NEW YORK CITY — Two NYPD officers were fired after an Internal Affairs investigation and subsequent internal trial found them guilty of engaging in sexual contact with a minor who was enrolled in the NYPD’s Explorer Program.
The officers, identified in police documents as Yaser Shohatee and Sanad Musallam, were found to have engaged in “shocking professional and sexual misconduct” with the teenage victim who was described as vulnerable.
The two men met the teen at separate times while employed with the NYPD, the documents said.
The victim’s mother said her daughter at times struggled with substance abuse, and the teen had frequently run away. The teen, officials said, “was exposed to adult sexual behavior where the participants wield disparate power.
Both Respondents are adult males and, more importantly, authority figures with apparent power. They are also authority figures who enjoy an aura of presumptive credibility in some venues,” according to the report, which was recently made public.
Shohatee got to know the teen while she was a member of the NYPD Explorer Program, an introduction to law enforcement careers for youth, the vast majority of which are high-school aged.
Over the course of several months, the two exchanged more than 800 text messages and Snapchat messages; at one point, as police documents allege, Shohatee asked the teen if she would be “down to have sex” and asked her to send him pictures. Though she had misgivings, she said in interviews with police that she complied.
They met a few times, including twice at the officer’s apartment and once in his vehicle. Each of these meetings happened around midnight, officials said. He once even called a cab to take her to and from his home, according to police records.
The minor, 15 at the time of contact, alleged she had sex with the officer several times at his apartment in the winter of 2015-2016; Paul Gamble, the assistant deputy commissioner for trials, found Shohatee guilty of having intercourse with a person under the age of 17 and sexual contact without consent, among other internal charges. (At 15, the teenage victim was legally incapable of consent.)
The other officer, Musallam, had a lengthier correspondence with the teen — from July 2015 to December 2016, documents said.
He first met the victim when he responded to a 911 call from her mother that the teen had gone missing. He responded to the home, and while he was there with the mother, the teen returned.
Eventually, the officer agreed to give the teen his phone number, from which a “whirlwind” of messages from both the mother and teen resulted, the officer said.
At one point, the teen sent the officer an explicit picture of herself. While he condemned the photo, he did not delete it and did not report it to his chain of command. Instead, he saved the photo — he said it was for insurance. His wife later found it on his phone, the documents said.
Over the course of their relationship, the officer and teen exchanged more than 700 texts and 80 phone calls; the teen confessed at one point that she had a “big crush” on the officer. He told the teen to stop sending messages like that to him.
But in interviews with officials, the teen revealed she had a sexual relationship with Musallam. She describes one instance where he allegedly asked her to perform a sex act on him in his car.
In his report, Gamble said he found Musallam guilty of several accusations, including several specifications regarding sexual contact with a minor.
Musallam was also accused — and found guilty by Gamble — of improperly contacting a witness involved in the Internal Affairs investigation.
The documents allege that about a year after he ceased contact with the teen and her mom, Musallam — when he was told to attend a meeting regarding an Internal Affairs investigation the following day — asked his union representative what it was in regards to. When he was informed it was about the teen, he contacted her mother.
While documents say he did not explicitly make threats to the woman, his call “could easily be interpreted as a thinly veiled invitation to recant her statements,” Gamble said.
Both officers denied having any sexual relationship with the teen, though Gamble found them each guilty of several claims related to sexual contact with a minor. He recommended the NYPD dismiss the men from the force.
Gamble went so far as to say that even if he were to have acquitted them, he still would have recommended their dismissal based on their “lack of judgement” and “flagrant disregard of department policy” over the course of their time with the NYPD and interactions with the teen and mother.
They abused the trust reposed in them by this Department and violated their oathsNYPD trial documents
of office. It bears stating in explicit terms that The Minor was victimized by two uniformed
Members of Service assigned to the same precinct. The evidence supports a finding that
Respondents individually targeted The Minor as a particularly vulnerable individual they were
morally obliged to protect but chose to take advantage of to satisfy their depraved interests. A
severe sanction is required to maintain good order and discipline in this force.
The NYPD released a statement regarding the officers’ dismissal:
“There is zero tolerance in the NYPD for corruption of any kind and these two former officers forfeited their privilege to be part of our proud Police Department by disgracefully violating their oaths of office and the public trust,” the NYPD said in a statement. “We applaud the fact that it is as a result of an internal NYPD disciplinary trial that these individuals are no longer members of this Police Department.”
Both men faced charges of third degree rape and sexual assault, according to the NYPD report, though the victim did not cooperate with the investigation and criminal cases did not move forward.
The Brooklyn DA’s office explained their referral to the NYPD:
“While investigating the trafficking of a teenage girl, our office learned of troubling allegations that she was sexually abused by two police officers years earlier. While the young victim repeatedly refused to participate in any criminal or other legal proceedings, we referred our findings to the Internal Affairs Bureau, ultimately leading to the officers’ termination,” the DA’s office said.
The city previously announced that — among other reforms — it would begin to publish all decisions on NYPD trials going forward, effective in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea signed off on the two officers’ dismissals.