Janelle Westfall describes the moment she was solicited for nude photos by New London police chief David Seastrand as “chilling.”
The teen was walking home from a party in March 2013 when she was arrested by Seastrand and charged with giving a false name and for being in possession of a beer can, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.
Four days later, she was summoned to the police station to discuss her options. There, Seastrand took her to the basement where he allegedly propositioned her.
“He said he would grab the station’s camera to shoot a series of nude photos of me,” Westfall told the paper, “and then he’d hold it over my head for two years to be sure I didn’t commit another crime.”
Her father called the state police and, after an investigation conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office, Seastrand stepped down from his position in April 2013. He will not be allowed to serve as a police officer again, due to the complaint, says the Union Leader.
However, state prosecutors did not file criminal charges against him due to a lack of evidence, despite the fact that three other women came forward with similar stories, according to the Concord Monitor.
Westfall filed her own lawsuit in June that argued Seastrand had “manipulated the criminal justice process for his own prurient ends.” That case was settled this month, with the teen receiving a $70,000 payout.
But it should be noted that the settlement includes a “non-admission” clause, which means that it should “not be construed, considered, or understood … as an admission of liability, wrongdoing, or culpability,” reports the Concord Monitor.
“I’m not going to comment on this particular case,” Seastrand’s attorney, Charles Bauer, told the paper. “However, what the public needs to realize is that over 90 percent of all civil cases do not go to a jury trial.”
He added: “They get settled, and most of those cases get settled for business reasons that have nothing to do with wrong-doing or responsibility.”
Westfall, who was just 18 at the time of the alleged incident, is disappointed with the decision not to prosecute Seastrand.
“It bothers me that it could happen again to someone else,” she told the Union Leader.
She added: “I was ready to testify in court, though the thought of that freaked me out, even being in the same room with him again would creep me out.”
She hopes that her case will lead to changes in the law, so that police officers can be more easily prosecuted in a case like this.
“We’re not trying to be anti-cop, we have cops in the family,” her father, Todd Westfall, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “It’s just that the difference in power and prestige is so deep, a chief is going to be believed in a case like this and a young person may not be. There has to be an improvement somehow in this system.”