WILLOUGHBY, OH (WOIO) - Former Willoughby Lt. Richard Todd Ashton was the subject of a police department internal investigation of his behavior while on duty.
The admissions of one woman regarding on-duty trysts with Ashton triggered the probe. It uncovered on-duty romps with two other women -- behavior that went on for nearly a decade. All of it, while he moved up the ranks of the department from patrolman to sergeant to lieutenant.
Police Chief Jack Beckwith assessed it this way, "In any workplace, obviously you're gonna have a certain percentage of problem employees."
Ashton's problems began in January while he was on duty and in charge of the overnight shift. He stopped at the Willoughby Brewing Company and began talking to a 21-year-old woman.
By the description of another officer working off duty at the bar, the woman was drunk and was 'coming on' to Ashton. They talked for about 45 minutes and Ashton left. When the bar closed, the off-duty officer saw the woman getting into her car. He called Ashton to tell him she was too drunk to drive. Ashton went looking for her, found her and followed her for miles, eventually into the Lake Metroparks' isolated Gully Brook Park, where she had pulled over to sober up.
He got into her vehicle. According to the investigation, the woman vomited two-or-three times and after about 15 or 20 minutes, she told investigators they had sex. Ashton left the woman alone, and she passed out, partially naked.
He came back a couple of hours later but couldn't wake her up, she was still partially naked. He came back again at around 6 a.m., she woke up, got dressed, and drove home.
The investigation was triggered when the woman told another officer what happened. To the department's credit, the investigation was thorough and through it, detectives found other instances of on-duty sexual romps by Ashton and others while he was working side jobs in uniform.
One night, while still married, he was supposed to be working security at North Lane Condominiums, but he was off the property having sex with a woman police named Sandy. A crime occurred at North Lane, it was broadcast on the police radio and involved a chase. The woman said she heard the call but said Ashton never left to assist fellow officers.
Ashton also met a married woman police named Hallie at the Immaculate Conception Church Oktoberfest. Months later, he contacted her and a two-year sexual relationship began.
"He never stripped everything off. He always kept everything on," Hallie told investigators.
That included his uniform and gun belt. Both women said the on-duty encounters occurred either at Ashton's residence, behind buildings in industrial areas or at side job location.
Ashton admitted his conduct, "I was a good policeman, I helped the community out. Used some bad judgment. That's about it."
The investigative file concluded that Ashton should be terminated, but before that happened, he retired. He is getting his full pension.
The department at that point, moved no further toward termination.
"At that point, the officer has a chance to file a grievance and then the grievance procedure begins with a mediation all the way up to an arbitration hearing which could take months," Beckwith explained. "If someone is vested in the pension they can pull their retirement any time they please and without any notice so basically we could serve the termination and before we ever went to hearing he could go ahead and retire. He is entitled to his pension either way so nothing would really change."
The bottom line is that it would have cost a lot of money to officially fire him, with no change in the pension payout.
In the internal investigation of his actions, Ashston admitted the incidents and what he had done saying only, "He put himself in a bad position." No acknowledgment, according to Beckwith, of what he had done to the department's reputation and the perception that while what he did was perfectly legal, that he somehow contributed to a belief that he "got over" on the system.
He never admitted to his bosses the danger he left the woman at the park in, naked and alone until I confronted him.
"Do you regret the danger you might have left her in." "Yes," Ashton answered. When asked, "The one in the park?" Ashton replied, "Yes."
"What would you say to her right now," I asked. "Um, was trying to do a favor and I used poor judgment. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't obviously," Ashton said.
You can get the latest in this investigation on Cleveland 19 News at 11 p.m.
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