Lawyers for the village of Forest Park filed a motion for summary judgment, Jan. 15, in the sexual assault case brought by a then-19-year-old female police intern against the village and Forest Park Police Detective Young Lee.
The village seeks to have the court determine the case before Judge Ronald A. Guzman without a full trial. On Feb. 7, the woman’s lawyers, of the Chicago firm Loevy and Loevy, filed to answer the motion for summary judgment by March 15.
The plaintiff initially filed her case in Federal Court in September 2011, accusing 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. Doe filed a complaint against Lee on April 7, 2011.
In the village’s statement, lawyers for the village assert that the intern was “no stranger to bars and alcohol and drank alcohol to excess and to the point of blacking out prior to the evening of March 30, 2011.”
The village’s motion alleged that she consumed more than two drinks, listing “two apple martinis, a shot and another drink with vodka through the course of the night at two separate Berwyn bars.”
In addition, the village asserted that Lee was off-duty, and “acting outside the scope of employment” when he and the intern had sexual relations in a vehicle in the parking lot of a Berwyn Mexican restaurant sometime “after 1 a.m.”
The plaintiff had been told she could pay off a multi-thousand-dollar parking ticket fine by participating in underage alcohol stings at $20 per event. Additionally, according to deposition testimony, her parking fines had been voluntarily reduced by police brass by “thousands of dollars.” But in the motion, the village’s attorneys asserted she was not an employee of the village. Because Doe also filed a Title VII sexual harassment claim, the village seeks to prove that Lee was not in a supervisory role over her. If Lee is determined to have been her supervisor, the standard of liability for the village is stricter, from negligence to strict liability, said Village Attorney Julie Bruch.
“Under strict liability, the village would have to predict, was there anything in the history between them that should have put the village on notice,” Bruch said.
Although Lee had allegedly told the woman they would participate in alcohol stings, and was in a position of authority in the alcohol sting program, the two had never performed an alcohol sting together.
The village’s attorneys assert that the woman understood on the evening in question that the two were not on an alcohol sting. Doe acknowledged in a deposition that Lee came back to the table at a Berwyn bar with a beer for himself, and “after that point, then I was clear we were not there for work purposes.”
After Doe made the complaint against the village, Police Chief Jim Ryan immediately initiated an investigation, undertaken by retired Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Robert T. Johnson, according to the village’s motion. Johnson concluded “that the sexual relationship was consensual and [the plaintiff’s] allegation of sexual assault was unfounded.”
The motion said Johnson also determined, “Lee should receive a 30-day suspension for conduct unbecoming an officer due to his providing alcoholic beverages to an underage intern and for having a sexual relationship with an intern.” Lee was married with a 4-year-old child at the time. Ryan said in deposition that Lee received a 15-day suspension and had 15 vacation days taken away. But Ryan said he did not tell the rest of the force about the punishment, noting that news travels in a small police force.
The village’s motion also denies that Forest Park has “a widespread practice that denied [the woman] her Constitutional rights,” and denies that “Lee was … acting pursuant to any policy or practice of Forest Park.”
Doe’s lawyers had asserted that the Forest Park Police Department “directly encourages the very type of misconduct at issue here by failing to adequately train, supervise and control its officers … leading Forest Park police officers to believe their actions will never be scrutinized and directly encouraging future abuses.”
Her lawyers presented evidence of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases by and among members of the Forest Park Police Department. In the past ten years, the department has had several incidences of officers participating in both sexual harassment of fellow officers and civilians and two accusations of sexual assault.
To bolster the village’s claim that investigators had found the plaintiff’s actions with Lee to be consensual, the village asserted in a supporting memo that she accompanied Lee to a Chinese restaurant the day following the alleged sexual assault. She also attended a department shooting range trip within a week after the alleged assault where she socialized with Lee, the memo said.
The village asserted that the woman could not bring a claim against the village under the Illinois Gender Violence Act because the village was not a person and because Forest Park claimed “tort immunity” to the claims on the state level.
If the village of Forest Park is found not liable for the claims, the case reverts to state court where it becomes, “a case of state law of assault and battery between two private citizens that has nothing to do with the village,” Bruch said.
Doe’s lawyer said their team would be answering the village’s motion next month. “We dispute the village’s characterization of the evidence and the law and will be filing a written response in a couple weeks,” emailed Elizabeth Wang of Loevy and Loevy.