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Court Pares Rape Victim’s Civil Suit Against City

MIAMI (CN) - A Florida federal judge dismissed half of a woman's civil claims over her kidnapping and rape at the hands of a Miami police officer.

The woman filed suit last year, claiming Officer Michael Ragusa kidnapped her in his marked patrol car and sexually assaulted her in March 2007. Ragusa later pleaded guilty to six counts of kidnapping and six counts of sexual battery. A separate lawsuit by another of Ragusa's victims notes that a state prosecutor called Ragusa "a serial rapist."

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed on Feb. 28 to dismiss four of the eight counts in the complaint against the city and former Chief of Police John Timoney. The complaint also names Ragusa as a defendant.

The woman had said Timoney and the city were liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress because they had enabled Ragusa's misconduct. But Cooke found that the four challenged claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which shields municipalities from getting sued for their employees' misconduct.

Cooke also ruled that plaintiff did not have a valid claim for infliction of emotional distress against Timoney, since he had not acted in bad faith or outside the scope of his employment.

The court rejected the claim that Timoney had violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by failing to properly screen, train, supervise and discipline his police officers. Cooke ruled that the police chief cannot be liable for the alleged constitutional violation, since he did not participate in the abuse. The plaintiff failed to establish a causal connection between Timoney's supervisory duties and Ragusa's actions, the order states.

The court also dismissed the negligence claim against Miami, finding that Ragusa's victim had failed to prove that the city was aware of previous constitutional violations and had neglected to train Ragusa in that particular area.

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