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Police Sex Assault Claim May Cost Chicago

CHICAGO (CN) - Sex-assault charges against Chicago cops accused of attacking a drunken woman they drove home may leave the city liable, a federal judge ruled.

The Nov. 3 decision by U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo attributes the description of the alleged assault by officers Paul Clavijo and Juan Vasquez to a civil complaint Jane Doe filed in 2011.

Both men, now both 41 years old, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of official misconduct, and were sentenced to two years probation involving battery, the Chicago Tribune reported. They avoided a sex-crime conviction but cannot remain on the force.

Doe was 22 years old on the night of her alleged attack in March 2011. She says she was walking home, and Clavijo and Vasquez, both in their police uniforms, waved her over to their parked squad car.

Though the officers offered Doe a ride home, they allegedly told her she had to ride on Clavijo's lap.

Court records show that Doe was extremely intoxicated that evening, with a blood alcohol level nearly five times the legal limit to drive.

Doe says the officers drove her to a liquor store, and Clavijo sexually assaulted her while Vasquez went inside to buy some vodka.

When Vasquez got back to the car, both men laughed, she says.

Then the officers drove her home, and insisted on coming inside, where they both sexually assaulted her, according to her complaint.

When Doe was able to break free from the officers, she claims she ran screaming down the hallway of her apartment building, and enlisted help from her neighbors, who took her to the hospital.

Two months later, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office allegedly approved 26 charges of criminal sexual assault and official misconduct against Clavijo and Vasquez for their actions against plaintiff and another woman.

Judge Castillo refused to dismiss Doe's civil action against the city Monday.

"The city argues that it cannot be held liable for the defendant officers' tortious conduct, and cannot be required to pay any tort judgment, because the defendant officers were not acting within the scope of employment if they sexually assaulted plaintiff," the opinion says. "The city contends that under Illinois law, sexual assault is never within the scope of one's employment."

Judge Castillo emphasized, however, that police have an aura of authority about them as law enforcement officers in all their conduct - and misconduct.

"The defendant officers were on duty, sitting in their police car, wearing their uniforms, and carrying their weapons," Castillo said. "Further, plaintiff alleges that she would not have walked over to the defendant officers when they gestured to her, nor would she have gotten into their car, if they were not police officers."

Since Illinois courts have not yet definitely ruled on whether sexual assault committed by an on-duty police officer is within or outside the scope of their employment, Castillo declined to dismiss Doe's claims.

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