Alleged victims in LMPD sex abuse scandal ask to remain anonymous in lawsuits
An attorney argued the alleged victims were juveniles when the assaults occurred, and their "privacy interests clearly outweigh the necessity to reveal" the names to the public.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two alleged victims of sexual assault by former Louisville Metro Police officers have asked a federal judge to allow them to remain anonymous from the public and some witnesses in lawsuits they filed against the police department and city.
At least six lawsuits are pending in U.S. District Court claiming people were sexually harassed or assaulted while in the department's youth Explorer program. Police and city officials are also accused of covering up sexual abuse. Four of those suits are sealed from the public.
In the two unsealed cases, the plaintiffs are currently identified only by their initials, N.C. and E.B.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of N.C. in March 2017, claiming former officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood sexually abused him while he was a teen in the program between 2011 and 2013.
In the other open lawsuit, E.B. claims Betts sexually assaulted the teen between 2010 and 2013, including performing oral sex on him while at an Explorer event in Colorado in 2012.
Tad Thomas, an attorney for the alleged victims, filed a motion Wednesday asking a federal judge to allow the alleged victims to "expose" their true names only to the defendants in the cases -- among others, LMPD, the city, Boy Scouts of America, Wood, Betts and Curtis Flaherty, the former head of the Explorer program -- and any witnesses that are required to know their identity.
The motion includes sealing all court documents that would identify the plaintiffs and concealing the names from "tangential" witnesses.
Thomas argues the alleged victims were juveniles when the assaults occurred, and that as sex abuse victims their "privacy interests clearly outweigh the necessity to reveal" the names to the public.
In addition, according to the motion, Thomas is not asking the judge to shield the identify of the plaintiffs from the defendants, so it would not affect their "ability to adequately defend their case."
The issue of whether the plaintiffs should be publicly identified initially came up in a Jefferson Circuit Court hearing in March 2017. The lawsuits were all first filed in state court but moved to U.S. District Court earlier this year, before a judge decided on the anonymity issue.
At the time, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman and reporters that attorneys should have to prove why N.C. – who is now in his 20s – should remain anonymous while the defendants have been named.
“It’s in the best interest of all concerned to be transparent,” O’Connell said after a March 20, 2017 hearing. “The playing field needs to be level. … It’s not fair for them (the officers) to be named and not have the plaintiffs in this case named.”
Later that day, O'Connell issued a statement saying “I want to be clear that neither I nor the city want any abuse victims’ identity to be made public."
He has since said the anonymity decision is up to judge.
Betts and Wood have been indicted for sexually abusing teens, and former commander Flaherty is accused in several lawsuits of covering up the crimes. The two officers have pleaded not guilty.
Another LMPD officer, Brad Schuhmann, is under investigation and on administrative leave. He is named in at least one lawsuit, which is sealed.
An internal investigation of Betts was initiated by Chief Steve Conrad on July 29, 2013, when a 16-year-old female Explorer told police the officer had been sending inappropriate texts and talking lewdly.
Betts was accused of sending the girl shirtless pictures of himself and asking her to "make out."
During the course of that investigation, a male teenager told police investigators that Betts offered him money for sex. The male also told police he often spent the night with Betts and another officer, Brandon Wood.
There was never an investigation into what the male teen said, and Conrad closed the Betts case “by exception” when the officer resigned in 2014. Conrad wrote in a memo that “no further action was needed.”
The mother of the female teen told police the head of the Explorer unit "encouraged" her to not tell anyone about her daughter being sexually harassed by an officer in 2013, court documents claim.
The Boy Scouts and other defendants knew there had been a “longstanding, consistent, and problematic history with advisers sexually abusing Youth Explorer cadets,” according to the E.B. lawsuit.
For example, according to that suit, in 1995 an LMPD officer was fired when it was revealed that he had “engaged in sexual behavior” with a minor in a youth program.
“But for the defendants’ cover-up and failure to be candid about the sexual abuse,” E.B. would not have joined the Explorer program, the suit says.
Flaherty is accused of having “firsthand knowledge” of Betts’ illegal conduct but failed to discipline Betts or take any action, according to the suit.
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