Sex charge dropped for former APD

Cala Smoldt/Correspondent

During the Preliminary hearing Tuesday in Mercer County Court Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich dropped the charge against Seth Degelman. The charge alleged that from December 2012 - February 2013, Degelman committed a Class 3 felony of indecent solicitation of a child with the intent that the offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse be committed to perform an act of sexual conduct. A Class 3 felony carries 2-5 years prison if convicted.

After hearing from witnesses, investigators Special Agent Brian Masters with the Illinois State Police and Illinois State Trooper Walt Willis, Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich voluntarily dismissed the charges against Mr. Degelman.

The evidence was produced by testimony first, by Special Agent Brian Masters. He described the types of texts the victim was receiving from Mr. Degelman. He said Sarah Doe had received texts as recently as approximately two weeks prior to interviewing her in December, 2014. He said, "She received texts requesting nude photos and to have sex with her." Agent Masters said these types of texts had been continuous for quite some time. He said they believed she had received these requests when she was only 16.

"Neither Officer Degelman nor Sarah Doe indicated there was any sexual penetration... neither disclosed there was any touching - only texts and requests," said Agent Masters. He said Sarah Doe stated she was asked to have intercourse with Mr. Degelman, and he repeatedly asked for nude photos. "She never sent photos - nor did she meet with him."

Defense Attorney Morrison asked the investigator if he could tell the court the specific communications that came from Mr. Degelman prior to October 2013 (when the alleged victim turned 17). He replied, "I do not know all the information." The legal age of consent in Illinois is 17.

He then asked Agent Masters if he had lied to Mr. Degelman during interrogations telling him he saw the messages dating prior to the girl's 17th brithday. Agent Masters said, "Absolutely, at least twice, maybe more."

Defense Attorney Morrison described the transcript of the interrogation. He said his client, Mr. Degelman denied sending anything to her prior to her 17th birthday for 6 pages of transcript. It wasn't until the end when investigators suggested perhaps he had been drunk or didn't remember that Mr. Degelman conceded that it was possible - based soley, according to Morrison, on the lie from Agent Masters that he had, in fact, seen the text evidence for himself.

Reading from the summary of findings into the investigation, Agent Master's said, "Officer Degelman indicated it (communication) was sometime in his first year of employment (2012)."

Agent Master's said, "It's clear she was repulsed or disgusted by her P.E. teacher's husband asking for nude photos," according to a Facebook conversation between 'Sarah Doe' and a friend.

The next witness to take the stand was Trooper Walt Willis. Prosecutor Vujovich asked him if the dates associated with texts transmitted took place prior to October 2013. Trooper Willis responded that he did not know. Willis said that he had requested pictures of Sarah Doe prior to October 2013, but did not present solid, written evidence of communication prior to Sarah Doe turning 17.

Defense Attorney David Morrison asked Trooper Willis when the victim, 'Sarah Doe', said she got a new phone. Trooper Willis testified that Ms. Doe said she had received her phone about a year ago, around December 2013.

Attorney Morrison said, "Everything you've referred to on this cell phone is not a crime." He concluded that if she received the phone about December 2013, then everything retrieved from it would have been after she could, "lawfully consent to anything she wanted,"

The trooper did not recall any requests sent via electronic media before her 17th birthday.

It was then that Special Prosecutor Vujovich made a motion to voluntarily dismiss the charge.

Defense Attorney Morrison said, "None of the communication produced today put it before October 2013." Morrison said the State can still file a charge against Mr. Degelman in the matter in the future. "I'm pleased, so far, with what's happened today... I feel sorry for what his family has had to go through up to today."