I-TEAM: Mother of teenage girl speaks out after officer convicted

CLEVELAND -- A Cleveland Police officer found himself convicted of a felony crime and as he walked out of court he found the FOX 8 I-TEAM waiting for him.

Officer Thomas Tewell has been convicted for illegally tapping into a law enforcement computer to find more information about a teen girl he had met online. The conviction not only means that Tewell will no longer be able to serve as a police officer, but he could even go to prison.

Tewell didn’t comment when I-TEAM asked him questions just after the verdict.

However, the mother of the teen girl reacted. The girl was 17 at the time of the crime, and her mother said, "He was wrong. He shouldn’t have done what he did."

While a Cuyahoga County jury convicted Tewell of one charge, the jury cleared him of a charge tied to sending the teen a lewd picture.

But the girl’s mother and Cuyahoga County Prosecutors both left satisfied the conviction means Tewell will lose his badge for good.

Mom said, "He will never have the power to be a police officer to abuse the power of an officer to manipulate a teen girl, or for that matter, any woman."

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Matt Meyer said, "We just can't have police officers abusing their power and abusing the database, so he's done."

A few years ago, the Cleveland Police Department suspended Tewell for 25 days after he started sending messages to a woman he had met handling a crash. The I-TEAM obtained internal affairs recordings. An investigator asked Tewell, "Is there any kind of help you need from us?" He answered, "I don't think so, but maybe I should think more about it."

During this investigation, Tewell had been allowed to keep working on restricted duty, a desk job not dealing with the public. Then, when he got indicted, he was suspended without pay. Now, he can either resign, or go before the Safety Director, where he will likely be fired.

The teen’s mother says the girl felt attacked while testifying during the trial. And mom believes this case should serve as a lesson about danger on the internet. She said, "Kids really need to be wary of what they're doing, who they're talking to, and what the what the outcome could be."

Judge Nancy Fuerst will sentence Tewell at the end of the month. Prosecutors said he could get sent to prison for up to 18 months. However, a defense attorney told the I-TEAM outside court, he plans to appeal.

Continuing coverage, here.

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