Civil suit filed against Ripley police officer who pled guilty to child porn

CHARLESTON - Despite the criminal case coming to a close, a former Ripley police officer’s legal troubles regarding his alleged long-term involvement with a teenager are far from over. George Michael Puskas II is named as a co-defendant in a civil rights lawsuit filed by Katelyn Grace Sleboda. In her complaint filed Dec. 3 in U.S. District Court, Sleboda, 20 and a Roanoke, Va., resident, alleges Puskas cultivated a relationship with her at a young age that led to him using his influence as a police officer to coerce her into a sexual relationship. According to her complaint, Sleboda first met Puskas in 2001 when she accompanied her mother and brother to soccer games. At the time, she was eight years old, and he was a coach for her brother’s team. Three years later, Sleboda alleges Puskas began grooming her sexually when she began refereeing soccer games. A year later, the relationship allegedly became physical when, after helping her off the field following an injury to her knee, Puskas said “he loved her and kissed her on the lips.” For the next two years, Sleboda says Puskas, as part of his grooming, began showering her with gifts, including disposable cell phones and money to buy more time on them. When she was 14 year old, she alleges he expressed his desire that her first sexual experience be with him, and, on an unspecified date, sent a nude photo of himself. After sending more of himself, Sleboda alleges Puskas pressured her to send him nude photos with the admonishment she not tell anyone lest they would “get in trouble.” In her complaint, Sleboda says she reluctantly agreed. Over the next year, Puskas, Sleboda alleges, began meeting her more often in order to personally take nude pictures of her. According to her complaint, the pictures were taken on his department-issued camera and downloaded on his department-issued computer. Sometime after her 16th birthday, Sleboda alleges Puskas checked them into an unspecified hotel in Ripley where they had sex. During the next two years, she says Puskas regularly would take nude pictures of or have sex with her “at hotels, on back roads at other random locations, including... Parkersburg.” In her complaint, Sleboda alleges that on several occasions Puskas would have intercourse with her while she was handcuffed to the steering wheel of his police cruiser. Sleboda says she was fearful of telling anyone about her encounters with Puskas because she alleges he threatened to kill her if she did. One time, Sleboda says he threatened to kill her and himself in front of her mother if she disclosed their relationship. According to her complaint, Sleboda began making an effort to break away from Puskas when she turned 18. This did not sit well with him, she says, as on an unspecified day shortly after her 18th birthday, Sleboda claims Puskas came to where she worked at the Kroger’s in Ripley and began to “intimidate and harass” her. Eventually, she says the store manager intervened and ordered Puskas to leave. About that same time, the complaint alleges, Sleboda’s boyfriend lodged a complaint with RPD that Puskas was stalking them. She avers nobody from RPD ever contacted her or conducted an investigation into Puskas’ behavior. Sometime in 2011, Sleboda says she and her boyfriend decided to move to Roanoke to get away from Puskas. However, she claims after he found out where they were living he paid her a visit, demanding sexual favors and threatening to kill her, and her boyfriend. Following the visit, Sleboda says her boyfriend, again, contacted RPD to lodge a complaint against Puskas. It is unclear what, if anything, it did. According to her complaint, Sleboda and her boyfriend came back to Ripley to visit his family for Christmas. On Dec. 24, he sent her several text messages requesting he meet with her. When she rebuffed him, Sleboda claims Puskas responded with a text saying “he knew where she was (home of boyfriend’s house) and that if she did not meet with him that he was coming over to get her.” Believing their lives to be in imminent danger, Sleboda says she and her boyfriend immediately returned to Roanoke. According to her complaint, Puskas' contact with her ceased until sometime in February 2012 when he sent one last text, the details of which are not specified. The following May, after news broke that he was under federal investigation for his relationship with Sleboda, Puskas resigned from RPD. In January, he was arrested by U.S. Marshals and charged with one count each of possession, distributing and accepting child pornography. Following his indictment in June on three additional charges, including interstate stalking, records show Puskas agreed in July to plead guilty to a single count of possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday before Judge John T. Copenhaver. In her complaint, Sleboda says despite the likelihood of him going to prison for the next 10 years, she is “in great fear of retribution” from Puskas. Because of not only the hold Puskas had, and in some ways still has, on her, but also the failure of the RPD to intervene when it was made aware of his behavior, Sleboda alleges she’s suffered, among other things, “great and continuing permanent psychological/emotional harm” resulting in a “loss of enjoyment of life.” RPD is named as a co-defendant in the suit. Sleboda seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs. She is represented by Charleston attorney Henry E. Wood III. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 13-cv-30805 (Sleboda civil) and 13-cr-164 (Puskas criminal)

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