A North Little Rock man accused of sexually assaulting a woman while working as a Little Rock police officer pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor harassment Wednesday and was sentenced to probation.
Alexander Louis Sanders, 27, had been charged with second-degree sexual assault over allegations he fondled and kissed a woman while on duty in January 2021. The charge is a Class B felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Misdemeanor harassment is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Represented by defense attorney Jim Wyatt, Sanders accepted a sentence of a year on probation and a $1,500 fine.
At Sanders' four-minute plea hearing before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cathi Compton, deputy prosecutor Melissa Brown told the judge Sanders admitted to engaging in conduct with "the purpose to harass, annoy, or alarm another person."
Sanders, who had been married for more than two years when he was arrested, resigned after his accuser, a 43-year-old Little Rock woman, reported him to authorities in January 2021. He was placed on paid leave two days after the encounter with the woman and later resigned. He had joined the force about 16 months before the woman was assaulted.
Sanders was arrested in June 2021 and spent two days in jail before being released on $50,000 bond. Sanders' arrest came following an investigation by detective Chris Henderson and a review of the detective's findings by prosecutors.
Henderson's inquiry was launched when the woman came forward to report Sanders had groped her on New Year's Eve 2020, five days earlier.
According to police reports, the woman had told her daughter that her 53-year-old boyfriend had beaten her up then threatened her with a gun, firing the weapon, when she defended herself. The 28-year-old daughter, who lives in Texas, called Little Rock police and asked that someone go check on her mother at the older woman's residence at Bradford Estates apartments, 6310 Colonel Glenn Road.
The boyfriend, who was never charged, wasn't there when Alexander and two other officers arrived. The woman said she was drunk and wearing only a bra when the officers arrived, describing how she let them inside before putting on a house coat.
They questioned her about what happened, with one officer photographing her injuries and the other writing down her information, she told police. When the officers left, she took off her housecoat and laid down to go to sleep when someone knocked at her door, she said.
Sanders was there when she opened it, she said, stating that she was only wearing her bra. He told her, "I was coming back to check on you and make sure you're OK," she said.
"This is off the record," Sanders told her, stepping into her home and closing the door. "If you need me here I can stand by and watch you."
She said Sanders looked at her right breast and said, "Can I?" then touched her breast before she could answer. He then began to kiss and lick her chest before turning her around and kissing the back of her neck, she said, describing how she told him to stop and shoved him away.
The second officer returned to the apartment and came inside, prompting Sanders to quickly move away from her and act like he had been checking her apartment to make sure the residence was secure, the woman said. Sanders told her while leaving that if she needed anything to let him know, she told investigators.
Several hours after the officers left, she said she started getting phone calls from a number she did not know so she didn't answer. The woman said she eventually called the number to see who it was, and Sanders answered, telling her, "I thought you may have wanted me to come back and finish what I started."
She said she received more calls from the number later but did not respond, showing detectives her phone call log. She said she'd never met Sanders before and was not in a relationship with him, explaining she did not immediately come forward, waiting until she had consulted with relatives and tried to hire a lawyer.
In an interview with investigators the day after the woman came forward, the second officer, unnamed in the arrest affidavit, confirmed the woman's account of his actions, stating he and Sanders were working out of the same patrol vehicle that night.
He said he and Sanders had left the apartment, and he had turned off his body camera when he realized they had not given the woman required documentation regarding resources for abused women. Sanders volunteered to go back to deliver the documentation and went back to her apartment, the second officer told investigators.
He said he and a third officer who arrived separately as back up chatted with a bystander at the apartments for a few minutes, waiting for Sanders.
The officer said Sanders took so long to come back that he began to worry something had happened to Sanders, so he went back to the apartment, knocked on the door and then entered without waiting for a response. He said he saw Sanders in the middle of the room with his thumbs in his front pants pockets while the woman was no longer in her housecoat with only her bra on, showing a "significant" amount of cleavage. He and Sanders then left and resumed their duties, the officer said.
The third officer, also unidentified in the arrest affidavit, told investigators he went into the apartment to join Sanders and the second officer. He said he saw the woman lying on the couch covered by a blanket, describing how he filled out some of the paperwork and left when Sanders and the second officer did.
That third officer described watching Sanders return to the woman's apartment. He told investigators that when the second officer grew worried about Sanders and returned to the residence, he waited outside when the second officer re-entered the apartment then exited with Sanders. No one said anything about inappropriate behavior in the residence, the third officer said.
Sanders retained a lawyer and twice declined to answer any questions about what had happened.
Investigators got a search warrant for the phone number the woman said had been used to call her, with the resulting records showing the number was assigned to user "alexsanders400." The user had acquired the number two days before the New Years Eve 2020 incident. The call log corroborated her description of how Sanders had contacted her by phone after coming to her apartment, the affidavit states.
"The text message log shows messages [of a] sexual nature and appear to show Officer Sanders engaging in deviant sexual activity while on duty," the affidavit states. "[The] media records log contained several photographs of unnamed females. However, the photographs did not contain any images of [the woman] or Officer Sanders."
The detective submitted his findings Feb. 2 to prosecutors for review, with Sanders' arrest approved June 7, 2021. He surrendered to authorities the following day.