Jordan Cunningham working to hold police accountable for sexual misconduct
The Sutter County Sheriff’s Office released disciplinary records last week detailing the firing of a deputy for allegedly using his position as a law enforcement officer to intimidate women into having sex with him while on duty. The documents were obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a new state law requiring law enforcement agencies to release documents, videos and other materials associated with use-of-force or disciplinary cases.
The case involved the termination of Sutter Deputy Michael Thomas Slayton in 2005 after at least two women made reports that they had sex with him while he was on duty. At least one woman said it was coerced. The incidents were investigated by the California Department of Justice but Slayton was never prosecuted because of “insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction,” the documents show.
However, Slayton was terminated from the sheriff’s office for “conduct unbecoming an officer,” then-Sutter County Sheriff Jim Denney wrote in a letter dated Aug. 27, 2005.
Denney wrote in a letter that Slayton had violated sheriff’s office rules for personnel, telling the deputy that “you allegedly engage in sexual activity with a female by wearing your department uniform intimidating her to submit to your demands.” The letter was heavily redacted, as were other documents released by the sheriff’s office.
“The internal affairs investigation determined that you did violate charges of conduct unbecoming and on-duty conduct regarding your alleged sexual activity,” the letter said.
While the investigation was active, Slayton was jailed for a stint in the Sutter County Jail on suspicion of threatening and stalking his wife while they were in the midst of divorce proceedings, according to an Aug. 17, 2005, article in the Appeal-Democrat newspaper.
The majority of charges were dismissed and he was sentenced to five years’ probation, according to court records.
Slayton could not be reached for comment.
The criminal investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct was conducted by the state Department of Justice, whose investigators found “several other women” who alleged to be victims of sexual assault by Slayton. A timeline of events included in the document release shows at least four incidents between 1996 and 2003.
One complaint made in 2003 alleged Slayton had taken advantage of an intoxicated woman he had picked up in his patrol car.
The woman, whose name is redacted, reported to her boyfriend’s parole officer that Slayton had picked her up on Township Road in Yuba City while she was trying to walk home. She later told sheriff’s investigators that she had become drunk at a nearby house but left after a man there started waving around a gun. Feeling unsafe at the residence, she began walking home but kept dropping her belongings in the road.
Slayton saw her while on patrol and stopped, offering her a ride home. She got into the front seat with him, according to the Internal Affairs investigation report.
She told an investigator “they drove around for a while, the(n) later parked and they had sexual intercourse,” according to documents. “I asked her how the sex happened and she said ‘one thing just led to another and it just happened.’ ”
“She advised he didn’t force her, threaten her nor was he mean in anyway, but it was afterwards that she felt it was a trust issue and knew it was wrong.”
In his interview with investigators, Slayton said the woman came on to him once she got in the car, pulling up her skirt and making sexual innuendos.
He admitted to having sex with the woman after driving around with her, but said she expressed satisfaction afterward, according to the investigation report.
Slayton allegedly kept in contact with the woman, calling her and keeping tabs on her whereabouts. The woman said they never had intercourse again, but that he would call her and ask where she was and what she was doing. She said once when he called she gave him a false place and later saw his car parked there and that “bothered her.”
She also told investigators that when she was later arrested for an unrelated offense, Slayton called her about the arrest and said she should call him and “he could help her or something to that effect,” according to an investigation report written by Capt. J. Paul Parker of the Sutter sheriff’s office.
In the second complaint included in the investigation, a woman called the sheriff’s office in 2005 to report Slayton had allegedly coerced her into sex after he responded to a disturbance complaint at her house more than two years earlier.
Slayton responded to the house Dec. 31, 2002, to take a report for a disturbance complaint, the investigation report said, but allegedly returned to the house later that night. Slayton said the woman made sexual advances toward him and invited him back after his shift. However, she said he came back unbidden and coerced her into having sex, at one point saying he would “use his handcuffs if she was not quiet,” according to the complaint.
In Slayton’s account of events, he said the woman took him to her bedroom and began undressing him. She “was in full control and not intimidated in the least,” according to the report.
The woman later became uncooperative during the investigation.
In Slayton’s termination letter, Denney wrote “both (the woman) and you admit that sexual intercourse occurred between the two of you. However, the investigation could not confirm that the intercourse was against her will as (the woman) had claimed. The investigation did confirm that your conduct, both with (the two women complainants) was such that it was conduct unbecoming an officer.”