Houston Isn’t Liable to Women Raped by Cop

     HOUSTON (CN) – The victims of a Houston police officer who raped women while on duty have not shown the city was liable for their attacks, a federal judge ruled.
     Edith Alfaro was one of four Hispanic women whom Officer Abraham Joseph assaulted between October 2010 and January 2011. The women filed a federal complaint against Joseph and the city of Houston in which Alfaro was the only plaintiff identified by name.
     “The facts of the crimes Joseph committed are not materially in dispute,” U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal wrote Tuesday.
     Joseph used his patrol car to make unlawful traffic stops and proceeded to rape the women. The attacker wore his uniform and, during Alfaro’s assault, handcuffed his victim.
     Alfaro’s attack spurred an investigation after she reported the assault to the Houston Police Department. Her co-plaintiffs did not immediately report their rapes, but did participate in the investigation.
     Joseph is serving life in prison for his assault on Alfaro. As for the civil allegations, the court granted a default judgment against the convicted rapist.
     Because the court had already dismissed Alfaro’s state-law claims against the city, Tuesday’s order addressed the remaining question of whether the city was liable under federal law.
     The women failed, however, to convince Rosenthal that the city’s policies and practices for hiring, training and supervising officers were indeed unconstitutional.
     “The crimes Joseph committed against Ms. Alfaro, the three other plaintiffs, and perhaps other women, are heinous,” Rosenthal wrote. “They are obviously made worse by the fact that Joseph used his power as a police officer to rape women who were particularly vulnerable. The facts that the city hired Joseph and that his crimes went undetected for so long provoke anger. The plaintiffs and the public deserve the city’s answers to the questions this lawsuit raises, such as how this was allowed to happen and whether there are ways to make it less likely. But the answer to the legal question of whether the city is liable to the plaintiffs for unconstitutional conduct cannot be driven by anger, however justifiable. Under the law established by the United States Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, the answer to the legal question is that the city is not liable to pay damages to the plaintiffs for federal constitutional violations.”

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