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Syracuse councilman subject of sexual battery investigation

Douglas J. Hammond
Douglas J. Hammond
Syracuse City

SYRACUSE — Federal prosecutors will review the case of a Syracuse city councilman who was cited on suspicion of sexual battery at Hill Air Force Base.

Councilman Douglas J. Hammond, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was issued a U.S. district court violation notice on Dec. 16 by a base police officer. He was at the Warrior Fitness Center, one of three gyms on the base, when he was accused of a "sexual offense," according to the ticket.

The notice, which Hammond signed, also said he was identified by the alleged victim with "100 percent certainty." It provides no details about the alleged offense but indicates Hammond denied the accusation.

On Tuesday, at the request of prosecutors, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner dismissed the case without prejudice, which gives the government the ability to re-file.

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah, said violation notices — the federal equivalent of a ticket — are referred to the office's Central Violations Bureau. The bureau typically handles minor federal offenses, she said.

"The citation is being dismissed, but this case has been referred to (the U.S. Attorney's Office), where it's being reviewed," Rydalch said.

Federal prosecutors could file charges against Hammond, seek an indictment against him or choose not to prosecute him at all.

Hammond on Tuesday directed all questions about the case to his attorney, David Irvine.

"Mr. Hammond has done nothing inappropriate or unlawful," Irvine said.

The attorney told the Deseret News he has requested records related to the allegations against Hammond for the past two months but was told by Air Force prosecutors that they don't have the documents. Irvine said he has been unable to learn what led to Hammond's arrest.

"The prosecutor could find no facts to support the citation, and he concluded there was no case to pursue," the attorney said. "It is a mystery why it was even filed."

Irvine said Hammond, who also serves as an LDS bishop in Syracuse, continues to maintain his innocence and doesn't know who is accusing him of sexual battery.

"Mr. Hammond is an honorable and respected leader in his community," Irvine said, "and the prosecutor's decision to drop the charge is consistent with that deserved reputation."

Air Force Capt. Andrew Richey, the assistant staff judge advocate at Hill, referred all questions about Hammond's case to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Hill's director of public affairs, George Jozens, also said information about what led to Hammond being cited by base police cannot be released while the case remains open.

Under the Utah law cited in Hammond's violation notice, sexual battery is a class A misdemeanor. It occurs when a person "intentionally touches, whether or not through clothing, the anus, buttocks, or any part of the genitals of another person, or the breast of a female, and the actor's conduct is under circumstances the actor knows or should know will likely cause affront or alarm to the person touched."

Hammond was commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant following his graduation from the University of Northern Colorado, according to the Syracuse city Web site.

He served 21 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1985. He was sworn in to the City Council in January 2008.

Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle said city leaders are aware of the allegations against Hammond and have spoken with him.

"It's our understanding that another jurisdiction is handling this matter," Nagle said, reading from a prepared statement. "It would be inappropriate for the city to have any further comment at this time."

e-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

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