Courier-Journal: Man suing over LMPD Explorer sex abuse has no r - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Courier-Journal: Man suing over LMPD Explorer sex abuse has no right to keep name secret

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The man suing the city and the police department over allegations he was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by two former officers has no right to keep his identity a secret as the case unfolds, according to a motion filed Wednesday by The Courier-Journal.

Citing the First Amendment and other legal grounds, the newspaper has asked a judge to reject a proposed protective order that would prevent the parties in the case and news organizations from revealing the name of the man who sued using only his initials, “N.C.”

In the lawsuit filed in March, N.C. alleges that two Louisville Metro police officers repeatedly raped and abused him from 2011-2013 while he was a participant in the Youth Explorers program, a mentoring program for young people interested in law enforcement. N.C. alleges the abuse began when he was 17 and continued until he was 19.

But while N.C. seeks “millions of dollars in public funds for the harms he allegedly incurred,” the protective order could allow him not to reveal his identity throughout the trial and any appeals, according to The Courier-Journal’s motion.

The newspaper says N.C. “cannot ask the Court to give him such a ‘hiding place’ within the justice system.”

N.C.’s attorney David Yates – who is also the Metro Council president --  has argued that his identity should remain a secret because he is a sexual assault victim. Yates did not immediately respond to a phone message.

The issue of N.C.’s anonymity is the subject of an upcoming court hearing before Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman, who ruled earlier this month that the case itself should be unsealed and made part of the public record.

The Courier-Journal first asked that the judge unseal the case -- a motion that WDRB Media later joined.

In a court hearing March 30, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell – who represents the city and the police department -- told the judge in the case that it was not fair for the plaintiffs to remain anonymous while former officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood, as well as Maj. Curtis Flaherty, are named as defendants.

But O’Connell issued a statement later that day supporting N.C.’s request to remain anonymous.

“I want to be clear that neither I nor the city want any abuse victims’ identity to be made public," O'Connell said. "Mayor (Greg) Fischer and I both have said that we are not seeking to reveal victims’ names."

The Courier-Journal contends that N.C.’s “desire to avoid embarrassment” is “woefully inadequate” to justify an unconstitutional court order preventing the parties to the case or news organizations from disclosing his name, according to the motion.

“The Plaintiff’s stated reason for the proposed protective order is to protect himself from potential embarrassment, inconvenience or stigma of being identified in connection with his allegations,” the newspaper argues in the motion. “Yet, the Plaintiff is the person who chose to bring the allegations before this Court, and did so in an effort to obtain money from the Metro Government, the LMPD, and various public officials.”

The fact that the abuse allegedly began when N.C. was a minor is “irrelevant” to his request for the protective order, according to the motion.

“He is an adult now, and he was an adult when he chose to sue the Metro Government, the LMPD and other government officials,” attorney Jon Fleischaker argues on behalf of the newspaper.

In fact, N.C. “should have revealed his own identity” when filing the lawsuit, according to local court rules, Fleischaker argues.

The protective order sought by N.C. would also allow any additional plaintiffs who may join the suit not to be identified; for witnesses to testify anonymously; and for N.C.’s attorneys to any evidence for his claims, such as medical records, out of the public record, according to the filing.

“However, that is simply not how our justice system works,” according to the newspaper’s motion.

The newspaper argues that the overwhelming public interest in a case involving “heinous” alleged misconduct by government officials outweighs any privacy concerns.

“The highly public nature and the extreme public interest in seeing that justice is openly served in this case cannot be overstated,” according to the motion.

Courier-Journal executive editor Joel Christopher issued a statement Thursday evening:

"The Courier-Journal's motion is about preserving the integrity of the legal system, not about exposing the identity of the alleged victim in this case. Court rules demand that adults who file lawsuits reveal their identities, and there are compelling reasons for such transparency. Our justice system protects the rights of everyone by demanding a public record when an adult makes an allegation against another person, and reasonable people can quickly see how dangerous it would be to have a system that sanctioned anonymous court actions. I must stress that the Courier-Journal's intentions are to protect the public's interests, not to identify the alleged victim or publish prurient details of the allegations."

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