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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Former Georgetown police officer gets 10 years

By: News 8 Austin Staff -- September 26, 2008

AUSTIN, TEXAS-Former Georgetown police officer Jimmy Fennell was sentenced Friday to two years on charges of improper sexual activity with a person in custody and 10 years in prison for kidnapping. Fennell waived a jury trial and pleaded guilty last week. The Williamson County District Attorney said "a rogue officer was punished for serious crimes. He will never again hold a peace officer's license." The judge only took a few minutes to make his decision and tell Fennell he had shamed his department and his family, and he had shaken the public trust in the police department, and therefore he would receive the maximum punishment. Fennell pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

The charges come from an Oct. 26 incident in which Fennell responded to a domestic disturbance call at a woman's home. According to court documents, he forced the woman to go with him in his patrol car, dance for him and have sex with him. In his closing argument, Fennell's attorney reminded the judge that Fennell's convictions were for improper sexual conduct with a person in custody and for kidnapping, implying the sexual conduct was consensual. "You all should stop reporting that Jimmy Fennell was convicted of raping a woman; the rape charge was dismissed today," Fennell's attorney Bob Phillips said. "Within minutes of getting there she decided that maybe this hadn't happened after all and she started recanting." Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said the victim recanted because Fennell was the supervising officer on the scene of his own crime. "Jimmy Fennell orchestrated a situation that put this victim in a position of fear of being killed," Bradley said.

Bradley said this case was not strong enough to undoubtedly win a trial, due to bad investigative work on behalf of the Georgetown Police Department. He hinted at corruption in the department, which led to Fennell being put in charge of his own investigation, allowing him to alter evidence to protect himself. Bradley said Fennell told dispatchers not to make a computer entry on the case, failed to write any reports and consulted officers about speaking with his accuser. "This victim wasn't treated like the victim of a sexual assault, she was treated like someone who needed to shut up and stop complaining," Bradley said. But Fennell's attorney said there's a story behind Fennell that only a trial could have told. "You look at Jimmy Fennell's booking photo; he looks like a monster doesn't he, but when I got to know Jimmy Fennell, is a gentle decent human being," Fennell's attorney said. The victim also filed a federal civil lawsuit against the city.

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