Woman who was charged in Douglas County false rape report case files lawsuit against Lawrence police, city, KU

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The Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse for the District of Kansas

Updated at 4:44 p.m. Monday

A woman who was charged in January 2019 with filing a false report of rape has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Lawrence, multiple Lawrence police officers and the University of Kansas.

The woman had reported to Lawrence police in September 2018 that she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow KU student while she was too intoxicated to consent. She later decided not to pursue charges, at which point “the police went full bore with an investigation to prove that she lied,” the complaint in the civil case alleges.

The Douglas County district attorney’s office dismissed the criminal case in October 2019 after it drew national media attention, as the Journal-World has reported.

However, the woman’s lawsuit — filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas — alleges that she has suffered and continues to suffer from emotional distress, embarrassment, lost educational opportunities, expenses for medical and psychological treatment and more as a result of the experience.

The complaint alleges that the City of Lawrence and the Lawrence Police Department’s “failure to provide adequate training for its officers and detectives were the moving force behind Plaintiff’s being wrongfully charged, detained and prosecuted even though she had done nothing wrong and was, in fact, a victim.”

“If police had conducted a thorough and unbiased investigation from the beginning, they would have discovered that the overwhelming weight of the evidence supported” the woman, the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges that KU failed to investigate the woman’s reports of ongoing harassment by the alleged perpetrator, and that instead the university had instead subjected her to a student conduct hearing, at which she risked expulsion.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial in Kansas City, Kan., and judgment in the plaintiff’s favor of more than $75,000, and actual, compensatory and punitive damages.

The woman’s attorneys, Cheryl Pilate, of Morgan Pilate LLC, and Sarah Brown, of Brown & Curry LLC, said in a statement via email to the Journal-World Monday that the Lawrence Police Department and KU, “separately and together, deprived our client of federal rights protected by statute and the United States Constitution.”

“As a result of gender bias and discriminatory treatment, our client was presumed, without facts, to not be telling the truth after suffering a sexual assault, and instead, she was further injured by the institutions charged with protecting her,” the statement continued. “Our client seeks redress for her injuries, and she hopes that seeking justice will help lead to greater security for young women at the University of Kansas and in the City of Lawrence.”

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokesperson for KU, said in a statement via email that the university does not comment on pending litigation.

“We are confident in our Title IX investigations and our student conduct processes, and we look forward to resolving this matter through the legal process,” Barcomb-Peterson said.

Porter Arneill, a spokesperson for the City of Lawrence, declined to comment about the case Monday.

The Journal-World does not generally name people who say they have been victims of sex crimes.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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Related coverage

Feb. 21, 2020: Lawrence police plan to roll out special victims unit, describe changes underway in sex crime investigations and training

Feb. 6, 2020: Douglas County district attorney changing policies on sexual assault investigations, prosecutions

Oct. 28, 2019: KU student’s alleged false rape report case dismissed; her lawyers want Douglas County district attorney to apologize

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