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Ex-Uplands Park cop gets 25 years

Ex-Uplands Park cop gets 25 years

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ST. LOUIS • Identified in court only as "D.S.," an attractive woman with a petite frame told a federal judge Friday that her chest gets tight every time she sees a police officer. She said her nightmares feature the Uplands Park police station and seeing apparent semen stains on chairs there.

"For that department to still be in operation is a spit in the face," D.S. said. She was making a victim's impact statement before the sentencing of Leon F. Pullen, 32, a former police officer in that community who has admitted sexually assaulting her and others.

Pullen, of Foley, was then sentenced to 25 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. It was at the top of the sentencing range set in his plea agreement.

He admitted sexually assaulting and robbing four female paid escorts in 2009. Only D.S.'s assault was at the police station. The others were at a hotel and two gas stations.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel said Pullen's actions threatened to shatter the public's view of police.

People "trust law enforcement to make sure they're safe," Sippel said. "For law enforcement to turn on them and take from them that sense of safety ... it's hard to comprehend."

The judge delayed for 30 days a ruling on restitution. Pullen's attorney, Eric Butts, has objected to what the victims claim they are owed for medical and psychological trauma. Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Marcus said D.S. alone had more than $20,000 in related expenses.

Prosecutors said Pullen scoured online advertisements to find the escorts and posed as a customer to lure them to meetings. The escorts said that when Pullen revealed himself as an officer, he stole their money and either groped them against their will or forced them to have sex under threat of arrest.

D.S., a mother of four, has said Pullen coerced her into going to the station in July 2009 and forced oral sex upon her while she sat on a bullet-resistant vest, ignoring her yells in protest. In her statement, she said Pullen felt he "was bigger than life ... unstoppable." She said the experience left her with two questions: "How and why? Why did the city let it go on?"

A second victim said in court that Pullen wanted to plan "Uplands Park parties" charging $80 apiece. "This was the deal," she said, without elaborating further.

The Police Department placed Pullen on unpaid leave after his arrest by the FBI in September 2009.

Pullen pleaded guilty in July to nine felony charges, including conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights, witness tampering and lying to the FBI. Ten other charges were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea.

A volunteer police officer in Uplands Park, Justin Biancardi, pleaded guilty of shaking down more than a dozen prostitutes for money and helping Pullen cover up the assaults. He will be sentenced in April.

"I made a mistake," Pullen said in court. "I apologize to my parents for the embarrassment I caused them."

Pullen's parents shared sympathetic glances with him. Afterward, his mother, Cindy Mann, said her son is innocent. "He knows they're lying on him, but he has no way to prove it," she said.

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