No rape charge for sheriff's deputy

TACOMA, Wash. -- Pierce County prosecutors on Friday said they would not be filing rape charges against a sheriff's deputy who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on duty, even though he admits having sex on the job after checking a woman's welfare.

Deputy Joseph S. Qualls will instead face a charge of first-degree criminal trespassing. He pleaded not guilty and a judge reduced his bail from $200,000 to $10,000.

A woman accused Qualls of forcing sex on her - twice. The first time was after finding her intoxicated in her car and again after he showed up, in uniform, in her house in the middle of the night.

Investigators initially went after a rape charge.

"We did a thorough investigation and thought that supported a felony charge," said Detective Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. "We all know what he did was wrong and we don't believe someone in law enforcement should have the power to do that and get away with it."

But prosecutors filed just one charge Friday: criminal trespassing. It is a misdemeanor that could mean no jail time.

"We treated this as a very serious investigation," said Pierce County deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett. "It is. It's a very serious matter. The sheriff's office tracked down every thread and every loose end. And my office is convinced this is the most serious crime we can file at this time."

Part of the problem is that the woman has made unfounded rape allegations before.

This summer, she was arrested at the Puyallup Fair and while being hauled off, screamed out that the officer was going to rape her.

In October, a live-in boyfriend requested a protection order from her. He says she took a chair and tried to break it over his head. He also said she falsely accused him of rape in 2006.

Deputy Qualls admits he had sex on the job, but insists it was consensual. No matter what happens in court, he's losing his job as a cop.

"We're not trying to help our guy," Troyer said. "We're embarrassed by what he did."

The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office consulted King County prosecutors in determining charges.

And the Pierce County Sheriff's Department has asked King County investigators to review the case.

Right now Deputy Qualls is on paid administrative leave.

The process to have him fired is under way.

Troyer said Qualls has a perfect record with the department and has never had any disciplinary problems. He's an Iraq war veteran, was president of his police class, and came highly recommended, Troyer said.

Qualls is expected to post bond Friday night and then be released from custody.
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