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Details emerge in case against Tampa officer charged in traffic-stop sex assault

Tampa Police Officer Adam York was arrested Aug. 11, 2016, and faces a charge of sexual battery. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
Published Jan. 20, 2017

TAMPA — On Feb. 1 last year, a Tampa cop stopped a woman for speeding outside WestShore Plaza.

He would later say she got out of her car several times and had trouble answering questions. He didn't think she was drunk, but she seemed "off." He let her go without a ticket.

She would later say the officer sexually assaulted her. Forensic tests showed his "touch DNA" on her underwear.

Prosecutors released 300 pages of documents Thursday in their case against Adam York, 43, a 13-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department who was fired last year after being accused of sexual battery.

They detail the officer's account of the stop, as told to detectives days later. They also detail differing accounts from the victim, who had trouble recalling details in the hours that followed.

• • •

The distraught woman, who is not being named because of the nature of the allegations, drove that morning to Florida Hospital North Pinellas. She told medical staff that she had been sexually assaulted, according to a police report.

She said she had been drinking at a friend's house in Clearwater the previous evening. She said she decided to go to another friend's house in Tampa.

Some details changed when she talked to Tampa detectives.

She told them she had been at Starbucks the previous evening, before going to Snapper's Grill & Comedy Club in Palm Harbor. She said she went there to meet a man she had found through the dating application Tinder.

Later, she said she went to Two Buks Saloon where she and the man drank a number of Long Island iced teas, according to the report. After the bar closed, she said, she decided to go to a friend's house in Lakeland.

She admitted she was driving drunk. She struggled to remember details about the traffic stop. She got out of the car at least once, she said. The officer told her to get back in the driver's seat.

A detective asked her what happened next. The woman, who is in her 20s, began sobbing.

She said the officer told her to pull her pants down. She did, then pulled them back up. She said York told her to pull her pants down again, and perhaps a third time.

She said he touched her inappropriately.

"I was flirtatious," she went on. "I pulled down my pants because he told me to."

• • •

York told detectives he stopped the woman for speeding before 5:30 a.m. When he asked for her license, she replied, "my husband's a firefighter." She began to argue with him, he said, asking if she could move her car. He let her move it into a parking lot.

"I started to run her license but she got out of the car," York said. "(I) told her to get back in the car. Started to run her license. She got out of the car. And this went back and forth a couple times."

York said he was concerned about her erratic behavior.

He asked where she was headed. She said she was going to her sister's home. He asked where she lived.

She spoke about a friend who was an undercover cop in Pinellas County. She wanted to show York his Facebook page, he said.

"I didn't see things to tell me she was intoxicated," York said. "I thought maybe she was just a little bit off."

He said the woman was flirtatious but he denied that any sexual activity occurred.

"I was caught off-guard that there was a complaint made," he said.

At the end of their interview, detectives asked York if he had any questions.

"Probably," he said, "but my head is spinning."

• • •

In an interview Thursday, York's attorney, Rick Escobar, called the allegations "bizarre" and the case "outrageous."

He declined to discuss the evidence, including the DNA, in detail. But he did direct a reporter to two academic studies on "secondary DNA transfer," a phenomenon in which a person's DNA can move to an object or person without direct contact.

No video of the stop was recorded, save for a grainy surveillance image from a nearby business. It showed a police car with lights flashing, but little else.

In a sworn statement, the woman's ex-boyfriend said she texted him about an hour after the stop occurred. She told him a cop had hurt her. She asked about DNA.

"If I go to a hospital, can they get DNA even from a hand touching me down there?" she asked.

The ex-boyfriend, a Pinellas County firefighter, who is not being named to avoid identifying the woman making the allegations, told her she should file a police report.

"I don't trust you or the people that say they will keep me safe," he said she told him. "Firefighters and police officers, they're the worst citizens. I will go to the hospital and call my lawyer now. It's against a cop."

The man told prosecutors he doesn't believe what happened. They asked him why.

He said he didn't trust her.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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