LAWMAKERS have slammed claims that a cop showed off explicit pictures of a college student who was being blackmailed her sex-offender ex before he killed her.
Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah, told campus she was being blackmailed over the photos by Melvin Rowland, 37 — only to be exploited by the officer, Miguel Deras, she turned to for help.
“It’s disgusting behavior,” Utah state Rep Karen Kwan told KSL NewsRadio on Monday.
“Distribution of the images, if it causes harm, it’s a misdemeanor. So the question is, is that wide enough for this behavior to be under.”
Rep Andrew Stoddard opened legislation that wouldn't allow law enforcement to download private pictures on a personal device, and would also prevent them from sharing the images with those not involved in the investigation.
“I think we need to address this from a lot of different angles," Stoddard said.
"We’ve come a long way in terms of victim’s rights and I think it’s something that we need to address to increase the trust between victims and our law enforcement community."
Stoddard added that if the allegations against Deras are true, he believes criminal charges, as part of Utah's revenge porn law, could apply.
He also called for another investigation into the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Deras saved the personal photos McCluskey shared with him in 2018, along with messages from Rowland threatening to release them unless she paid him $1,000.
The girl's parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, are currently upholding a $56million lawsuit against the university, claiming campus cops didn't properly act after she alerted them to the harassment more than 20 times.
Cops failed to recognize signs of domestic abuse which could have prevented her death, an independent report found.
McCluskey briefly dated Rowland, a sex offender on parole, but broke things off after discovering he lied about his name, age, and criminal history.
But Rowland convinced the young girl he had access to her personal files and blackmailed her — before fatally shooting her in her car, and later turned the gun on himself.
A new report suggests that in addition to mishandling the case, Deras also exploited Lauren.
After saving the photos to his personal phone he reportedly showed them off to a colleague, scrolling through the pictures and bragging he could see them whenever he liked.
However, officials from the University of Utah said they found no evidence that the accusation against Deras are true.
They also said they're not responsible for the girl's death as Rowland wasn't a student and there is nothing they could have done.
University President Ruth Watkins said there's no reason to believe Rowland could've been stopped.
Efforts were made to retrieve evidence from Deras's phone but they were unsuccessful.
It's reported he got a new phone after the incident, which could explain why authorities' search attempts were unsuccessful.
Deras now works as an officer with the Logan Police Department, which has opened an investigation into Deras' alleged behavior.
“We are very concerned about this allegation and are starting our own internal investigation to determine the facts,” a statement from the department read, according to the Tribune.
“At the end of the investigation we will take whatever action is appropriate based on the facts we discover.”
Major Scott Stephenson, who oversees police training in the state under the Utah Department of Public Safety, said the "alarming" discovery could be grounds for action against Deras' police qualification.
The university also says they have launched efforts to investigate campus complaints more thoroughly following Lauren's death, as well as investigate ex-cons coming onto campus.
Source: Read Full Article