Despite physical relationship with minor, former cop faces no ch - WSMV Channel 4

Despite physical relationship with minor, former cop faces no charges

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Former officer Robert Abel resigned after an investigation into his alleged relationship with a minor. (WSMV) Former officer Robert Abel resigned after an investigation into his alleged relationship with a minor. (WSMV)
HENDERSONVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A former Hendersonville police officer was never charged with a crime even after admitting to a physical relationship with a minor, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.

An internal Hendersonville police investigation, including video of the interrogation, shows former officer Robert Abel, then in his late 20s, admitting to the physical relationship with the 17-year-old girl, even sobbing after he is questioned about it.

“Am I fired?” Abel can be heard asking.

“That’s not up to me,” said Detective Jim Vaughn.

“Am I leaving out of here in handcuffs?” Abel asked.

“I have no idea,” Vaughn responded.

The internal police investigation shows in 2012, the girl’s parents filed a complaint with Hendersonville police, accusing of Abel of “fostering an inappropriate relationship” with their daughter.

According to the report, Abel and the girl both state the relationship hadn’t turned physical.

Abel was ordered by his superiors at Hendersonville police to stay away from the girl, and the case was closed.

But a second investigation was launched a few months later, and when Abel was questioned again, he admitted the relationship continued and had turned physical.

"Our lips met and kissed,” Abel described about one encounter.

At another location, he said the physical relationship continued.

“At one of those place I made a horrible mistake. Losing control. My hands did go up underneath her shirt, on her chest,” he said.

Another encounter happened while he was in uniform.

"You were on duty?" Vaughn asked.

"Yes sir,” Abel said.

Vaughan then took his investigations into Abel to the district attorney.

“Do you think he should have been charged criminally?” asked chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.

"If the elements aren't there, then the answer to that is no,” Vaughn said.

The answer from district attorney Ray Whitley: no charges would be filed.

"How it is, that a grown man, a police officer, can have a physical relationship with a minor, and not be charged with a crime?" Finley asked.

"There was just nothing that we could charge him with," Whitley said.

Whitley said because the girl was over the age of 13 and consented to the relationship, and there was no penetration, no crime was committed.

"It was terribly inappropriate, but there was nothing done that was done without her consent," Whitley said.

After the video interrogation, Abel resigned.

But not long after, Vaughn remembers getting a call from another police department looking to hire Abel.

“What did you tell them?" Finley asked.

"Look at his personnel file,” Vaughn said.

The Hendersonville Police Department has now filed paperwork with the POST Commission to try and keep Abel from becoming an officer again in Tennessee.

The I-Team repeatedly reached out to Abel by phone and through email but he did not respond to our requests for comment.

Click here to read the full police report.

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