Attorneys spar over privacy request for man suing city, police over sex abuse claims
A judge plans to rule May 15 whether to allow the man to remain anonymous. She also is considering whether to delay the civil lawsuit while a criminal case proceeds and even dismiss the suit, which attorneys for the former officers accused of abuse say was filed after Kentucky’s one-year statute of limitations expired.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An attorney for a man who claims he was sexually abused by officers in a police youth program urged a judge to keep his client’s name secret at a hearing on Wednesday – an argument rebuffed by opposing lawyers on First Amendment and other grounds.
Publicly identifying the man known only as “N.C.” in a lawsuit filed in March could prevent other alleged victims from coming forward, attorney Tad Thomas told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman.
McDonald-Burkman plans to rule on the request around May 15. She also is considering whether to delay the civil lawsuit while a criminal case proceeds and possibly even dismiss the suit, which attorneys for the former officers accused of abuse say was filed after Kentucky’s one-year statute of limitations expired.
While acknowledging a “balancing act” between open court proceedings and privacy, Thomas said continuing to use initials in court filings wouldn’t hinder the work of defense attorneys to gather information in the civil lawsuit.
“A sexual abuse victim should not be victimized twice,” Thomas said.
The Courier-Journal has asked McDonald-Burkman to reject a protective order sought by “N.C.” that would prevent parties in the case and the media from revealing the man’s real name. Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for the newspaper, told the judge that allowing the order would essentially “close the courts to the public.”
Through his attorneys, who also include Louisville Metro Council President David Yates, “N.C.” is suing Metro government, the Louisville Metro Police Department, former LMPD Officers Brandon Wood and Kenneth Betts, Maj. Curtis Flaherty and the Boy Scouts of America.
The lawsuit claims Betts and Wood raped “N.C.” between 2011 and 2013 while he was a member of LMPD’s Explorer program, which mentored young people interested in law enforcement careers until Mayor Greg Fischer recently suspended it. The suit alleges that police covered up the accusations.
Fleischaker noted that the lawsuit will likely seek large sums of money and has generated “legitimate public interest.”
“The public has a right to know what goes on here,” he said.
Kent Wicker, an attorney who represents Betts in the civil lawsuit, echoed Fleischaker’s argument in remarks to reporters after the hearing.
“There’s a reason that courts are open, because we do a better job, we’re more likely to get to the truth if everybody has to be accountable for what they say,” he said. “… Parties who are seeking millions of dollars from the city coffers have to be accountable for the accusations they make, and they can’t do it by hiding behind a pseudonym.”
The civil suit alleges that Wood and Betts abused and raped “N.C.” and made recordings of the sexual activity.
Police also are accused of concealing and destroying evidence, deleting information, refusing to comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act, in addition to conspiring to cover up the wrongdoing, according to the suit.
Police allegedly falsified reports, deleted phone records and audio files and destroyed other records, the suit claims.
The allegations against Betts date from as early as 2013, when a 16-year-old girl claimed the officer texted her shirtless pictures of himself and asked to meet her and "make out."
During that internal police investigation, a male teen told police that Betts offered him money for sex and promised to take care of a traffic citation in exchange for sexual favors.
The internal investigation by the department’s professional standards unit found that Betts violated police procedures but committed no criminal acts involving the girl.
There was no investigation into the male teenager’s allegations, and Betts avoided any discipline by leaving the department in April 2014.
Police Chief Steve Conrad closed that case “by exception” when Betts resigned, saying “no further action need be taken.”
Betts worked as a code enforcement officer in the suburban city of Rolling Hills until last month, when the city council voted to fire him.
“My client has been plastered over all the media with all kinds of false, lurid accusations,” Wicker said. “He lost his job. He has to answer to the kind of criticism of the community. This has been devastating to him.”
A hearing on the motions to dismiss the case is scheduled for June 30.
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