BNEW CUMBERLAND - A former New Cumberland and Chester police officer who was involved in a "sexting" incident with a 16-year-old girl has received a suspended jail sentence and probation.
Eric R. Maruca, 27, of New Cumberland pleaded guilty Monday in Hancock County Circuit Court to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a child.
Maruca agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge in exchange for the dismissal of a felony charge, returned by a grand jury in April, of displaying obscene matter to a minor, said Hancock County Assistant Prosecutor David F. Cross.
"There's an issue in regards to the photo ... as to whether it meets the statutory definition of sexually explicit conduct," Cross said.
Maruca sent a photo of his genitals to the girl via cellphone in September. He struck up a relationship with the girl after a mutual friend suggested the girl was "in love" with him and was interested in a sexual encounter, according to the original complaint filed in Hancock County Magistrate Court.
The mutual friend - Amanda Myers, 30, of New Cumberland - also was indicted in April and faces charges of use of a minor to produce obscene matter and use of a minor in filming sexually explicit conduct.
Cross said Maruca was the "least culpable" of the two co-defendants and may not have known that the girl was under the age of 18.
"Being exposed, in and of itself, doesn't meet the statutory definition (of sexually explicit conduct). It has to be images that depict something in a sexually explicit manner," Cross said.
"The other party, who's more culpable, took photos of the girl that were sent to him before his photo was sent. Photos which are clearly violations of the statute," he said.
Myers recently asked for her trial to be postponed because of medical issues. A court filing said she has spent six weeks in the hospital since June.
As part of the plea agreement, Maruca is required to give a "complete and truthful statement" to Hancock County prosecutors regarding Myers' alleged involvement and to testify in her trial if necessary.
Circuit Court Judge Martin Gaughan sentenced Maruca to one year in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville and suspended the sentence. He also placed Maruca on two years of supervised probation and assessed court costs, according to the plea agreement.
Maruca must not have any contact with the victim or her family and must not work anymore as a police officer, Cross said.
Maruca originally was charged in October following an investigation by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department resulting from a complaint filed by the girl's mother.
At the time, Maruca was a patrolman with the Chester Police Department. He had joined the force in July 2013 after working eight years for the New Cumberland Police Department.
Maruca turned himself in on a felony warrant on Oct. 28, a week after being fired by Chester Council.