AP NEWS

Troopers Deny Sex Assault Claims In False Rape Trial

April 9, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — Two Pennsylvania State Police troopers once accused of raping the same woman took the stand Tuesday and adamantly denied ever even having intimate contact with her.

Christine Cromer, 38, is charged with making false reports and unsworn falsification after separately alleging Trooper Robert Covington, a Bureau of Gaming Enforcement officer, and state police internal affairs Sgt. Daniel Jones sexually assaulted her outside Mohegan Sun Pocono, where she worked as a cocktail waitress.

The defense maintains Covington had an intimate relationship with Cromer and raped her in November 2016 when she tried to end it. But Covington on Tuesday said he had “absolutely not” ever been intimate with Cromer and never asked her to meet up at the police car where the alleged assault took place.

“That never happened,” Covington said in response to defense questioning. “I don’t know where you’re getting this, but that never happened.”

During her opening statement Tuesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Angela Sperrazza told the jury that Cromer alleged both sexual assaults took place at the same time and place, and that Jones was in fact the very trooper who conducted a two-hour interview of Cromer after she raised the initial allegations against Covington.

“Now she says the lead investigator on the case is the man who raped her,” Sperrazza said.

Jones testified that he could not believe the twist, noting Cromer told the “exact same story” about him as Covington.

“I was floored,” said Jones, who works in Harrisburg and said he first met Cromer when interviewing her about Covington. “At that point, there was not a doubt in my mind that she had never been raped.”

Sperrazza suggested to jurors that Cromer was lying to retaliate against Pennsylvania State Police. Cromer’s husband, Donald Cromer — a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — had a tendency to go to the casino to keep an eye on his wife, she said. Shortly before the rape allegations surfaced, state troopers told him he could not return to the casino, she said.

“She’s got a bone to pick with PSP,” Sperrazza said. “She’s mad because they told her husband he couldn’t come to the casino anymore.”

Defense attorney Joseph F. Sklarosky Sr. maintained Covington did rape Christine Cromer after she tried to break off an affair she was having with him. He asked the jury to question why state police never made any effort to test the police car for bodily fluids that could have corroborated her story.

“They were there to get their fellow trooper off the hook,” Sklarosky said. “This woman was treated unfairly from the moment she made the allegation. They were interested in protecting their own.”

The attorney maintained that Christine Cromer misidentified Jones as her attacker during a lineup conducted by bringing individuals one by one into a room with her while she was not wearing her glasses. Covington was not even in the lineup, he said.

In response to that assertion, the prosecution showed jurors Cromer’s driver’s license, which indicates she does not need glasses to drive. Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh also disputed the characterization of the encounter being a lineup, saying he had been interviewing Cromer as a victim when several internal affairs troopers entered the room to ask their own questions. That’s when Cromer pointed out Jones as her attacker, he said.

“I’m very familiar with what Trooper Covington looks like, and he doesn’t look anything like Sgt. Jones,” Balogh said.

The detective said when he raised the point, Cromer suggested Jones had been wearing a disguise when he interviewed her.

Cromer subsequently began calling the DA’s office seeking the name of the person she identified as her attacker, then filed for a restraining order against Jones — even though she previously identified Covington by name, he said.

The prosecution rested its case at the end of the day Tuesday. Cromer is expected to testify this morning.