Grosse Pointe police officer accused of sexually assaulting teen girl years ago
Officer quit after salacious emails to the 16-year-old came to light
GROSSE POINTE, Mich. – Grosse Pointe is a community nestled along the shores of Lake St. Clair where tree-lined streets compliment the small-town atmosphere.
A statement on the city website reads it's a place that "strives to offer and environment that is safe for both young and old."
Ellie Scandarito said that isn't so.
"There is a lot that happened that wasn't right," she said.
Scandarito worked as a receptionist at a Detroit nursing home back in 1999. She described it as a good opportunity for her. She met Matt Pater there. At the time Pater was a Grosse Pointe police officer who doubled as a security guard at the nursing home.
Scandarito was 16 years old. Pater was 35.
"People knew him around the facility as a funny guy," she said. "He started out being nice to me, bringing soda, candy, food."
However, she said her interactions with the officer quickly changed.
"He started making comments about my appearance. 'Wow you like very nice today. I love that little dress,' and would turn into, 'Aren't you sexy.' He started to call me on my desk phone from his desk phone where he had cameras and he would be watching me on the camera and would say, 'Lift up your skirt a little higher I want to see what is up your dress.' I froze. I didn't know what to do. I never had anyone talk to me like that. I was a teenager, a child," said Scandarito.
As she detailed in her complaint filed with police, things got horribly worse.
"He said he was going to walk me to my car to make sure I got there safely, but first we had to stop at his office, and so I walked with him," she said. "He closed the door, he put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me down, he unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis and stuck it in my mouth. I'm down there and I see his gun. He eventually pulled away. I was crying. He zipped up his pants and walked me to his car and said I did a good job and I would get used to this."
Scandarito said she was silent. It was not the only time she was attacked by the officer.
According to the police report obtained by the Defenders, Scandarito said she was "forced and coerced to have multiple sexual encounters with a then Grosse Pointe city officer named Matthew Pater." Scandarito explained how the assaults took place at the Grosse Pointe city station, in Grosse Pointe city scout cars, and the St. John's Senior Community Center in Detroit. She never told anyone about the attacks.
"He would use language like, 'If you tell anyone about this, you could lose your job,'" she said.
In her written statement to police, Scandarito said after one assault Pater told her, "Don't worry baby, you're not used to taking it from a man."
"Mr. Pater began walking me to my car every night that he worked," she wrote. "The assault repeated each time. He claimed I needed 'security' to ensure I got to my car safely."
Scandarito said she also received emails from Officer Pater. The Defenders were able to obtain those emails as they are part of Pater's file at the Grosse Pointe Public Safety Department.
In one email, Pater writes: "I like the slow undressing of your partner and enjoying every newly discovered part of their body. There isn't a part of the body I wouldn't lick, suck or kiss." He ends the email with, "Do you understand now or do I need to show you?"
"I naturally felt confused and scared," said Scandarito.
Pater's emails were found by Scandarito's mother, who took the emails to the Grosse Pointe police station 19 years ago to file a complaint against Officer Matthew Pater. At the time, Scandarito's mom only knew about the salacious emails. She did not know about her daughter's sexual assault allegations. According to the documents the Defenders obtained from the Grosse Pointe Public Safety Department, officials had "heard rumors several months ago," asked Pater about it and he denied them.
Pater took a previously-approved month off for vacation. When he went back to work he "gave a two-day notice." The department decided to make "his resignation effective immediately based on this new information."
Pater left the Grosse Pointe police force and was not investigated.
"It's unsettling he got away with that behavior and was not held accountable," said Scandarito.
The story would have ended there if not for a couple things: The #MeToo movement, which Scandarito said gave her the confidence to speak up; and the fact that Scandarito just learned Pater is still a police officer working in northern Michigan.
"Based on what he did to me I wonder if he abused his authority other times ... It's very, very concerning for other young children," she said.
Pater is a Harbor Springs police officer right now. Scandarito found out about this recently and headed north to share her story with the Harbor Springs City Council.
The Defenders tracked down Pater on the job -- watch the confrontation Monday night at 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, the case back in Grosse Pointe and Detroit sits with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. We are waiting for the office to announce any charging decision.
Harbor Springs Police Chief Kyle Knight said the department is awaiting the prosecuting attorney’s decision.
Harbor Springs Public Schools statement
The Harbor Spring school district released this statement on Pater:
Matt Pater is not employed with Harbor Springs Public Schools. We take our obligations to students very seriously and student safety is the top priority. We follow established protocols and procedures to ensure that our students are afforded a safe and secure learning environment, including a required background check for all employees and volunteers.
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