Sam Cooper (Postmedia) – After weeks of complex testimony in a police-conduct hearing, RCMP adjudicators ruled a female officer was not coerced into sexual relations with her boss, and is guilty of disgraceful conduct for having sex with him on the job.
Const. Susan Gastaldo and Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson were accused of having sex in a police car during work hours and exchanging intimate messages via an RCMP BlackBerry in 2009, while Gastaldo worked for Pearson in the “Special O” surveillance unit in the Lower Mainland.
After the two officers’ cases were severed this week, Pearson pleaded guilty to the charges and apologized for disgracing his family and the force.
Gastaldo claimed she was coerced into the relationship by indirect threats, based on her vulnerable mental state.
The disgraceful conduct has been proved, the board said Friday.
“The essential issue is whether she was to be believed that she was compelled and not consensual,” board chair Supt. John Reid said. “She was in a consensual affair.”
The board said 120 phone calls and 160 emails between the two that were romantic and sexual in nature proved “the romantic intensity never waned right up to the finding of the BlackBerry,” by her husband.
The three-person board had to decide whether Pearson’s position of power and Gastaldo’s psychological vulnerability combined to make her a victim, rather than a willing participant in about 20 sexual encounters between May and August 2009.
They essentially upheld the arguments of RCMP conduct prosecutor Cpl. Gregory Rose and Pearson’s counsel, Const. James Rowland, who presented a theory built upon previous findings by RCMP and Vancouver police investigations.
After Gastaldo’s husband Chris Williams, a former RCMP member, found her RCMP BlackBerry with its “sext” messages on Aug. 1, 2009, she told him her version of events and he suggested Pearson was criminally responsible.
According to Rose and Rowland, Gastaldo shaped her testimony to her husband’s interpretation of events and falsely accused Pearson of rape.
“Mr. Williams was the force that moved a sexual relation with Travis Pearson to an allegation of rape,” Rose told adjudicators Thursday. “She had to stick to (Williams’s) version and put at risk her co-worker, or not stick to the version and put at risk her family, her children and her dream home.”
The board will now decide on Pearson’s case and sanctions for both.