- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A former Memphis police officer was sentenced Tuesday to one year and a day in prison for driving a woman to a party at a north Mississippi hotel so she could have sex for money.

During the hearing in a Memphis federal courtroom, U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson also sentenced Sean McWhirter to five years of probation.

McWhirter, 31, pleaded guilty in October to transporting a person across state lines for prostitution, a violation of the Mann Act. He must register as a sex offender and is permanently barred from working in law enforcement.

The FBI said McWhirter accepted payment for driving a woman to a casino-hotel in Tunica, Miss., while he was in uniform and in his police car at a parking lot in Memphis. McWhirter acknowledged driving the woman to the hotel to engage in sex acts at a party in September 2012. McWhirter was arrested at the hotel.

According to court documents, a confidential informant told the FBI that he recorded McWhirter having sex in a nightclub with a woman in November 2011. McWhirter also announced at a nightclub that three women belonged to him and they were available to club patrons, the documents say. And, phone records showed McWhirter had been in daily contact with women who advertised prostitution services on backpage.com.

He resigned from the Memphis Police Department after about five years with the force.

McWhirter had faced up to 10 years in prison but received a much shorter sentence Tuesday partly because he acknowledged guilt and had no prior criminal record. He apologized to the judge and his family for his actions.

His mother, wife and cousin directly addressed the judge, describing McWhirter as a caring father of two who served two overseas tours in the Navy and enjoyed being a police officer.

Tiffany McWhirter said she and her husband were separated when he began seeing other women. The former officer’s lawyer, David Bell, said his client was a victim of his own arrogance and thought of himself as a “playboy,” but he never was a real pimp.

“If he was a bad person, I wouldn’t be standing by his side,” Tiffany McWhirter told the judge. “He has a good heart.”

Anderson said he did not think McWhirter was a bad person, but the judge did say he made some poor decisions while serving as a police officer.

“You took an oath. You wore a badge,” Anderson said. “Therefore, you are being held to a different standard.”

McWhirter’s case was investigated by the federal Tarnished Badge Task Force, which targets officers suspected of misconduct. Critics of the department pointed to McWhirter’s case and others as examples of a lack of discipline among officers.

About 30 Memphis officers and civilian members of the department have been arrested on charges including DUI, domestic violence, rape and sexual exploitation of a minor since January 2012.

After McWhirter’s arrest, police Director Toney Armstrong said his department helped in the case and will work to remove lawbreakers from the department.


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