Sheriff's Detective Sentenced For Assaulting Prostitute

Thomas Sadler, 49, Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison

A two-year prison term was handed down Wednesday for a former sheriff's detective who picked up a prostitute in his unmarked patrol car and assaulted her in a Mission Valley parking lot.

Thomas John Sadler, 49, was convicted March 1 of felony assault and battery by a peace officer, along with misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment.

Jurors acquitted the defendant of felony sexual battery and false imprisonment.

"He admitted that he did this crime with a sexual urge," Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort told Judge Michael Smyth in urging him to send the defendant to prison.

The judge found that although Sadler had no prior record and was eligible for probation, he should be punished by serving time behind bars.

Smyth also noted that Sadler showed a lack of criminal sophistication and was "embarrassingly ineffective" in carrying out the assault. Sadler let the prostitute know that he was a deputy sheriff who was armed, the judge said.

"She was aware that her assailant was a law enforcement officer," Smyth said. "He knowingly took advantage of his position as a deputy sheriff."

Once in the remote parking lot, Sadler panicked when he realized that he couldn't follow through with his desire for sex and searched the victim for drugs, then knocked her to the ground when he threw his car into reverse and sped away, the judge said.

Dort told the judge that Sadler had been warned by the department's Internal Affairs division that four other women had come forward complaining that he had sexually assaulted them while searching for drugs.

Sadler, a 20-year veteran of the department, violated the public trust by giving in to his sexual impulses, Dort said.

"We trusted him for 20 years, and look what he did," the prosecutor said.

Sadler said he became stressed-out and depressed when he didn't make sergeant and ended up paying to have sex with a prostitute.

The defendant apologized for hurting his personal and sheriff's department families.

"I thought I could handle this stress, your honor," Sadler told the judge. "I am ashamed. I am humbled. I am deeply sorry for my actions. There's no excuses for what I did. I was wrong. I was just beside myself. I'm a man. I saw a prostitute and I wanted to have sex."

Sadler said he was not an evil man, although what he did was evil.

"I am a man who made a huge mistake," he said.

Defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge argued unsuccessfully that the assault on the prostitute was "not an act with the intent to hurt anyone. It was an act to cover up his own shame."

The attorney urged the judge to place Sadler on probation so he "could live in his self-imposed hell, which is his personal shame."

Sadler said he began selling auto parts after being placed on administrative leave by the sheriff's department. He is no longer on the force.

Smyth said the crime was "offensive," but not worthy of the upper prison term of three years, which Dort had sought.

Sadler will not have to register as a sex offender because he was not convicted of a sexual offense, the judge said.

Dort said in his closing argument that Sadler had a plan to sexually assault the prostitute during a search for drugs but ran into a problem when he didn't find any. He assaulted the prostitute just as he had sexually assaulted four other women during searches dating back to 2001, the prosecutor said.

But Attridge told jurors that the prostitute got into Sadler's car on El Cajon Boulevard on her own about 11 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2008.

"When she smiled and he smiled back, she thought of money," Attridge said.

Sadler testified he drove to a Mission Valley parking lot but thought of his wife of 22 years and changed his mind about having sex with the prostitute, who was on probation at the time.

But Dort told the jury that Sadler had a history of pulling over women, searching them for drugs with no one around and touching them inappropriately.

The defendant was "a rogue cop" who thought he was above the law, the prosecutor said. Sadler planned to search the prostitute and sexually assault her "because he had gotten away with it before," Dort said.