Monday, October 26, 2020

Former Wrightsville Beach officer indicted for offering free passes in exchange for sexual favors

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According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, former Wrightsville Beach police officer Shaun Patrick Appler is facing two felony bribery charges after a Grand Jury found he had solicited sex and nude photographs in exchange for offering ‘free passes.’ Appler was released on an unsecured bond after turning himself in.

According to previous news reporting, Appler was slated for termination following an internal complaint in 2012 before then-Chief Daniel House had a change of heart and allowed him to be reinstated. House has since clarified that he wanted Appler fired but was overruled by the town manager.

According to the SBI, former WBPD Sergeant Appler, 48, was arrested by special agents on Wednesday, September 2, following a Grand Jury indictment. That indictment stemmed from a late 2019 investigation requested by District Attorney Ben David.

“[A] former police officer with the Wrightsville Beach Police Department was arrested after an investigation by Special Agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s (SBI) Coastal District. The SBI investigation began on November 13, 2019, at the request of District Attorney Ben David.  The investigation found that in 2019, Appler, while a sergeant with the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, allegedly asked for nude photos and sex in exchange for what he called ‘free passes,’” according to the SBI.”

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By ‘free passes,’ the SBI meant “staying out of trouble when it comes to any possible law enforcement encounters: on the beach.

Attorney and New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White, who is representing Appler, took issue with the media’s use of the word “arrested,” although it was the language used by the SBI in its statements.

“Shaun has not been and never was arrested. Your headlines to that [e]ffect are wrong. Shaun was contacted by the SBI yesterday in a phone call, and they told him that an indictment was issued earlier this week and he should come turn himself in. I accompanied him this morning to the courthouse, not the detention center, where he appeared and was released after being given an unsecured bond,” White wrote in an email to local media outlets.

White also stated that Appler had fully cooperated with the investigation and noted that he had served the community “dutifully” for nearly 20 years. White also noted that his client was still presumed innocent.

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“It is important to remind the public that every American brought into the legal system is presumed innocent. Some acts that appear criminal at first glance may not be unlawful when all the facts are known.  It is too early in this case for anyone in this community to make these determinations or to interpret the State´s allegations as the only facts in the case.  Only jurors can do that, after hearing all sides of a story. The phrase ‘presumption of innocence’ is a real and powerful legal concept in this country. At this stage of a case, it means that the only witnesses who have testified before the grand jury, typically, are law enforcement officers. Usually not firsthand fact witnesses.  Usually not eye-witnesses. And certainly not the person accused. And since the grand jury process is antiquated and cloaked in secrecy, we do not know what was actually said, nor by whom,” White said.

Appler turned himself this morning, according to the SBI.  He has been charged with two felony counts of bribery by a public official.  After going before a magistrate, he was issued a $5,000 unsecured bond, meaning he was released without the requirement for putting up any cash.

Port City Daily will be requesting Appler’s complete employment record at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department. However, according to Lumina News in 2012, then-Corporal Appler was one of two officers who were “reprimanded, demoted in rank, had their pay decreased by 5 percent and [put] on probation for a full year.” Appler was initially told he was fired, but then reinstated following an appeal. According to Lumina News, the reinstatement was allowed at the behest of then-Town Manager Bob Simpson. WHQR also reported that then-Chief House recommended Appler’s termination for an unspecified incident.

According to the SBI, the investigation is ongoing.  If anyone has additional information, please call the SBI Coastal District Office in Jacksonville at 910-346-2121.  No additional information is available at this time.

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