'You chose to act like a virus': Cleveland cop sentenced to 24 months for sexual contact with minor

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A Cleveland police officer was sentenced to 24 months in prison Tuesday morning on several charges in connection with a sexual encounter with an elementary school student.

Officer Maria Velez pleaded guilty in April to attempted felonious assault, unlawful sexual contact with a minor, and attempted tampering with evidence.

Investigators say the incident took place in February 2015 when Velez was working as a bilingual paraprofessional at Clark Elementary School in Cleveland.

During the sentencing, Velez tearfully apologized to the victim and his family. She is a victim of sexual abuse, according to Judge Brendan Sheehan, but she chose to "contaminate" others rather than to seek treatment.

"Rather than address the harm it caused you, you chose to act like a virus and contaminate the next generation," Sheehan said.

Sheehan also played an audio recording to the courtroom that demonstrated how Velez used her position as a police officer to influence the victim's testimony.

She was hired by the Cleveland Police Department in December 2015, most recently working basic patrol in the department's 5th District. She was not an officer at the time of the incident.

Velez was arrested in October 2017 while working on her shift.

In addition to the prison time, Velez will be monitored by post-release control for five years.

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