Deputy dismissed from lawsuit about sexual assault case

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.
Cary Ashby
Jul 25, 2010

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.

Comments

dick tracy (Ano...

If the 18 year-old man is not subject to any criminal charges or proceedings regarding this incident, why is the Reflector labeling him a "suspect" rather than a "defendant"?

Nancy Drew (Ano...

I agree! he is not a suspect! there was nothing to be found that this girls allegations are even remotely true! because this 18 yr old girl has lied about what SHE did she is publically humilating innocent people! including the defendants! why not go for a RAPE test???? If she was really raped why would she turn around and have sex with someone else following this assumed assault? little girl u should come clean and own up to what YOU did and not blame it on others! simply because you dont want to be labeled a liar or a drunk???? or simply because you dont want to lose the 2nd one you had sex w/ that nite?

THE NORWALK REFLECTOR SHOULD DO A LITTLE MORE INVESTIGATING BEFORE PRINTING STORIES THAT HAVE NO MERIT!

wes freakin sha...

first off, you have no problem in putting my mothers name in this article, but not the "18 yr old" girl. and second, my mother took no part in her drinking, she came to the graduation party trashed already. as for the supposed rape this isnt the first time a girl has gotten drunk and wanted every guy there. there was an incident last year where a young girl got around at a party and to avoid the taunting of her peers she claimed rape. there was video proof that she was sober enough to tell them no if she had really wanted to. So I think this is one girls pathetic attempt at maintaining her "innocence" after completely shattering it.

Reflector Staff...

This story is simply relating the fact that Sgt. McLaughlin has been dropped from the suit. Our use of the words "victim" and "suspect" were not intended to validate or invalidate anyone's claims. They are simply the roles these individuals, whom we cannot name, have taken for the purposes of this case. It is our policy not to name rape victims -- and to give possible rape victims the benefit of the doubt only insofar as naming them is concerned. We hope the truth will become clear at any trial and that justice will prevail.

dick tracy (Ano...

Reflector: If the story is about a civil lawsuit, why do you chose the word "suspect"? There is no "role" (your word choice) of "suspect" in the context of a civil suit, only "plaintiff" and "defendent". The use of of the word "suspect" implies some sort of criminal nature which, given the outcome of the police and prosecutor investigations, does not apply here. Word choice is very important in journalism and you have quickly dismissed it as a trivial inconvenience. If this is indicative of the quality of reporting forthcoming from the Reflector, then I will stick your paper in the "yellow" folder.

Reflector Staff...

Mr. Tracy: You are absolutely right. Word choice is of vital importance in journalism. That is why we chose the words that we did. In this case, the plaintiff was alleging that authorities did not adequately investigate a crime (in this case a rape). Crimes are perpetrated by suspects. In the context of an investigation (no matter how well carried out it is), the man in the story is a suspect. To be a suspect in no way implies guilt. It implies suspicion. Only when the prosecutor decides to bring charges, does the suspect become a defendant (still, we should point out, without guilt). The rape suspect was not charged with a crime nor was he named in the civil lawsuit, so he is, twice over, NOT a defendant. It is admittedly a muddy and convoluted situation, but suspect is the best word here. We hope you can see your way clear to moving our paper to the "not yellow" folder.

Nancy Drew (Ano...

reflector: please let the public know why this case was worthy of a front page story? Did you get a tip? I do not recall seeing much of this in your paper proir to this? why now? and why front page? I am glad the deputy was dismissed from this case. I am sure this is a start of the rest of the defendants being dismissed from this bogus case also. And when that time comes I expect the same treatment for the other defendants as you gave the deputy. FRONT PAGE!!!! THERE WERE MANY DEFENDANTS NAMED IN THAT LAWSUIT! OF COURSE WE ALL KNOW IT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND WE CAN ALL GET THAT INFORMATION.

Reflector Staff...

There are a lot of factors that determine where a story is placed. We do the best we can every day to balance those factors. There is always going to be someone who doesn't like what the front page ends up being as a result. As to whether the story will be played similarly in the future, we cannot know what will happen. However, we will point out that the deputy is a public employee, charged with protecting the rest of us. When such a person is sued, especially when she is sued for failing to do her job, it is of immediate importance to everyone in Huron County.

Nancy Drew (Ano...

She and the sheriff's Department were accused from the beginning. I still do not recall it being front page news at that point. If it was so news worthy why was it not news worthy sooner? This case was filed a year after the alleged incident occured and later added to another year after that. now even though you did not print all the names of all the people in this case any 10 year old with a computer and a little bit of brains can get ahold of the names of both these kids. And potentially ruin an innocent boys life! I would like to see that on the front page when this poor kid is finally found not @ fault for what happened!

dick tracy (Ano...

