Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Former Officer Byron Shane Burkart Indicted for Indecency with Child

A 41-year-old former Seguin Police Department officer has been indicted on charges of indecency with a child.

District Attorney Heather Hollub said grand jurors handed up a three-count indictment of Byron Shane Burkhart for the alleged indecency with a child under age 17 by sexual contact.

If proved at trial, the allegation is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Since Burkhart has no prior criminal offenses, he could also get probation.

“It’s always troubling when those we entrust with protecting us commit criminal offenses,” Hollub said. “My office will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Seguin Police Department brought the allegations against Burkhart forward after being informed by school officials and members of an outside law enforcement agency of an alleged inappropriate relationship between Burkhart and the girl believed to have taken place back in February.

Police officials asked for independent investigations by the Texas Rangers and by Hollub’s investigator, Frank Allenger. Burkhart is one of two Seguin police officers who came under a cloud of sexual suspicion last spring in separate, unrelated incidents. He resigned his position in late May.

The second officer, who quit his job in June after being placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an allegation involving an adult woman, has not been charged with a criminal offense.

Kelso informed Burkhart of the allegations in a May 29 letter telling the officer he was contemplating firing him. That letter was released by the city of Seguin in response to a request filed by the Seguin Gazette Enterprise under the Texas Public Information Act.

“I am considering termination of your employment for conduct unbecoming an officer of the Seguin Police Department,” Kelso wrote. “Specifically, it is alleged by two local educators that you have engaged in an improper relationship with a minor child and that you are responsible for inappropriate communications (text messages) with that child.”

Kelso informed Burkhart of his expected behavior as a city employee.

“You are a public servant and as such, you are held to the highest standard of ethical conduct,” Kelso said. “Consistent with that level of public trust, the behavior alleged certainly would not be considered to be in the best interest of the City of Seguin and therefore would subject you to discipline up to and including termination.”

The indicted charges suggest there was more involved in the relationship than texts or e-mails.

Under section 21.11 of the Texas Penal Code, Indecency with a child by sexual contact is defined as, “ ... any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast or any part of the genitals of a child ... .”

Kelso and city officials declined to discuss the allegations against Burkhart on Monday.

The important thing, Kelso said, is that the community not regard allegations against one officer as a reflection on the behavior of the rest of the 65 members of the SPD. As soon as the allegations were made, they were investigated at the behest of the police department, with its cooperation, Kelso said.

“We’ve been proactive in this situation. Any time an allegation is made against any police officer it will be investigated and action will be taken that is appropriate to the outcome of that investigation. The department should be judged by the way the allegation or incident is handled as opposed to the improprieties of an employee. It is difficult to monitor every moment of each officer both on and off duty, but we expect them to abide by the rules governing their employment.”

Burkhart was an eight-year veteran of the SPD. No pre-trial hearing dates had been set Monday.

The Seguin Police Department has cooperated openly and completely in the investigations, Hollub said.

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