A jury acquitted a former Chandler police officer Tuesday who was accused of attempting to molest his goddaughter when she was 14.
Michael Picard’s defense was that he fell asleep beside the girl on May 26, 2003, in his Peoria home and woke up with his hand barely down the girl’s swimsuit, his attorney Jay Rock said.
When he realized what was happening, he immediately pulled out his hand, Rock said.
Picard appeared shocked immediately after the 5 p.m. verdict and his voice cracked with emotion.
"I’m just happy," he said, leaving to have an electronic monitor bracelet removed from his ankle.
Picard could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Later, he fiddled with the removed bracelet strap and said he’s moving to California and has left law enforcement behind.
"I couldn’t see myself as a police officer doing this to someone else," said Picard, 34, who served on the Chandler Police Department for seven years.
He resigned July 10, 2003.
Rock said the girl first denied doing anything inappropriate with Picard, but adults pressured her into saying she did.
"He didn’t believe he was treated fairly any step of the way except trial," Rock said.
Picard’s wife, mother, mother-in-law and aunt burst into tears when they heard the verdict. The jury of five women and three men wasn’t available for comment after the verdict.
The teenager’s parents also left the courtroom without commenting. Her father, who was once Picard’s best friend, dropped his head into his hands at the verdict’s announcement and let out a groan, gritting his teeth.
"We presented a case we believed in and the jury made a decision and we have to respect that," said Bill FitzGerald, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the agency that prosecuted the case.
Picard originally was charged with child molestation, but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge threw out the case. The state then charged him with the lesser count of attempted molestation.