Madison police officer Benjamin B. Vanden Belt appeared before Judge Sarah O’Brien Tuesday morning on charges he provided cocaine for and had sex with a teenage boy. Vanden Belt waived his preliminary hearing and entered a plea of not guilty.
Vanden Belt faces more than 30 years in jail if he is convicted in all charges against him. He faces at least 15 years for the felony charge of delivering cocaine, but a seldom-used statute allows the sentence to be doubled because he allegedly provided the cocaine to a minor. He also faces up to nine months for each of the four misdemeanor charges of having sex with a minor older than 16 years of age.
Vanden Belt has been suspended with pay since an investigation into the charges against him began Aug. 31. Officer Larry Kamholz will be the acting public information officer until the trial is over.
One officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the charges will have no impact on the department.
“These are only allegations at this point,” he said. “It is still only the actions of one off-duty officer and not indicative of any widespread problems throughout the department.”
Vanden Belt’s attorney will now have several meetings with the District Attorney’s office in an attempt to settle the case without going to trial, after which a final court date will be set to settle the case.
Vanden Belt is accused of having sex at least 20 times between May 1 and Aug. 30 with a 17-year-old boy he met at the April 20 dance sponsored by the Ten Percent Society at the Memorial Union. These activities allegedly took place in Vanden Belt’s apartment, in his car and at the boy’s mother’s residence.
He is also accused of delivering cocaine to the boy, who allegedly pressured him to get it.
According to The Capital Times, the boy said he repeatedly badgered Vanden Belt to get cocaine. Vanden Belt allegedly obtained the cocaine and showed the boy how to inhale it at his apartment.
Kamholz has referred all questions to Police Chief Richard Williams, who was unreachable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
“I didn’t know that he was in some kind of turmoil,” Chief Williams said in a statement. “So it came as a very, very big surprise.”