By Jean Lotus
The Forest Park village council approved a settlement agreement at the village council meeting April 14 to resolve the lawsuit filed by a former police department intern against the village and Forest Park Police Detective Young Lee.
The village and Lee paid $650,000 to plaintiff "Jane Doe." In 2011, the then-19-year-old intern sued the village after she said she was attacked and sexually assaulted by Lee. The village's insurance company will pay $646,000 of the total, and Lee will pay $4,000, said Mayor Anthony Calderone.
Judge Sara L. Ellis in the Northern District of Illinois Federal Court had originally set a trial date for the case for May 5. The village and attorneys for the intern agreed to settle the case by April 29.
The woman accused Lee of accompanying her to a pub in Berwyn as part of an "alcohol sting" on March 30, 2011. She alleged Lee bought her two drinks and then sexually assaulted her in her car. She says she woke up the next morning in her apartment building's laundry room. The woman filed a department complaint against Lee on April 7, 2011.
The village investigated the complaint and suspended Lee, who is married with a child, for 30 days for conduct unbecoming an officer for providing alcohol to a minor and for having a sexual relationship with an intern. Lee was demoted to patrol officer. The village claimed Lee was off-duty and that the sexual contact was consensual.
The intern alleged the village was liable because her lawyers claimed the intern was an employee. She also sued the village and Lee personally for inflicting intentional emotional distress, assault and battery.
The village disputed the claim that the woman was really an employee.
The woman joined the department as an intern, because she wanted to go into police work, said her lawyer Roshna Bala Keen. She also owed more than $3,000 in unpaid Forest Park parking tickets, but Lt. Steve Weiler of the police department reduced the parking violation fines to $400. The woman agreed to participate in underage alcohol stings at $20 each to help pay off the tickets, according to trial documents.
It was under this agreement that the woman's lawyers characterized Lee as her "supervisor" and her position as a village employee.
The village disputed that, as an intern, the woman was an employee of the village of Forest Park and said she had no basis to sue on those grounds.
The woman's lawyers argued that the department had a culture of not taking sexual harassment and assault seriously. They presented a history over the past 10 years of incidents of officers participating in both sexual harassment of fellow officers and civilians and two accusations of sexual assault.
However, the village provided proof that all officers received several rounds of sexual harassment training. A wrinkle in the case developed when the village's lawyer, Julie Bruch of O'Halloran Kosoff Geitner & Cook, also wore the hat of the facilitator for the police department's sexual harassment trainings.
In one legal maneuver, the village contended that Bruch could not be deposed about her sexual harassment training work because she was protected by the rule of attorney-client privilege.
Most recently, the village had attempted to say that the woman had waived her right under her state civil claim against Lee by not filing a worker's compensation claim. Her lawyers contended that the village considered her an employee if they thought she was eligible to file for workers' compensation.
This article has been updated to report that Lee was demoted to patrol officer.