Iraq war veteran. Married father of three children. Ten-year member of the Watervliet police force, the last two as a resource officer at Watervliet High School where his job was to promote student safety.
Officer Joshua Spratt once even posed for a photo with Albany County District Attorney David Soares and Watervliet Police Chief Ronald Boisvert.
On Monday, that image was shattered and replaced with a new one: Alleged sex offender.
Spratt, 34, faces allegations he used his position working around children to have sexual relations with two teenage girls, ages 16 and 17. A seven-count indictment unsealed Monday accused Spratt of engaging in oral sex with the 16-year-old girl in the parking lot at two cemeteries in Watervliet and Menands, a location on Third Avenue and in the parking lot of Watervliet Elementary School.
“For me personally, it’s a shock,” Boisvert told Times Union in a phone interview, “particularly with Officer Spratt because he hadn’t exhibited any of this type of behavior to us. It is shocking.”
The chief said when the department became aware of the allegations, he immediately took action and turned the case over to State Police.
The stunning turn of events prompted Watervliet school officials to activate the district’s “Crisis Team” in mid-summer. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, teachers, administrators and counselors will be made available in the high school cafeteria to meet with students “and help them process this news,” the Watervliet City School District said in a statement on its website.
“The charges against Officer Spratt are devastating, and if true, represent an egregious and unforgiveable betrayal of the trust we all placed in him,” the statement said. “As always, our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of students. Our focus over the next few weeks will be helping them to come to terms with this betrayal.”
If convicted. Spratt faces the possibility of 5 1/3 to 16 years in prison on felony charges that include four counts of third-degree criminal sex act, the legal term for sodomy. Each count carries 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, which could run consecutively. Spratt also faces misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and official misconduct.
The indictment accuses Spratt of having oral sex with the 16-year-old girl between Feb. 15 and April 10.
Spratt, wearing a yellow jail outfit, pleaded not guilty to all charges before State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin, who issued three orders of protection — two for the girls and one for a third witness. Spratt, who had been held in the Albany County jail since his arrest Saturday, was released on $50,000 bail. His sister was in the courtroom.
After the arraignment, Soares called a special press briefing where he did not rule out other charges or alleged victims. He told reporters that Spratt had sexual contact with the older girl as well, but because 17 is the age of consent in New York, Spratt was charged with official misconduct for those alleged trysts.
“Officer Spratt was the school resource officer at Watervliet High School. That’s how he attained access to develop relationships,” Soares said.
And Soares said evidence against Spratt includes “phone communications, text communications, videos.” He said prosecutors “have a recording that’s in evidence at this point supporting the charges.” It was recorded by an alleged victim.
“Right now, the emotion that an entire community is going to be going through is one of outrage,” Soares told reporters. “What I’m hoping for as a result of this dialogue is that this community does come together — and if there are other victims out there that we create an environment where those people can come forward. I think what will happen if we play in and we give into that feeling of outrage, we’re going to create an environment that victims will be less inclined to come forward and avail themselves.”
Soares said Watervliet police received a tip and contacted State Police on July 21. State Police, he said, began investigating the case and presented facts to Soares’ office on Thursday, leading Spratt’s arrest and arraignment.
Boisvert did not return calls for comment. A spokesman for the department would only say in an email: “We are aware of the arrest of a member of the police department and are fully cooperating with the State Police and their investigation at this time.”
Andrew Safranko, the attorney for Spratt, told reporters he and his client learned of the charges Monday. His initial goal, he said, was to get Spratt out of jail.
“We wanted to get him home to his wife, his family,” the lawyer said. “Now we can work on his defense.” He said his client, who has a Watervliet address according to public records, lives in Slingerlands.
Soares and the school district urged students, parents, possible victims or people with information to contact State Police at 783-3211.
The Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the Watervliet School District urged anyone with information on Officer Joshua Spratt to contact State Police at 783-3211.