Lawsuit details former Ripley officer's sentence - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Lawsuit details former Ripley officer's sentence

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A former Ripley police officer  is sentenced to a year in federal prison after admitting to using his department-issued camera to film sex acts involving a minor.

His victim alleges his superiors knew what was happening and did nothing to intervene.

The young woman, who now is about 19 years old, is seeking unspecified damages from George Michael Puskas II, 31, and the Ripley Police Department, whose members she alleges "had actual and constructive knowledge" of his conduct.

Puskas, who resigned from the police force in May 2012, was sentenced Dec. 9 to a year and a day in federal prison for possessing child pornography. He also will be under supervision for 10 years after his release and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Puskas admitted to investigators that he'd established a sexual relationship with the girl in March 2010, when she was just 16, and that he'd used a police-issued camera to take pictures of her in the nude. Goodwin also said Puskas produced a video of the underage girl having sex or performing sex acts.

Puskas said he maintained a relationship with the girl until she turned 18 and also admitted sending her a picture of the two of them having sex in September 2011, Goodwin said.

The West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force seized the computer, flash drive and other items Puskas used to produce the videos and photographs on April 6, 2012, Goodwin added.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, alleges Puskas stalked the young woman from the age of 12, initially "texting and calling (her) incessantly" and showering her with gifts. The lawsuit goes on to say that a few years later, Puskas began sending her nude pictures of himself and demanded the same from her.

Puskas took the girl to a hotel for the first time shortly after her 16th birthday, the lawsuit continues, and from that point on, he regularly photographed her without clothes, videotaped her in sexual situations and allegedly forced her to engage in a variety of sexual acts, "even at times handcuffing her to the steering wheel" in order to have intercourse, the suit says.

The suit also alleges Puskas routinely showed up at the girl's school in the morning and insisted she spend the day with him. The suit suggests those school day assignations ended only after the police chief instructed Puskas to either stop or be fired.

The suit also claims that Puskas would require the girl to meet him while he was on duty. 

"These meetings were very numerous and would entail sexual acts and/or pictures and/or videos," the suit states, suggesting Puskas' supervising officer was frequently present for at least some portion of the meetings and "knew ... what Puskas was doing with her, including sexual acts and photographs at a minimum. At no time did said Supervisor intervene on behalf of (the girl)."

The lawsuit also suggests Puskas routinely used department-issued equipment, including his cruiser, handcuffs, gun, stun gun, digital camera and computer, to intimidate and control her. The suit also suggests Puskas threatened the girl with physical harm and even death when she tried to end the relationship.

It complains the threats continued after the girl and her boyfriend fled Ripley and that her boyfriend, on several occasions, reported Puskas' behavior to his superiors and co-workers, but they did not investigate.

The young woman alleges Puskas' superiors demonstrated "deliberate indifference" to his conduct with her. "All said conduct occurred to a great extent while defendant Puskas was ‘on duty' and accomplished through the use of (his) police-issued equipment and vehicle," the lawsuit says.

The woman is represented by Charleston attorney Henry E. Wood III.