Alleged rape victim sues city, says Chattanooga police officer harassed her

Alleged rape victim sues city, says Chattanooga police officer harassed her

October 14th, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Chattanooga Police Department detective Karl Fields

Chattanooga Police Department detective Karl Fields

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

A TIMELINE OF THE CASE

• May 29: A woman says James Leon Works Jr. kidnapped her in a local hotel room and raped her several times over the course of two days.

• June 1: After escaping the hotel, the woman says she reported the crime to Chattanooga police. Fields is assigned to the case.

• June 25: Fields asks the woman to join him at El Meson Restaurante in Hixson for an "interview." The woman says he told her he wanted to start a relationship, pulled her into a bathroom and kissed her.

• June-August: A man identifying himself as Fields sends the woman a series of text messages, telling her he wants to have sex with her and asking her to send him nude photos.

• Sept. 4: The victim's attorney meets with Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston and gives Pinkston copies of the text messages. Chattanooga police place Fields on administrative leave.

• Sept. 8: Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher asks the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the Fields case.

• Oct. 13: The woman files a civil lawsuit against the city.

Document: Karl Fields CPD complaint

A rape victim alleges in Hamilton County Circuit Court that Karl Fields, the police officer assigned to investigate her case, instead began making sexual advances of his own.

Source: Hamilton County Circuit Court

An alleged rape victim says Chattanooga police officer Karl Fields pulled her into a men's bathroom, pushed her against a wall and kissed her.

The woman, who says she had been raped in a bathroom a month earlier, had a panic attack. She says she pulled away from Fields and ran outside.

The woman and Fields met at El Meson Restaurante in Hixson on June 25 because Fields, the investigating officer, said he wanted to discuss her case and introduce her to a man who could give her a job. But when they sat down over Mexican food and mixed drinks, Fields told her he was sexually attracted to her. He said he wanted a relationship with her.

After she escaped Fields' advances at the restaurant, she says, he drove her home while drunk. He asked to use the bathroom. Inside, she says, he fondled her legs and her breasts. The woman told him to go home, and he obliged, telling her he was too drunk to perform anyway.

The next day, according to text messages provided to the Times Free Press, somebody identifying himself as Fields sent the woman a text message: "Were you okay with the things that I did to you last night?"

Fields has been on paid administrative leave since Sept. 4, when the alleged rape victim's lawyer gave Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston copies of texts supposedly between the woman and Fields. On Sept. 8, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal inquiry into Fields' actions.

But on Monday, more information about Fields' relationship with the woman came to light when she filed a civil lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court against the city, the police department, Chief Fred Fletcher and Fields.

Stuart James, the woman's attorney, says Chattanooga officials owe her money for being negligent, inflicting emotional distress and allowing a city employee to commit assault and battery when Fields pushed the woman inside the El Meson Restaurante bathroom.

"[The victim] felt sickened and disgusted by Fields' texts, comments and stalking behavior," James wrote in the lawsuit, "but because he was the lead investigator on her case, she was afraid to make him angry for fear he would not use his best efforts to put her perpetrator behind bars."

James, who has requested a jury trial, said it is too early to say how much the city owes his client.

Among the new allegations against Fields in the lawsuit: The woman says Fields sometimes parked his car outside her house, watched her through the window and sent her messages about the clothes she wore.

Twice, a neighbor told the woman that she saw a man hiding in the woman's bushes. When the man left, the neighbor failed to write down his license plate number but saw that it was a black and white plate, the type seen on cars that belong to government officials.

In one night, Fields called the woman 73 times.

Fields told the woman that he often found sexual partners through his investigations, including the mother of a 14-year-old rape victim.

The woman's allegations come after the father of a homicide victim told the Times Free Press in September that Fields frequently flirted with the father's ex-wife during the case, which Fields never solved.

In 2006, Fields crashed a car while driving drunk and lied about it, telling officers that some people stole his vehicle. The department suspended him without pay for 14 days.

In his lawsuit, James wrote Monday that Chattanooga officials are responsible for Fields' actions. They should have known that their employee's behavior could one day harm a victim, the lawsuit states.

"The City of Chattanooga Police Department failed to take appropriate action to correct these allegations ... making them liable," James wrote.

City Attorney Wade Hinton did not return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon, and Fields' attorney, Jerry Tidwell, declined to comment.

The lawsuit also alleges that Fields has a special relationship with El Meson. During an interview with the TBI on Sept. 23, the rape victim told investigators that Fields bragged about how the restaurant operates a clandestine gambling and strip club after hours.

James wrote in the lawsuit that Fields was the restaurant owner's "eyes and ears" in exchange for free food and drinks. McCracken Poston, who also represents the woman, says he thinks Fields was lying to the woman.

"It was just part of him trying to groom her for his own sexual conquest," he said.

The restaurant's owner did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

Earlier news report:


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