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Spaan said Mark Moeller’s actions were the result of “a boneheaded thought process” and ordered a mental evaluation as part of the defendant’s probation conditions.

“This has got to be the stupidest felony I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Spaan, who added the court needed to make sure there wasn’t a mental issue that contributed to the crimes.

Twenty-six-year-old Moeller had worked as a patrol officer for less than a year when the Anchorage Police Department announced in May 2013 that he’d resigned following an internal investigation. Criminal charges were filed the same month, which originally included 13 charges, eight of which were felonies.

Six month later, Moeller would enter a plea agreement with the state. He pleaded guilty to two of the charges, felony criminal use of a computer and misdemeanor misuse of confidential information, stemming from the former officer accessing a statewide law enforcement database to look up records for his family and the female friend.

Spaan suspended a two-year jail term for the felony, as well as a 90-day sentence for the misdemeanor. Moeller also must finalize the process of permanently giving up his law enforcement certification for Alaska. The court ordered he sign the paperwork by Monday.

The sentence also called for two years of probation with a number of conditions, such as maintaining fulltime employment or enrollment as a student. Office of Public Advocacy defense attorney Emily Cooper said Moeller is enrolled in engineering and welding classes at the University of Alaska. She said he is a straight-A student.

Moeller opted not to address the court. “I have nothing I’d like to add. Thank you for your time, your honor,” he said.

Broken trust

Assistant Attorney General Gregg Olson briefly detailed the events that led to Moeller effectively forfeiting his career in law enforcement -- the attorney said he’d followed in his father's footsteps.

According to the charges, Moeller arrested a woman on New Year’s Eve 2012 after she called 911 and told police dispatchers she was too drunk to drive. The rookie officer found the woman on the side of the Glenn Highway and arrested her. He began calling her in the following days. It was just a friendship, but police reported they did have sex once.

Moeller contacted the Anchorage municipal prosecutors four times within a month, asking the woman’s DUI charge be dropped. The requests made prosecutor Seneca Theno uncomfortable, and she called Anchorage police supervisors Jan. 25, 2013, the charges say.

Through an Internal Affairs Unit investigation, the department discovered multiple crimes. Before Moeller had used the Alaska Public Safety Information Network to check on the woman’s license status, he used the database to look up records on his wife’s sister, the charges say.

Moeller later requested a report on the woman’s ex-boyfriend from an Alaska State Trooper when he traveled to Palmer for a separate case. He reportedly obtained photos and showed them to the woman, the charges say.

He was eventually confronted by the investigation unit and promptly resigned in February 2013. The woman had her drunk driving charges dropped.

Olson argued during sentencing that the case was about public trust in officials. He said the defendant used his exclusive access to the database for his own private purposes.

“It was inappropriate on a number of levels,” Olson said. In addition to losing the public’s trust, the former officer “broke the trust of his fellow officers,” he said. Olson contended Moeller would have lost his police certification regardless of a plea deal.

“He’s given up his career,” Judge Spaan replied.

'Feeling that condemnation'

Cooper first offered the court some background on her client -- fulltime student, father, eager to put the criminal case behind him -- before arguing against jail time. She argued Moeller hunts and should be allowed to own a firearm. She also said a mental evaluation was unnecessary, but the judge disagreed, stating such would determine if an underlying mental issue set the former officer’s unethical actions in motion.

At the end of Cooper’s brief sentencing statements, she said Moeller is feeling the full effects of very strong community disapproval.

“He’s feeling that condemnation,” Cooper said. “It will continue to affect him in the community and in future employment prospects.”