Two Ohio police chiefs accused of snooping on the surrogate mother for actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were charged with several felonies on Friday.
Special prosecutor T. Shawn Hervey said the men conspired to take items from the woman’s eastern Ohio home to sell to celebrity photographers.
At an arraignment Friday, Martins Ferry Police Chief Barry Carpenter was charged with two counts of burglary, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of theft in office, one count of unauthorized use of property or services and one count of tampering with evidence.
Bridgeport Police Chief Chad Dojack, 30, was charged with two counts of complicity to burglary and one count of complicity to receiving stolen property.
Both men pleaded not guilty and are free on their own recognizance. Neither of the men could be reached for comment. There are no residential telephone listings for them.
Carpenter could face 21½ years in prison if convicted on all charges, and Dojack could face up to 14½ years if convicted on all charges against him.
Martins Ferry Mayor Phil Wallace said he gave Carpenter the day off on Friday and still considered him the working police chief. Wallace said he planned to meet with Carpenter Monday morning and would make a decision later next week on whether to suspend the chief.
The mayor declined to comment specifically on the allegations but indicated he was concerned about the scandal reflecting poorly on his community.
“I’m really disappointed that things have to happen like this in a small town. It’s bad, and I wish it wouldn’t have happened. But it did, so we’ve just got to put up with it,” Wallace said.
Messages seeking comment from Bridgeport Mayor John Callarik were left at his office Friday. Bridgeport police wouldn’t comment on whether Dojack is still on the job.
Hervey said that Carpenter is alleged to have entered the home of Michelle Ross and removed items from the home identifying Ross as the surrogate mother. Along with Dojack, Carpenter attempted to sell the items to photographers, Hervey said.
Carpenter, 32, also is accused of using his office to commit the crimes, destroying evidence and illegally using a law enforcement computer system, Hervey said.
“It is extremely troubling that the persons sworn to uphold the law and protect the public are now charged with violating those oaths,” Hervey said.
He also said it was troubling that society “is so celebrity crazed that a market exists and tens of thousands of dollars are exchanged for pictures and stories of celebrity scandal.”
“Unfortunately, the city and Belmont County are now living their own Hollywood soap opera,” the prosecutor said.
The alleged burglary took place in mid-May in the eastern Ohio town of Martins Ferry, and the allegations against Carpenter and Dojack surfaced about a week later.
Ross is no longer believed to be staying in the Martins Ferry area, officials have said.
The surrogate mother, who gave birth to twins June 22 at an Ohio hospital, was not home at the time of the alleged burglary.
Publicist Simon Halls has said Parker and Broderick “have complete faith in the legal system.”
A message was left for Halls at his office Friday.