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Ex-Princeton officer guilty of bribing teen

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Princeton police officer accused of bribing a 17-year-old boy into sex has pleaded guilty to a bribery charge.

Christopher Winkler, 27, faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in December.

Police said Winkler -- allegedly in uniform and on duty -- met a 17-year-old boy in the parking lot of a Princeton supermarket on March 1, 2011, and tried to get the boy to perform oral sex on him to pay off a debt owed by the boy.

Winkler pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count of solicitation of bribery, Mercer County assistant prosecutor George Sitler said. The state agreed to drop one felony charge of sex abuse by a custodian or guardian in exchange for his plea, Sitler said.

"There wasn't evidence of any sexual contact between the two parties," Sitler said, nor was there evidence showing Winkler attempted to coerce the teen into sex.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Mercer County Magistrate Court, Winkler had threatened to file felony charges against the teenager, which he said, "would prevent the juvenile from getting a job and ruin the rest of his life." Winkler also allegedly told the teenager that if he performed oral sex, he wouldn't call state Child Protective Services on the teen's mother.

The teenager said that Winkler's position as a police officer made his threats much more credible, according to the complaint.

As part of the plea deal, Winkler will be permanently disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit of government in the state. The prosecution also recommended probation and suspended sentence, Sitler said. Circuit Judge William Sadler set a sentencing hearing for Dec. 10.

Winkler first made headlines in April 2010 when he was hit in the head and lost consciousness during required multiple-assailant training at the State Police Academy.

Winkler's mother, Pamela McPeak, later told the Gazette that an instructor told her that he saved Winkler's life by pulling two other instructors off Winkler when they continued to beat him while he was unconscious.

Gov. Joe Manchin requested a special commission to investigate the incident. Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants requested another independent investigation by the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations. Neither investigation found fault with the instructors' actions.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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