ANGLETON — Former West Columbia police chief Michael Palmer spent one night in jail on multiple child sexual assault charges before bonding out Tuesday, but he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted on those counts.
A grand jury last week indicted Palmer on eight counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, one count of child sexual contact and one count of indecency with a child-sexual contact.
The indictments came seven weeks after the district attorney’s office confirmed its investigation into a man’s claims Palmer abused him for years, starting when he was younger than 10.
Yenne last month described the accuser as “someone the family knew.” Seven of the counts allege sexual contact during 2002 and 2003, with the last two alleging incidents in 2004.
In an affidavit, the man told investigators the abuse began with Palmer performing oral sex on him and escalated over the years to Palmer strapping him to a bed, blindfolding him and videotaping sexual assaults.
Aggravated sexual assault of a child is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. Child sexual contact and indecency with a child are second-degree felonies, and a conviction could bring up to 20 years in prison.
Investigators with the district attorney’s office arrested Palmer on Monday afternoon. He posted $75,000 bond and was released from the Brazoria County jail less than 24 hours later.
District Attorney Jeri Yenne declined to discuss specifics about the case.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” she said. “I think the allegations in the indictment are fairly straightforward.”
Contacted through a family friend Tuesday evening, Palmer’s wife, Debbie, said it was their lawyer’s advice to not discuss anything about the matter until it goes to court.
During a July 5 search of Palmer’s home, investigators reported they had seized multiple sexual devices and a variety of electronic devices, including still and video cameras, DVDs and video cassettes.
Investigators sent some of the evidence to a forensic examiner to search for illicit photos or video. That aspect of the investigation is ongoing, Yenne said.
In February, when Palmer still was police chief, he was arrested on allegations he stole drugs from the police evidence room, crime scene locations and hospice death scenes. During that investigation, police found a locked box in Palmer’s office that contained pornographic DVDs, two others labeled as porn and numerous sexual devices, according to a July 5 affidavit for a warrant to search Palmer’s home.
The items in the box caused investigators to suspect other crimes might have been committed and led them to the accuser, whose testimony was necessary to secure both the search warrant of Palmer’s home and the indictment, Yenne said in the July 10 issue of The Facts.
Though the allegations against him are serious, Palmer still is drawing a high level of support from his family, friends and some fellow congregants at Wild Peach Community Church, family friend Susan Oltz said.
“We support him and his family 100 percent,” she said.
We just know the man, and know him better than that. We’ll just have to let the lawyers settle it.”
Palmer still faces six counts of tampering with evidence and three counts of possession of a controlled substance from his February arrest.
After his first arrest, City Council immediately suspended Palmer with pay, and one week later, he resigned.