EAST ST. LOUIS — The woman who was forced to perform a sex act by Harry "Dink" Halter Jr. said she was pleased with the sentence imposed by the judge.
"He did his job and I thank him so much. The judge looked at everything," she said.
U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan sentenced Halter, 53, a former Alorton police officer and businessman, to two years in prison Thursday in federal court for stealing money from the village and evading taxes. He earlier was convicted in state court of official misconduct in connection with forcing the female motorist to have sex.
The 35-year-old female victim who was forced to perform a sex act after Halter pulled her over on a traffic stop said Reagan restored her faith in the criminal justice system.
"At least he (Halter) won't be on the streets. He is going to jail for a little while," said the mother of two.
The woman, who is not being named because she was the victim of a sex crime, admitted that she was driving while her license was suspended and she didn't have any insurance. She said she knew she was going to jail when Halter pulled her over in the early morning hours of Dec. 21, 2008, while she was driving to work in Millstadt. The victim and her boyfriend were in a car she was driving, she said.
"He pulled over and let me get in front of him. His car was behind me. After he let me in front of him, he got behind me and flashed his police lights," she said.
"I pulled over. He told me I had been driving too close to his car. He asked me for my identification and walked me back to his car. Then, he asked me if I had anything on me. I told him I didn't and shook my jacket to show him that I didn't. He made a comment about my breasts. I ended up in his car. He told me I had a choice to perform oral sex on him and go home or go to jail. I didn't want to go to jail," she said.
While she was in the police car, the victim looked around in it and saw some bullets and a piece of paper was on the floor. "I took the paper out of his car so I could have it as evidence to prove I was in the car," she said.
After Halter let her go, she went straight to the Cahokia Police Department because she said she thought Halter had stopped her within Cahokia's city limits. Cahokia police sent her to Illinois State Police. She said she did not know Halter prior to being stopped by him.
She said she anxiously awaited her opportunity to see him in court Thursday.
"I wanted to be there in case he tried to tell a story different from what really happened," she said.
The woman said because of that incident she will no longer stop in a dark area if a police officer is trying to stop her car.
"It was dark and there were lots of trees and it was a wooded area. There were a few homes around. From now on, I will try to have somebody in the car or I will drive somewhere where there are lots of people or I am not pulling over."
Asked why she thought Halter did what he did knowing her boyfriend was in the car with her, she said Halter used his police lights to prevent the boyfriend from seeing what was going on.
"He had some nerve. We could have had something (a weapon) in the car. And, if he got out and saw what was going on, anything could've happened."
She said she has not told her son and daughter about what happened to her, but she said she does plan to tell them someday. She said it will be especially difficult telling her daughter.
When Reagan asked Halter whether he had anything he'd like to say before he pronounced his sentence, Halter said, "I ask for your leniency. Give me probation," he said. Halter said he had family and a little granddaughter that he was responsible for. "If you take me away from my business, my business would be closed. It would do more damage and hurt more people," he said.
Reagan told him he wasn't so sure that his business being closed was such a bad thing. He said Halter was paying his workers in cash and not taking out withholding taxes, including Social Security, which left the workers no opportunity to collect Social Security benefits when they became eligible.
Halter owns Town and Country Towing in Alorton and was part of the FBI investigation into the corruption by former Mayor Randy McCallum and Police Chief Michael Baxton. He was also a Fairmont City police officer. He also had a paid position as a trustee of the Commonfields of Cahokia Public Water District.
As owner of Town and Country Towing, Halter hired a number of tow truck drivers, office personnel and mechanics. On average he had four full-time and a number of part-time employees that he paid in cash at an hourly rate, federal prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft, the prosecutor in the case, said payroll taxes were not calculated or withheld from the employee, and they were not reported or paid to the IRS. As a result Halter owes the IRS more than $120,000 in back taxes.
Halter received $25,000 from the village's tax increment financing funds to put a fence around his business, but instead used most of the money for himself and to pay marina fees for his boat. He gave McCallum some of the money ($800) as a kickback, according to the FBI.
Weinhoeft told Reagan that Halter used his position as the public safety director as a political insider in Alorton to receive the $25,000. Then, he rewarded the politician who gave him the money by paying the kickback to McCallum.
Weinhoeft used evidence from Halter's state conviction to argue that he did not deserve probation.
Weinhoeft said he wondered how Halter was allowed to continue to be a police officer after multiple arrests including a DUI. He said Halter's actions showed that he "does not have a healthy respect for the law. Continuing to blast Halter's character before Reagan, Weinhoeft said that while Halter was drunk, off-duty and outside of his jurisdiction, he made the traffic stop involving the female motorist.
Reagan called Halter's actions egregious, but because the state prosecuted that case against Halter, he could not use it as a driving impetus in his sentencing. He said he could, however, consider it under Halter's character. Halter did not get prison time for the state conviction, but as a result lost his ability to work as a police officer ever again. He also cannot own, possess or be around any weapons.
Reagan pointed out that former East St. Louis Police officer Ramone Carpenter was sentenced, by him, to 30 months, on a similar case in which Carpenter forced a female motorist who was stopped by him to perform oral sex on him.
He also mentioned Walter D. Hill, the former East St. Louis liquor commissioner who was sentenced to five years in prison for official misconduct. Hill tried to get a female to perform a sex acts on him when she came to his office in City Hall to renew her liquor license.
Halter's attorney, James Stern, argued for probation, pointing to his client's many years of good service provided to the community and to law enforcement. He said Halter was a good person. Stern told Reagan that Halter had no money. He said his financial woes were the reason he made a bad decision to use the TIF money to pay his debts. He also talked about some serious health issues Halter has, including a brain injury following an automobile collision that left him in a coma for a long period of time. That may have resulting in hampering his cognitive ability, Stern said.
Reagan said he could not separate the good person from the bad person.
"I have to sentence the whole person," he said. Reagan acknowledged that Halter did have serious health issues and had been a good citizen "but also there is no doubt that he tarnished the badge."
Reagan ordered Halter to pay Alorton more than $19,000 in restitution. That's the amount of the $25,000 that Halter got in TIF money that was diverted to personal and other business expenses, Weinhoeft said.
Asked why the state did not seek jail time as Halter's punishment for forcing a motorist to have oral sex with him, St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said, "We knew he was likely looking at jail time for the felony case, which was a stronger case. We worked with the U.S. attorney's office to maximize the consequence for this defendant. ... It was also important to make sure the defendant didn't continue to have a badge and gun."
McCallum, Baxton and others from Alorton have been sentenced to federal prison after probes into how the village police force was used to collect cash and drugs from drug dealers competing with McCallum. McCallum and Baxton used the police evidence locker as a personal stash of cash and drugs, federal agents said.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.