Scott Cole

Scott Cole (OC SHERIFF)

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- An Orange County sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl while he was investigating a stolen jewelry case.

Scott Cole made his initial appearance Thursday before an Orange County judge, who postponed his arraignment until tomorrow morning and released him on his own recognizance.

The 41-year old deputy could face up to three years in prison if convicted of a felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor, said Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman.

Prosecutors say the teenager's mother called deputies on June 23 to report stolen jewelry at her home near Tustin.

Cole, who responded to the call, first spoke to the girl's mother and sister in the living room and later allegedly told the 17-year-old, who was in her bedroom, to take off her clothes, Mestman said.

He left the bedroom to speak again to the mother and her other daughter for a few minutes before he returned to the girl's bedroom and closed the door, the prosecutor alleged.

While in the bedroom, Cole is accused of digitally penetrating the girl, Mestman said.

"She was in shock when it happened," he said.

Once Cole left, the girl told her mother what allegedly happened.

Cole, who has been on paid administrative leave since June, has been with the department for 14 years, according to John McDonald, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.