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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

City Accused of Conspiring Against Rape Victims

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal class action claims the City of Harvey failed to submit more than 200 sexual assault kits for testing, evidence and preservation, and that the city's conspiracy against women was discovered when the FBI raided the Harvey police department and found hundreds of untested rape kits.

Jane Doe filed the class action against the City of Harvey and its Police Commander Andrew Joshua.

Harvey, pop. 30,000, is about 20 miles south of Chicago.

Doe claims the defendants conspired to spoliate evidence, deny rape victims due process and equal protection, violated the Illinois Domestic Violence, and that the "willful and wanton" abuses were motivated by gender discrimination.

""Defendants have a history of discriminating against females," the complaint states. Defendants treat domestic violence abuse reports from women with less priority than other crimes not involving women reporting domestic violence abuse."

Doe says she was sexually assaulted on May 24, 2007, when she was a minor, by a man named Dunbar.

The complaint states: "That same day, May 24, 2007, Jane Doe was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital for treatment. While at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, medical personnel took body fluid samples from Jane Doe and placed them into an Illinois State Police Sexual Assault Evidence Kit.

"An officer from the Harvey Police Department transported the kit to the Harvey Police Department to be placed into evidence.

"On information and belief, Commander Andrew Joshua was notified of the allegations against Dunbar.

"On June 15, 2007, the Harvey Police Department arrested Dunbar as a suspect wanted for criminal sexual assault. Later that day, the Harvey Police released Dunbar without charge, pending the results of the sexual assault evidence kit.

"Defendants never submitted the Illinois State Police Sexual Assault Evidence Kit for testing.

"The City of Harvey had the police, practice and/or custom of failing to submit Sexual Assault Evidence Kits for testing.

"a) Over 200 Sexual Assault Evidence Kits went untested for years;

"b) The Illinois State Police and/or FBI seized the Harvey sexual assault evidence kits during a raid on the Police Department;

"c) Approximately 50 of the 200 sexual assault evidence kits were viable for scientific testing when discovered by the Illinois State Police and FBI;

"d) As of 2011, 14 people were charged with crimes in 21 sexual assaults from the kits seized, including Dunbar;

"e) A disproportionate number of the victims of were women."

In an interview with Courthouse News, Doe's attorney Yao Dinizulu said: "Some of the rape kits are not viable, probably because of age, so we think that in all likelihood, this has been going on for over 10 years. The reason why we know that is that the first lawsuit we filed, that particular victim's rape kit was done in 1997 and nothing happened with it."

The complaint states: "On information and belief, the failure to submit Sexual Assault Evidence Kits for testing, the failure to investigate crimes of sexual assault, and the failure to notify the Department of Child and Family Services, were consistent with an institutional practice of the City of Harvey Police Department, which was known to and ratified by Defendant Andrew Joshua and the City of Harvey, the Defendants having failed to take any effective action to prevent City of Harvey police personnel from continuing to engage in such misconduct."

Doe adds: "Defendant's deliberate indifference, willfully and wantonly, created a danger of and increased the risk of harm by sexual abuse, and/or fostered an environment to exist and continue in which a victim was sexually abused; and/or in fear of sexual assault.

"Defendant's conduct was motivated by gender.

"Defendant's conduct was intentional and due to plaintiff's and the class member's female gender.

"Defendants have a history of discriminating against females. Defendants treat domestic violence abuse reports from women with less priority than other crimes not involving women reporting domestic violence abuse."

Doe seeks class damages for constitutional violations, violations of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, emotional distress, willful and wanton conduct, and conspiracy.

"We filed a class allegation so it's up to the court to determine whether or not the court wants to certify a class," Dinizulu said. "We hope that the class will be certified to include all victims, including those whose rape kits are too old to be tested."

Dinizulu, of Chicago, is assisted by Todd McLawhorn.

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