News 8 Investigation: Parole agent sex sting - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

News 8 Investigation: Parole agent sex sting

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - A young woman who claimed she was groped by an El Cajon parole agent is questioning why the agent was never charged with a crime.

The woman wore a hidden camera and microphone as part of an undercover, sting operation conducted by the Special Operations Division of the San Diego County District Attorney's office.

Last year, the woman accused her parole agent of reaching up her shirt and other sexual misconduct, according to a search warrant filed in San Diego Superior Court. News 8 is not identifying the woman because she is an alleged victim of sexual battery.

The court records show the now 23-year-old woman reported the alleged sexual battery to the District Attorney's office in February and June of 2011.

DA investigators initiated the sting operation, which led to the arrest in July 2011 of El Cajon parole agent Eric McKellep, 49. He was jailed on suspicion of sexual battery, assault under color of authority, and asking for or receiving a bribe, according to San Diego Superior Court records.

The female parolee claimed, between January and June of 2011, Agent McKellep groped her breast, made inappropriate sexual comments, and coerced her into recording a naked video of herself using the agent's iPod Touch device.

In September 2011, about two months after agent McKellep's arrest, the District Attorney rejected the case and declined to file charges.

Defense attorney Eugene Iredale was not associated with the case. News 8 asked Iredale to review the evidence detailed in the search warrant.

"They came up short, and maybe they came up short because the person is absolutely innocent," Iredale said. "They have to assess the nature and the strength of the evidence and one of the things they have to look at is the credibility of the witness upon which the charges may depend."

Court records show the alleged victim had a checkered past, including heroin use and a long list of shoplifting convictions that landed her in prison for 14 months. She was paroled to San Diego on Nov. 9, 2010, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

"This person has a long history of shoplifting, crimes of dishonesty, crimes of deception; and now, on the basis of their word, we're supposed to convict somebody and put them in jail?" asked attorney Iredale.

The female parolee and her parents spoke to News 8 in their Serra Mesa home, but declined to be interviewed on camera.

The woman admitted that while she was on parole, she was arrested for being a passenger in a stolen vehicle and later tested positive for drug use. But, records show, Agent McKellep did not send her back to custody.

Instead, according to the female parolee, McKellep started hitting on her.

The woman told News 8 that agent McKellep told her "You are really lucky," and "You know you owe me now."

During a visit to her home in May 2011, the agent put his hand on her left hip and asked, "Can I touch you? I did a lot for you," according to the woman's account detailed in the search warrant.

"McKellep put his hand under (the parolee's) shirt and up her bra and touched her breast for approximately 5 seconds," the warrant states.

The woman also claimed agent McKellep threatened to violate her parole unless she agreed to record a naked video herself using the agent's iPod Touch inside the bathroom of the El Cajon parole office.

According to the search warrant, the woman not only claimed she recorded a nude video on the agent's iPod, but she also used her own cell phone to snap photographs of the agent's iPod while she was in the bathroom.

The parolee gave DA investigators copies of the bathroom photos; which, according to court records, included a photograph of the agent's wife. The woman also gave copies of the photos to News 8.

"Certainly, it's unusual and one would say, ‘Why would he give his phone to one of his parolees for her to take into the bathroom,' but it's not conclusive," said attorney Iredale.

During a subsequent meeting at the agent's office, the parolee wore a hidden microphone and camera at the request of DA investigators. She said the investigators coached her to ask Agent McKellep about the naked video.

The search warrant identifies the parolee as Jane Doe and describes one verbal exchange recorded with the hidden camera during the office meeting:

"She asked if he (McKellep) could see her face in that video. McKellep told her that it could not be seen and that it was ‘long gone', he got rid of it hours after it was made. Doe then explained that she was worried that it would end up on the Internet. McKellep told her, ‘No worries, that was personal.'"

News 8 discovered numerous videos of the female parolee posted online, which appeared to have been recorded several years ago.

DA investigators also placed hidden cameras and microphones inside the woman's home and recorded a meeting between the female parolee and Agent McKellep.

The woman told News 8, McKellep appeared to be suspicious during that videotaped meeting and no sexual contact was recorded. The parolee claimed, during the sting operation, physical contact was limited to Agent McKellep putting his hand on her knee.

"When it came time for the sting operation, instead of coming up with video evidence of actual misconduct, they came up with nothing," said attorney Iredale.

Officers arrested agent McKellep immediately following the sting operation – on July 8, 2011 – and then served the search warrant on his home, vehicle and El Cajon parole office, records show. During their search, investigators never found the agent's iPod Touch or the naked video.

In an affidavit supporting the search warrant, District Attorney Investigator Susan Rodriguez expressed concerns that agent McKellep could be tipped off to the investigation.

"Your affiant has been advised by (CDCR) Internal Affairs for Parole that inquiry into personnel records for details about Agent McKellep's home address could potentially compromise the investigation because such inquiry in the past by Internal Affairs has in fact been ‘leaked' to the targets of the investigations," wrote Rodriguez in the affidavit dated July 6, 2011.

McKellep bailed out of jail shortly after his arrest and the DA declined to file charges in the case in September 2011.

Agent McKellep declined repeated requests by News 8 for comment. He no longer works as a parole agent. His employment terminated on Jan. 31, 2012, three weeks after News 8 started asking questions about the case.

McKellep has not been charged with any crime.

One month after his employment termination, parole agents raided the female parolee's home, discovered a firearm belonging to her father inside his bedroom, and violated the terms of the woman's parole. She was sent back to jail for 75 days.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued the following statement to News 8:

CDCR is restricted by law as to what can say [sic] publicly about employees and parolees. In general terms, please note that employees have the right to due process when allegations are made. Such processes must be thorough and take time. Should an inmate or parolee be a victim, parolees and inmates also have rights which we vigorously strive to uphold.

On March 12, (the female parolee) had an attorney present for her parole revocation hearing. (She) and her attorney agreed to the charges regarding the firearm and accepted the 75-day revocation term.

CDCR takes internal affairs investigations very seriously and when official misconduct is substantiated, CDCR takes appropriate action. CDCR's internal affairs investigations are carefully overseen by the Office of the Inspector General's Bureau of Independent Review. Any misconduct that occurs during the investigation process, including unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, would trigger appropriate action against any employee found to have committed such misconduct.

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