Reflector: Your inclusion of a small but very important fact in your previous comment completely changes my perspective on the reporting of this story, namely, that the "suspect" was not named as a "defendant" in the lawsuit. I do not recall reading that important piece of information in the article. It certainly clarifies the word choice in reference to the 18 year-old man. As a reader I was left to infer that a lawsuit regarding a sexual assault would most definitely include and name the "suspect" as "defendant" in addition to all the others identified as parties to the suit. This clarifying fact would have alleviated much ado about nothing.

Reflector Staff...

Well, we must apologize. A misunderstanding occurred between reporter and editor. We do everything we can to avoid such occurrances, but they do happen from time to time. When that occurs we do everything we can to rectify to mistake.

The 18-year-old man was named in the lawsuit. However, the fact remains that he still was a suspect in a criminal investigation of a possible rape. Complete information on the outcome of that investigation is included in the story.

dick tracy (Ano...

Reflector: I find it interesting that you used the past tense "was" in your last comment in referring to the "suspect" but in the next-to-last sentence in the article the word is used in the present tense. Is an individual who as at one time a susupect, forever more a suspect? Really, shouldn't that sentence have read: "The former suspect isn't being named..." or "The 18 year-old male isn't being named..."? Is Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused in the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing, still a suspect (even though he has now passed away)?

dick tracy (Ano...

Reflector: I find it interesting that you used the past tense "was" in your last comment in referring to the "suspect" but in the next-to-last sentence in the article the word is used in the present tense. Is an individual who was at one time a susupect, forever more a suspect? Really, shouldn't that sentence have read: "The former suspect isn't being named..." or "The 18 year-old male isn't being named..."? Is Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused in the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing, still a suspect (even though he has now passed away)? I think the term now used with Mr. Jewell is "hero".

Reflector Staff...

Mr. Tracy: Your point is well-taken. "Defendant" would indeed have been a better word in this case. Thank you for pointing this out to us, and in the future, we will use the word "defendant" in similar cases.

Trixie Belden (...

Seems to me that all the innocent people named in the lawsuit have now become victims of public humiliation. I'd like to see this young woman have to make a public apology for what she is putting them through. While rape is a serious crime, people like this who don't want to admit the real story to save face are the ones who make the public insensitive to the real victims of the real crime. Rape is traumatizing; there is NO way a rape victim would willingly have sex with another partner shortly after. And quite obviously, since the case was dismissed, no one in the legal system bought into this story either. Young lady, if you think you are mature enough to choose to drink and to have sex, you certainly should be mature enough to admit that you made bad choices and take responsibility for what you have done. Why should lots of other people have to suffer for your mistake when they didn't contribute to it? YOU made the choice to drink somewhere else before coming to THIS party (where alcohol was strictly prohibited for the minors, which the law also discovered), and you made the choice to have sex. Twice. So grow up, admit your mistakes, and move on with your life. And leave innocent people alone.

Trixie Belden (...

Mr. Tracy: While I respect your journalism views, you are completely missing the focus of the story. The suspect/defendant isn't the focus. He isn't named in any suits; he's almost an afterthought. The focus of this story is about a girl wanting someone else to be responsible and pay for the choices that she made. As a journalist, you should have picked up on this. A comment or two on grammar is one thing, but you are beating it to death, especially since it didn't pertain to the present case.

Trixie Belden (...

Mr. Tracy: I wasn't trying to downplay the young man previously implicated, as he is also unjustly accused, I was just pointing out that a whole new group of people are now the focus of this young woman's search for vengeance for her mistakes.

2 problems (An...

the sheriffs office is incompetent and leffler is incompetent.

dick tracy (Ano...

Ms. Belden: My comments were purposely non-judgemental regarding the plaintiff or the defendant(s) since I have no personal first-hand knowledge of the facts of this case or the parties to the lawsuit. Nor am I able to divine their intentions, desires, or needs. I leave that up to the courts and the juries. However, my comments do go to the heart of ethical and proper journalism which is very much intertwined with proper word choice. If the reporting is inaccurate or muddled, then those, like me, who are apriori ignorant of the facts are left to draw improper conclusions. Given the Reflector is the newspaper of record for the region, they have a duty to get it right, or to at least correct the situation quickly when it's brought to their attention. Otherwise they are just another small-minded newspaper in a small town.

Nancy Drew (Ano...

2 problems- who do you figure the sheriffs dep. & leffler are incompetent in this case? With the evidence given to them and the time frame it took the plaintiff to turn it in what other conclusion can you come to? NO MERITS! The facts in this case sighted by the plaintiffs attorney are grasping @ straws at best.This case is why real Rape victims dont get the benefit of the doubt when they should. AGAIN I POSE THIS QUESTION: If a rape truly occured why not scream-yell-fight-bite-anything else to bring attention to yourself to get help ??? AND AGAIN I ASK: why not a rape test? why not turn it in sooner? Why 2 years down the road?

swiss family .....

I think that both of the Sutherland brothers , have done an incredible job of policing this county ..

malarkey (Anonymous)

swiss family, you ARE a funny person!!

marklarky (Anon...

...and you are a TOOL!