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Former Hagerstown councilman facing sex charges

December 29, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Former Hagerstown City Council member Steven Kenneth Spalding has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet when she was 11.

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Spalding, 45, was taken into custody Wednesday morning at his 609 Ravenswood Drive home by Washington County Sheriff's deputies and charged with 38 criminal offenses including second-degree rape, child pornography and other sex offenses.

He was released from custody Wednesday afternoon after posting a $75,000 property bond.

Calling from an airport in Nebraska, Spalding's attorney, D. Bruce Poole, said there is a lot to say but that the media was not the proper forum.

"Charges of this kind usually result in rumors and claims by people who have no idea what they are talking about ... there is no sense feeding that," Poole said.

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The charges against Spalding stemmed from a complaint the Washington County Sheriff's Department received on Dec. 10 from the girl's mother of alleged sexual offenses against her daughter.

Cpl. Roy Harsh, who is heading the investigation, said the girl's mother told deputies she learned of the situation from her daughter's friend who lives in another state.

That friend told Harsh he "hacked" into the girl's computer on Dec. 10 and discovered sexually explicit material e-mailed to the girl from someone identified as "Luv2Coach5."

When the girl was interviewed by deputies, she said she met someone in an Internet chat room in November 1997, when she was 11 years old.

According to court records, the girl said that back then, she was talking with someone named Steve whom she believed to be about 13 years old.

Those Internet conversations continued until February 1999, when "Steve" told her he was older and admitted he had driven past her home once as she was getting off the bus, court records said.

The girl told deputies that Spalding knew how old she was because he knew she was a schoolmate of Spalding's son, court documents alleged.

The first meeting occurred in July after the girl invited him to her home where they sat in her back yard. They met for a second time a week later, according to court records.

Hugging that began during the first visit progressed during other visits to touching, oral sex and at least five incidents of sexual intercourse on a blanket in the back yard of the girl's home, court records alleged.

The girl said sexual activity began to taper off in November, after Spalding told her his wife found out he was seeing someone else, according to allegations in court records.

Deputies first contacted Spalding at his home on Dec. 10 and he agreed to accompany them to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, court records said.

After being told of his Miranda rights, Spalding opted not to speak without an attorney present and was released, court records said.

On Dec. 14, the girl provided deputies with Spalding's cellular telephone and pager numbers, saying he gave them to her so she could telephone him after school or from school on her lunch hour, court records said.

As the investigation developed, Harsh said the girl agreed to call Spalding on his cellular telephone on several occasions in mid-December.

In a Dec. 14 conversation, Spalding mentioned several times that he was in trouble and would be in more trouble if certain things were found out, court records alleged.

"Spalding attempted to talk (the girl) into changing her story, and telling her he didn't want to see her get into more trouble," according to allegations in court records.

As a result of the investigation, a search warrant was obtained and evidence was collected from the Spalding home on Dec. 10, deputies said.

The Maryland State Police computer crimes unit was called in to assist with the investigation, Harsh said. On Dec. 22, those investigators told Harsh they had retrieved thousands of pornographic pictures and hundreds of child pornographic pictures from Spalding's computer, court records said.

Calls to Spalding's home Wednesday weren't returned.

Spalding was taken into custody at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and taken before a bond commissioner.

Charges against Spalding include five counts each of second-degree rape, child pornography - computers, second-degree sex offenses, second-degree assault and possession of child pornography; 10 counts of third-degree sex offense; and one count each of perverted sexual practices, sodomy and contributing to the conditions of a child.

Maximum penalty for a conviction on a second-degree rape count is 20 years in prison. Maximum penalty for a conviction on a second-degree sex offense count is 20 years.

Convictions on child pornography - computers, second-degree assault, third-degree sex offense, perverted sexual practices, and sodomy counts are punishable by a maximum 10 years in prison. A conviction on a charge of contributing to the conditions of a child carries a maximum penalty of three years and a conviction on a possession of child pornography charge carries a one-year maximum sentence.

Spalding has been employed since 1991 by the Washington County Engineering Department. He currently is a project manager, according to Rod Shoop, Washington County administrator.

"Spalding is suspended with pay pending the outcome of this matter," Shoop said Wednesday morning.

A native of Washington County, Spalding attended local schools and graduated from Towson State University.

He served two terms on the Hagerstown City Council from 1981-1989.

A past member of the Hagerstown Suns' negotiating team, Spalding was on the Hagerstown Planning Commission, parks board and in 1986 was liaison to the Washington County Commissioners.

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