The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the 2012 conviction of Waite Hill police officer Matthew Mole, jailed for sexual battery for having sex with a 14-year-old boy, in a tight 4-3 decision on Thursday. The ruling upholds a prior decision by the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals stating that police officers cannot be held to a higher standard than the rest of the public when it comes to having sex with minors.
Mole, 35 at the time of the incident, met the 14-year-old on an online dating site. Both sides were not entirely truthful: the boy told Mole he was 18, and Mole never revealed to him that he was a police officer. When the boy’s mother caught the two together, Mole was arrested and charged with unlawful sexual contact with a minor and sexual battery.
A hung jury led to a mistrial for Mole on the charges of having unlawful sex with a minor, as the 14-year-old testified that their relationship had been consensual and that Mole had not known his true age. However, he was sentenced on the charge of sexual battery by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy McDonnell under a 2007 addition to the Ohio Revised Code 2907.03.
In Ohio, it is illegal for anyone over the age of 18 to have sex with someone under the age of 16. For people in professions with frequent interactions with children, like teachers, coaches and clergy, having sex with a minor is considered sexual battery, a third-degree felony. A 2007 law added law enforcement officers to this list, giving two reasons: “holding peace officers to a higher standard to ensure integrity and to maintain the public trust” and “protecting minors.”