Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wymore man sues after false rape accusation

A follow up to yesterdays story:

A Wymore man wrongfully accused of sexual assault is asking for a jury trial to assess damages done by Gage County and several sheriff’s deputies.

Elliot Hawkins filed the suit in Gage County District Court on Wednesday, the same day Jennifer Valenta was sentenced to 32 to 60 months in prison for attempted prostitution, false reporting and tampering with evidence.

The suit names Deputy Brandon Schley, Investigator John Chavez, Investigator Rob Sandersfeld and Sgt. Tony Shepardson for their role in the “conscious-shocking reckless investigation” that Hawkins claims violated his constitutional right to due process.

According to the suit, Schley initiated the investigation on Nov. 24, 2011, after interviewing Valenta at Beatrice Community Hospital.

The complaint alleges that Valenta initially refused to speak with authorities or complete a rape kit to provide DNA for the investigation.

Schley got an arrest warrant for Hawkins four days later, and Hawkins was arrested the next day on his way home from work.

Hawkins claims he told investigators Valenta called him numerous times after the incident and that his phone would reflect that statement. He also says Chavez submitted an affidavit for the phone, claiming Hawkins “might have taken a picture of his ‘prize.’”

Valenta provided photographs of her injuries, which later were determined to be self-inflicted.
The Hawkins suit says investigators failed to follow up on reports Valenta joined him and others at the Barneston Grand Ave Bar and Grill following the alleged sexual assault.

And he claims that paper towels recovered at the Big Indian Recreation Area did not have blood on them, contradicting Valenta’s story about the assault.

Hawkins spent 23 days in jail before bonding out.

Investigators examined Valenta’s clothing on Jan. 11, 2012, and on Jan. 19, Valenta admitted to a Nebraska State Patrol investigator that she made up the story.

Charges against Hawkins were dropped the next day.

Still, Hawkins claims in the lawsuit that Gage County Chief Deputy Sheriff Doug Klaus called him that same day and urged him to plead guilty to solicitation of prostitution and make a statement about “what a good job the sheriff’s office had done to clear his name.”

Two weeks later, he said, Chief Deputy Attorney Rick Schreiner told him he would not be charged and asked him to commend the sheriff’s office on its investigation.
Hawkins denied both requests.

Hawkins says in the lawsuit that he asked Chavez if he wanted to apologize to him and Chavez replied: “I’m not done with you yet.”

Joy Shiffermiller, Hawkins’ attorney, said he is asking for compensation for lost earnings capacity, damage to his reputation, emotional distress and humiliation and for punitive damages.

The suit also asks for Hawkins’ attorney fees to be paid and that the jury trial take place in Beatrice.
Gage County Sheriff Millard "Gus" Gustafson declined to comment.

Link: http://journalstar.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/wymore-man-sues-after-false-rape-accusation/article_b68b895f-d3c1-5911-99b8-8d793c418616.html