A San Diego county sheriff’s detective who picked up a prostitute while on duty and assaulted her two years ago implored a judge to give him probation Wednesday saying that he is no longer arrogant but is instead humbled by his conviction on sex assault charges.
“What I did was wrong. What I did was evil,” Thomas John Sadler said, "I’m not an evil man."
On Feb. 6, 2008, Sadler picked up a prostitute while on duty and in his unmarked department-issued car on El Cajon Boulevard. He drove her to a Mission Valley parking lot in February 2008 where the victim testified that Sadler told her to take her clothes off so he could search her for narcotics. The victim said she told Sadler a female officer needed to be present. The woman then said Sadler began fondling her, so she jumped out of the vehicle to take a picture of his license plate with her cell phone.
Sadler struggled with the victim to get her phone, threw part of the phone in the bushes and knocked the victim down while backing up his car in a rush to leave the scene. Sadler did not return to check to see if the woman was injured.
Jurors convicted Sadler, a 20-year veteran of local law enforcement, of felony assault and battery.
For his role in the crime, the judge refused the requests for probation and sentenced Sadler to two years in prison but did not require that Sadler register as a sex offender for life.
During his sentencing, Sadler, 49, told the court that he was just man who saw a prostitute and wanted sex. “That is disgusting at best,” he said. “But I didn’t force her into that car.”
His defense attorney, Mary Ellen Attridge, continued the argument telling the judge, “He’s not the first man who has ruined his career over sexual urges," she said referencing former New York governor Elliot Spitzer and President Bill Clinton. Attridge asked the judge to look at Sadler as a broken man who deserves probation to live in his “self-imposed hell which is his personal shame.”
However, the prosecutor argued that Sadler committed the crime and previous similar assaults with his badge on his belt.
To the judge, It was unclear what Sadler was remorseful for. “He appears to be genuinely disappointed in himself,” said Judge Smith. “But the degree of true remorse of what he did to the victim in this case, as an officer, is not clear to me.”
Sadler took the opportunity of his personal statement to apologize to the county, to his family and to his "other family," the San Diego County sheriff's department.
It was when mentioning his career that Sadler grew emotional. “I was always proud to be part of the sheriff’s department,” he said fighting back tears. “I know because of my actions, I’ve lost them forever.”
After court was dismissed, Sadler stood, turned to his wife sitting in the courtroom and mouthed “I love you.”