Woman who says she was raped by former Chattanooga police officer sues city, argues history of abuse

Woman who says she was raped by former Chattanooga police officer sues city, argues history of abuse

Accuser claims CPD covered up rape, knew of prior misconduct

May 13th, 2019 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Document: Federal lawsuit against city of Chattanooga

A woman has sued the city of Chattanooga for their handling of an alleged rape by former officer Desmond Logan.

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Desmond Logan

Desmond Logan

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

One of at least three women who were allegedly raped by former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan is suing the city, claiming the department knew of prior sexual misconduct, covered up rape for years and has a history of ignoring wrongdoing.

The woman filed a federal suit on Monday seeking unspecified compensatory damages and for her legal costs to be covered. The lawsuit claims she was raped and then ignored when she tried to report the incident at Hamilton County Jail.

"It is difficult for the Chattanooga Police Department to comment on open, ongoing federal and local investigations. However, the CPD maintains we were informed of the officer's actions on the night of June 13, 2018 and immediately placed him on administrative leave," according to an emailed statement from department spokeswoman Elisa Myzal. "Since that time, CPD has and will continue to fully cooperate with the investigating agencies."

The lawsuit claims the city was aware of Logan's misconduct years prior but allowed him to continue working, citing a 2016 report received by a police lieutenant outlining sexual misconduct early in Logan's tenure while he worked an event at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Logan was fired by UTC campus police for the misconduct but did not face discipline from the department, according to records previously obtained by the Times Free Press. During the incident, Logan allegedly had a woman drive him to an empty parking lot where he grabbed her, pulled out his handcuffs and later fired his stun gun, according to an incident report outlining the details of that night.

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"The city has ignored our efforts to communicate," the accuser's attorney Chad Phillips, of Sutherland & Belk PLC, said Monday via phone. "Pursuing a civil action is one option a victim has in holding wrongdoers who try to evade responsibility accountable for their misconduct so that preventable atrocities like this never happen to anybody else."

The woman is represented by Sutherland & Belk PLC and David Randolph Smith and Associates. It is the policy of the Times Free Press to withhold names of accusers in sexual crimes.

The Chattanooga Police Department deferred any additional questions to the city attorney's office, which handles city-involved litigation. City attorney Phil Noblett could not comment Monday afternoon.

"We haven't seen a copy of any lawsuit today, but once we get that we'll see what we can do to defend the city in the case once we see the pleadings," he said.

A city of Chattanooga spokesperson also deferred comment to Noblett.

The plaintiff was the most recent woman to accuse Logan of misconduct during his time on the force.

At least three women accused the officer of rape, with a fourth woman — the one at UTC — detailing additional sexual misconduct. The three other women were not included in the lawsuit because the statute of limitations has passed, Phillips said. A fifth woman, Benita Williams, formerly Benita Trammell, was arrested by Logan and asked to dance to avoid jail time, she told the Times Free Press when contacted about the arrest.

Two of the women who claim they were raped by Logan, including the plaintiff's family, confirmed the assaults to the Times Free Press. A third contacted Phillips after a Times Free Press investigation into the previous alleged rapes. The Times Free Press articles on the subject are cited throughout the lawsuit.

Each of the accusers claim to have notified representatives of the Chattanooga Police Department of the rapes but said they were ignored. The most recent one, who filed the lawsuit, reported the incident to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in June. Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy claimed the incident involving the plaintiff was the first report of sexual misconduct against the officer in a news conference. All sexual misconduct allegations involving any Chattanooga Police Department officer are taken seriously and investigated with due diligence, he said at the time. The woman's complaint came several years after the initial reports of rape against Logan.

The Hamilton County district attorney's office asked the sheriff's office to investigate, spokeswoman Melydia Clewell said earlier this year. The Chattanooga Police Department also began its own internal affairs investigation. Logan resigned via email in the minutes before his internal affairs hearing in which he was scheduled to be fired.

An FBI investigation into the incident began in July. The findings of that investigation are not known at this time.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit was allegedly raped in June 2018 in a parking lot by Logan while he was on duty and acting in his capacity as a police officer. The woman was driving with friends around 9 p.m. on June 11, according to the lawsuit. She pulled in to a gas station near the intersection of Bailey and Dodds avenues. Logan followed them in and placed the plaintiff under arrest when she got out of the restroom, according to the lawsuit.

He threatened the woman with federal charges and told her she would "have the chance to talk her way out of it," according to the lawsuit. He allegedly drove her to a parking lot, took her out of the car and told her that was her chance to talk. He then pushed her against the car and raped her, according to the lawsuit, before taking her to Hamilton County Jail where she was placed in a room alone. Video from Logan, his vehicle and the jail are not being released by Noblett due to an "ongoing investigation."

The woman allegedly tried to tell officers about the assault but was not taken seriously and ignored, according to the lawsuit. She was allegedly strip searched and not booked until the next day.

The incidents involving Logan add to the department's pattern of overlooking misconduct, according to the lawsuit. It mentions four previous incidents of misconduct at the department ranging from interfering with a murder investigation to protect an officer's family member to alleged lax action against sexual harassment of female employees.

"Had Logan been removed from the force following either or both of the prior incidents, [the plaintiff] would have been spared the humiliation, indignity, and violation to which she was subjected by Officer Logan while he was on duty, in uniform, and in a police vehicle," according to the lawsuit.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.


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