Cop accused of sexual assault hired by sheriff’s office

Michael A. Paige

Michael A. Paige, who allegedly sexually assaulted another man while serving on-duty as a Philadelphia police officer, recently was hired as a deputy sheriff with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office.

According to public records, Paige retired from the Philadelphia police force on Oct. 25 and began working at the Sheriff’s Office two days later at an annual salary of $100,000. 

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office declined to comment for this PGN update, other than to say: “Mr. Paige has been employed since October 2021 in the Office of the Sheriff. No further comment will be given.”

Neither Paige nor Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal could be reached for comment.

A Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson said Paige worked for the department as a patrol officer for about 32 years, beginning in October 1989. His annual salary at the time of his departure was $80,240. 

During the pre-dawn hours of March 16, 2007, Paige allegedly sexually assaulted James Harris in Fairmount Park while on patrol duty. Paige ordered Harris into his cruiser and drove him to a secluded area, where he allegedly forced Harris to perform oral sex and digitally penetrated his anus, according to court records.

Paige allegedly ejaculated into Harris’ mouth. Through DNA analysis, Paige’s seminal fluid was detected in a cup that Harris subsequently spat into, according to court records.

In his defense, Paige claimed Harris was in the park after hours partially clothed and he merely took the young man aside to counsel him. Regarding the DNA evidence, Paige said Harris may have obtained Paige’s semen from a condom in the park, since Paige told Harris he sometimes had off-duty sex with females there. Paige postulated that Harris could have placed semen from one of Paige’s discarded condoms into a cup that Harris merely spit into, according to court records.

In June 2012, a federal jury awarded Harris $165,000 in damages due to his alleged ordeal. The jury determined Paige violated Harris’ bodily integrity and caused Harris to suffer severe emotional distress. But Paige hasn’t paid any money to Harris, according to court records.

Brian F. Humble, an attorney for Harris, wasn’t optimistic that Paige would satisfy the $165,000 judgment against him. “Considering the history of the case, Mr. Paige’s deliberate evasiveness, and the City’s lack of accountability — my opinion is neutral on the prospects [of the money being paid],” Humble said, in an email.

Humble added: “People who have criminal records for selling drugs can’t get a job because of their background. Yet it seems Paige can get away with anything while on duty and still get a new job in the same field with higher pay.”

Paige was dismissed from the force shortly after the March 2007 incident. But in December 2007, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Anthony J. DeFino dismissed all criminal charges against Paige, questioning the credibility of Harris. DeFino opined that the two men had a consensual sexual encounter.

In April 2009, Paige returned to the police force, after an independent arbitrator reduced his discipline from dismissal to a 30-day suspension. The city didn’t appeal the arbitrator’s ruling, citing expenses.

Asa Khalif, an LGBT advocate, expressed dismay with Paige’s recent hiring. “This is outrageous,” Khalif told PGN. “I don’t see how anyone can justify this hiring. The gentleman has clear boundary issues. And it’s unconscionable that he hasn’t paid the judgment. I would suggest that the Sheriff’s Office should force him to pay it. My best wishes go out to the victim.”

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.