LIMA — Fired Lima Police Officer Justin Bentz denied Wednesday knowingly breaking any law the night he said a 16-year-old girl enticed him to have sex.
He said he was unaware of her age, never really thought about it, and looking back assumed she was 21, old enough that she was allowed to drink the alcohol he had.
Bentz, 28, painted the 92-pound, 5-foot-2 girl as the aggressor who pursued him and to whom he finally gave in. He also said the girl’s sister told him she had “the hots” for him before that night. Bentz said the girl told him she had plans to try to seduce him previously but his girlfriend was around.
“She said that I was going to come and crawl in bed with you but that [woman] showed up referring to my girlfriend,” he said.
Testimony ended and all the evidence was in. Judge David Cheney said he would issue a decision at 1 p.m. Tuesday after conducting a thorough review of all evidence. Bentz is charged with rape, kidnapping, and two counts of sexual battery, all felonies, and one misdemeanor related to furnishing a minor with alcohol.
On the night in question, June 11, Bentz said the teenager asked to have alcohol and continued drinking shots of tequila despite his advice that she should stop. She then pursued him, he said.
“She approached me and said she needs a hug. She started hugging me and I started hugging her back. We started kissing. I picked her up and set her on the counter,” Bentz said.
From there they engaged in various forms of sex in the kitchen of the home. Bentz described it as uncomfortable because he was standing the whole time and he carried her to his bedroom where he had intercourse with her.
“I continued to have sex with her on the edge of the bed,” Bentz said.
He said she was happy and aggressive. She even wanted him to continue after he ejaculated, he said.
“She said she wanted this for a while,” he said. “She was an active participant the entire time.”
Prosecutor Todd Schroeder asked Bentz about concerns he had for the girl given her size and appearance, whom several described as looking 12 years old.
“I didn’t even know she was 16. I was not concerned about anything,” he said.
Schroeder pressed Bentz on the classes he took online just hours before to complete a continuing education requirement that prevented him from working the streets that evening. The classes included informing him again it was against the law for a peace officer to have sex with an underage girl. Classes also included sexual assault investigations, evidence collection, and pitfalls in such cases.
“How could it have never crossed your mind when hours before you were taking a class about sex crimes against minors,” Schroeder asked.
Bentz said he didn’t think about it.
“It’s not something you usually think of when someone is coming on to you,” he said.
Schroeder responded, “You’re a peace officer, you’re not just someone.”
Schroeder also asked Bentz about washing sheets on his bed in the hours that followed. Bentz said he always washed his sheets once a week but did not wash the comforter, which was on the bed when they had sex.
Bentz also disputed he was a police officer at the time of the sex saying his failure to have the necessary classes stripped him of that status for a couple of weeks.
Schroeder asked Bentz if being a police officer and having sex with a 16-year-old girl was a felony, he said yes.
Earlier in the day, Cheney watched a police lieutenant on videotape interview the teenager who was very emotional and crying, as she was during the initial contact with police officers about a half-hour after the sex when her sister was pulled over for speeding while driving her to the police station.
Attorneys gave their closing arguments to the judge, who is considering the case rather than a jury. Schroeder said the girl looked young to everyone, somewhere around the age of 12, which should have been questioned by Bentz, who just took classes on sexual assault against children. Additionally, Bentz investigated crimes against children and knows better being a police officer.
Schroeder said the teenager’s testimony is a lot more credible than Bentz’s “self-serving testimony.”
“There’s no credibility to the defendant’s testimony before this court,” he said.
But Bentz’s attorney, Bill Kluge, said the girl was the aggressor who was fueled by alcohol while seeking sex with Bentz. Kluge described her as having a crush on Bentz and not so innocent. He also used her words against her after she was found partially naked in Bentz’s room, which she said “nothing happened.”
Kluge said she never mentioned she was raped or assaulted until she came in contact with police officials.
“It doesn’t become a rape until police pull her over. I cannot emphasize that enough,” Kluge said.
Kluge said she screamed rape only when she thought her parents would find out.
“It was a 16-year-old who wanted to have sex. She got caught. It was buyer’s remorse,” Kluge said.
But Schroeder said there was more evidence against Bentz that cannot be forgotten. He said Bentz also was well-aware the girl was intoxicated given his experience as a police officer, the girl’s size, and the amount of alcohol she drank.
But Kluge said that was not the case. He said Bentz did not know and other witnesses were unable to smell alcohol on her hours later. Schroeder disputed that.
“The suggestion by the defendant that there was no sign of impairment highlights the self-serving nature of his testimony and should undermine his credibility,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder further pointed to a blood test that showed the girl was intoxicated and said testimony from a scientist concluded her blood-alcohol content would have been as high as 0.19 percent at the time of the sex.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.