A former high-ranking Philadelphia police official was held for trial Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted two female officers.
Former Chief Inspector Carl Holmes, 54, was indicted in October by a grand jury on charges that he assaulted three officers, in some cases kissing them, fondling their breasts, and digitally penetrating their vaginas against their will. The charges include aggravated indecent assault and attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
On Thursday, after hearing testimony by former officers Christa Hayburn and Michele Vandegrift, Municipal Court Judge Wendy Pew ruled that the two cases can proceed to trial in Common Pleas Court. A third alleged victim was not able to attend the hearing Thursday and is expected to testify next month.
Vandegrift testified on the stand that Holmes called her into his office after midnight in late 2006 or early 2007. She recalled that Holmes, a 6-foot-6, former offensive tackle at Temple University, was wearing an Eagles shirt and smoking a cigarette. When Vandegrift walked in, she said, Holmes slid his hand down her pants and penetrated her.
“I went into shock. Deer-in-headlights mode,” Vandegrift said. “I was numb.”
Hayburn testified Thursday that Holmes had assaulted her in January 2006, just days after she had joined his task force at his request. She had attended a going-away party for Holmes the night before he left for an FBI training program, and he pulled her into his city-issued SUV and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. She said he slid his hand down the back of her pants and penetrated her vagina.
“I had told him I had to leave, my husband was waiting for me,” Hayburn testified, occasionally breaking down in tears. “I kept telling him he was my boss, this wasn’t right.”
The Hayburn and Vandegrift allegations had been reported on over the years by The Inquirer and the Daily News, and in court documents, but had not led to criminal charges until District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office began examining the cases in 2018.
The Inquirer reported in December that the allegations were well known among police and city officials, but Holmes faced little punishment.
Following Hayburn’s allegations, Internal Affairs investigators found semen stains when they searched Holmes’ vehicle, but the police inspector claimed it was left over from sexual encounters that he’d had with a woman who was not a police officer. Investigators did not ask Holmes for any information about the woman, Holmes said in a previous court deposition.
Hayburn’s complaint was not sustained by Internal Affairs, but then-Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey demoted Holmes to the rank of captain for having sex in a police vehicle. The FOP, however, filed a grievance on Holmes’ behalf, and the demotion was reduced to a 30-day suspension. Holmes returned to the rank of inspector.
Holmes’ attorney, Gregory Pagano, said outside the courtroom Thursday that Holmes has the support of his family and friends.
“It’s a very triable case,” Pagano said. “We maintain that Carl Holmes is innocent.”