Deputy dismissed from lawsuit about sexual assault case

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:19 PM

A sheriff's deputy has been dismissed from a lawsuit over a June 2005 sexual assault, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway ruled Friday.

Sgt. Annette McLaughlin said she investigated a Willard West Road, Willard, underage drinking complaint based on a tip which also involved the suspected sexual assault of an 18-year-old woman.

"There are no allegations against her in the amended complaint," said McLaughlin's defense attorney, Joan Szuberla. "It says absolutely nothing about anything she did or didn't do ... so I don't have to address the merits of the case."

McLaughlin's name was added to an amended complaint filed July 18 in Huron County Common Pleas Court. Also added at the time were Willard residents David and Kimberly Smith, Susan Smith and Valerie Shaw. Their connection to the victim or incident was unclear from court records.

The Smiths and Shaw are still listed in the lawsuit, but Conway is expected to rule Oct. 1 if they also will be dismissed from the civil case. Judge Earl McGimpsey, now retired, ruled Dec. 22 that Sheriff Richard Sutherland, listed in the original complaint filed in mid-June 2006, was out of the case.

"He was excluded, but didn't take me with him," McLaughlin said.

The sheriff's office had been accused of "failing to adequately investigate the report or take action regarding (the victim) after it learned she was consuming alcohol underage," wrote the victim's defense attorney, Charles Hall. The attorney further wrote that deputies' "inaction" reportedly contributed to the woman's undisclosed "psychological and economic injuries."

Hall also accused deputies of allowing the party to continue and "the battery (of the victim) to occur."

Hall said his client was at a high school graduation party where she consumed alcohol. Hall accused a male suspect from Willard of battery and having sexual conduct with the woman without her permission while she was in a tent "recovering" from the alcohol she drank.

Lt. Randy Sommers investigates the majority of the sex complaints for the sheriff's office. He was given the case five days after the incident. Sommers mentioned there were multiple interviews with the victim and people who attended the party.

Sommers said the woman passed out in a tent and woke up to find an 18-year-old man having sex with her. A witness saw the "sexual activity," he continued, but Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler "wasn't comfortable bringing criminal charges."

The suspect isn't being named because he is not listed in any criminal cases filed in Huron County Common Pleas or Norwalk Municipal courts.

The lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages. The trial is scheduled to start Oct. 11.

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