Johnstown police officer faces rape charge

JOHNSTOWN – A city police officer, who also is the director of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Office, has been arrested and charged with rape.

Adam Schwabrow, 32, a city resident, was arrested Thursday at 8 p.m. at the city Police Department and charged with third-degree rape, commonly known as statutory rape, a class E felony. He was arraigned before Fulton County Judge Polly Hoye and sent to the Fulton County Jail, with bail set at $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash. He paid the cash bail and was released.

If convicted of the alleged crime, Schwabrow could face the possibility of one-and-a-third to four years in state prison.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira and Johnstown Police Chief Mark Gifford conducted a news conference Friday afternoon, revealing some of the details of the case.

Gifford said Schwabrow was arrested after an “internal investigation” revealed evidence Schwabrow had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl sometime over the past year and a half. He wouldn’t specify whether there was more than one instance of alleged sexual contact between the two.

“Basically, Lt. David Gilbo was able to cultivate some leads that directed him to an alleged sex crime by an officer of the department,” Gifford said of the investigation.

Sira said the alleged crime took place in the city of Johnstown. She said there has not been any allegation or evidence of forced sexual contact between Schwabrow and the alleged victim. She said forced sexual contact typically falls under the category of first-degree rape, which has not been charged in this case. She explained that people younger than the age of 17 in New York state cannot legally consent to sexual contact with an adult.

“To my knowledge, as of this time, I don’t have any information that’s been put in front of me that indicates that these acts occurred, or any [criminal] act, while he was on duty,” Sira said.

Gifford said the information that Schwabrow may have had sex with an underage girl first came to his department earlier this week.

“I was made aware of this [Thursday] and the arrest was made in a quick manner. The investigation and arrest was substantiated within a day’s time,” Sira said.

Schwabrow’s status as a police officer complicates his prosecution on the rape charge. Sira said Schwabrow is next scheduled to appear in Johnstown City Court on Tuesday at 9 a.m., but it is likely the City Court judge will adjourn the proceeding to seek another judge who doesn’t have any pending cases that Schwabrow is involved in.

“In addition, because our office has active files where [Schwabrow] is the arresting officer, we will be forced to seek the assignment of a special prosecutor. I have to make a motion for that, a judge has to hear that matter, as well as the city court recusing itself and adjourning, so it’s not likely we’ll see him in court this Tuesday,” she said.

Sira said she has between five and 10 active cases involving Schwabrow as the arresting police officer or as a key witness.

“His status as a person who’s been arrested automatically calls those cases into question and most likely will be the subject of various defense motions, so it does complicate the process, obviously,” she said.

Gifford said Schwabrow, a nine-year-veteran of the Police Department and the city’s K-9 officer, has been placed on paid suspension. Gifford said he did not know Schwabrow’s exact salary, saying it was approximately $60,000.

The website, which tracks government employee compensation, has Schwabrow’s Johnstown salary for 2013 budgeted at $56,355.

Gifford said an “administrative discipline” process will begin Monday against Schwabrow. He wouldn’t comment on whether the city will seek to fire Schwabrow.

“Obviously, this is, to say the least, an embarrassing day for this agency, but police officers who work here are not above the law,” he said.

In a news release, John Thayer, the chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, said he was saddened by the arrest of Schwabrow. Thayer said Schwabrow has been placed on paid administrative leave from his emergency management director post “pending more information and future developments” in the case. Thayer said Schwabrow’s annual salary for 2013 is scheduled to be $25,000.

“Interim Deputy Director Rick Sager has been placed in charge of the Emergency Management Office until further notice,” Thayer said in the release.

Schwabrow was also chief of the Mohawk Volunteer Fire Department several years ago. He remains a member of that organization and is listed as its contact person on Montgomery County’s website. The current chief is Jim Lovisa.

Gifford would not comment on whether Schwabrow has ever had past disciplinary issues with his department, saying that was a confidential “personnel issue.”

However, some past disciplinary issues regarding Schwabrow were publicized in 2010 when Schwabrow, who was at that time president of Johnstown’s police union, filed an improper practice grievance against then-Johnstown Police Chief Greg Horning.

Papers filed with the New York state Public Employee Relations Board revealed Horning ordered Schwabrow and other police officers to stop using their personal cell phones while on duty or driving their patrol cars. Horning also ordered Schwabrow to remove a Sirius satellite radio Schwabrow had installed in his patrol car and then took away Schwabrow’s “take home” privilege of using his patrol vehicle for personal use, something usually granted to the department’s K-9 officer.

Schwabrow alleged Horning’s discipline of him was outside of the confines of the city’s police union contract and retaliation for Schwabrow talking to the media about the cell phone controversy.

Schwabrow was appointed Montgomery County emergency management director, a post previously held by his father, Dwight Schwabrow, in 2012.

Adam Schwabrow is married with children and he is a 1999 graduate of Fonda-Fultonville High School. He attended Fulton-Montgomery Community College and is a 2003 graduate of the Otsego County Law Enforcement Academy at the State University of New York at Oneonta.

Schwabrow did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

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