A woman who claims she was sexually assaulted numerous times in 1990 and 1991 by Pleasant Ridge and Garden City police officers and employees has now filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking more than $75,000 in damages. The woman, who is now 40 years old, claims that she turned to drugs and prostitution after her dreams of becoming a police officer were dashed by the alleged sexual attacks.
At the time of the abuse, the woman was 15 and 16 years old, and participating in a program training her to become a police officer. From 1989 to 1992, the victim participated in the Garden City Police Explorer Post, a program that made it possible for teens to explore a potential career in law enforcement. According to her lawsuit, she suffered both emotional and physical abuse which led to a career as a prostitute; she also battled drug addiction through August of 2013.
Some of those named as defendants in the lawsuit include Pleasant Ridge Police Chief Kevin Nowak, Garden City police officers Thomas Wallace and Mark D’Onofrio, Richard Sundstrom, a civilian employee of the Garden City police department, retired detective sergeant Fred Sayger, Executive Director of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards David Harvey, and Michael Bertha.
Earlier this month, the defendants argued that the case could not move forward due to the amount of time that has passed; they filed an order seeking to apply the statutes of limitations as a defense.
The alleged victim claims that during the 1990-1991 time period, she was sexually assaulted five or six times by Wallace while he was on duty, twice by Nowak, once at his home and once in his patrol car while he was on duty, by D’Onofrio at his home, and on other occasions. According to her attorney, the woman’s life has been destroyed.
These types of cases are particularly difficult, as so much time has passed. Proving sexual assault or rape can be extremely difficult for prosecutors, particularly when there is a lack of physical evidence. Today, DNA technology makes it easier to prove a case, however in 1990 and 1991 the technologies available to investigators were far less advanced.
While the article does not mention whether the defendants are facing criminal charges, most individuals who are accused of rape or sexual penetration are charged with first- or third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Regardless, the consequences of a conviction are extremely serious, and may include substantial prison time, registration as a sex offender, and more. Even being accused of a crime that is sexual in nature can tarnish a person’s reputation and career.
If you have been accused of sexual assault, do not hesitate before contacting a skilled and aggressive Michigan sex crime defense attorney.