A complaint accusing a Forest Park police officer of sexual assault was filed in federal court earlier this month by the attorney for an unidentified female plaintiff. The woman reportedly was volunteering as an intern in the police department at the time of the alleged assault, which occurred earlier this year.
The complaint, filed in federal court on Sept. 1, alleges that Detective Young Lee gave alcoholic beverages to the then-19-year-old woman, then sexually assaulted her in a car. According to the document, the plaintiff was assisting Lee in underage drinking “stings” at bars in Forest Park.
The two entered an unnamed bar on March 30, 2011, and Lee allegedly bought the underage woman several drinks before leaving with her, then sexually assaulted her in the car. The next day, the woman woke up in the laundry room of her building, the complaint states.
“I think he [Lee] took advantage of this situation while … acting as a police officer,” said Elizabeth Wang, the plaintiff’s attorney.
The document goes on to say that the plaintiff filed a complaint with the police department after the incident occurred, and an internal investigation was performed. The investigation found that Lee had engaged in “improper conduct” but concluded that the plaintiff’s allegations were “unfounded.” The Forest Park Review filed a Freedom of Information request with the village last week, seeking documentation of the investigation, but has not yet received a response.
Lee is still employed by the police department and according to the complaint he has not been disciplined. Because the FOIA request was not filled at press time, the Review was unable to confirm this, though.
The village is also named as a defendant in the suit because Lee was “within the scope of his employment and under color of law such that his employer, Village of Forest Park, is liable for his actions,” according to the suit.
“As with all pending litigation, we would offer no comment,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone, last week.
In the complaint, the plaintiff’s counsel blasts the police department for allegedly turning a blind eye to officers’ misconduct.
“The Forest Park Police Department facilitates the very type of misconduct at issue here by failing to adequately punish and discipline prior instances of similar misconduct, thereby leading Forest Park police officers to believe their actions will never be scrutinized and, in that way, directly encouraging future abuses such as those affecting Plaintiff,” the document states.
It also criticizes the village’s alleged inaction: “Forest Park police officers accused of sexual harassment or assault can be confident that the village will not investigate those accusations in earnest and will refuse to recommend appropriate discipline even where the officer has engaged in sexual misconduct.”
“When the policy makers don’t put sufficient procedures, training, and discipline in place, [and teach] officers to respect certain boundaries, it can lead to the type of thing that happened to my client,” Wang said.
The plaintiff is requesting damages from the village, and from Lee, in an individual capacity, and demands a trial by jury.
On Sept. 9, the police department was served a summons to appear in federal court. Both parties will appear before Judge Ronald A. Guzman for a status hearing on Oct. 26, according to court documents filed on Monday, Sept. 12.
Wang, the plaintiff’s attorney is a member of the Chicago-based Loevy & Loevy law firm, which has handled several high-profile civil rights cases, whistleblower claims and class action suits. The firm also represented a man who accused a Forest Park officer of brutality back in 2004. The suit was settled out of court, though.