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Probation Officer’s Abuse Blamed for Suicide

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (CN) — A Nebraska probation officer accused of coercing four women he supervised into having sex with him faces a lawsuit from a father who claims the abuse drove his daughter to suicide.

Ron Schade claims in Federal Court that Thomas Peterson covered up his daughter's drug use to facilitate a sexual relationship. Angela Schade committed suicide on Nov. 5, 2014. She was 28.

Peterson worked for 20 years as a probation officer until the FBI stopped him.

"Some people call it an affair, but it wasn't an affair. He was a predator, working under the color of law with a lot of power over her," Angela's father told Nebraska.TV.

Peterson was convicted in federal court in July of violating the civil rights of four probationers and a fifth count of lying to FBI agents about it.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha said after his conviction that "from approximately 2010 through January of 2014, Mr. Peterson subjected four female probationers to unsolicited and nonconsensual sexual contact. The jury also heard from three other women who had been supervised by Mr. Peterson who reported sexually charged advances or comments from Mr. Peterson but which did not progress to the level of sexual contact."

Peterson faces up to nine years in prison. Ron Schade seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Peterson, whom he sued in his official and individual capacities, and from his Doe supervisors in the District 9 Probation Office.

Angela Schade suffered from drug addiction for "much of her life," her father says in the complaint, which led her to a life of crime and a 4-year probation sentence for meth possession.

"During that time, Peterson allowed and excused Angie to persist and accelerate in her drug addiction, as a quid pro quo for sexual acts," the complaint states. "Angie's preexisting condition of mental illness and drug addiction became permanently irreparably virulent, including after Peterson was no longer assigned to Angie."

Peterson warned his victims when they would get urine tests and waived tests when he knew they would fail, according to Nebraska newspaper reports on his trial.

Schade says in the lawsuit that Peterson's supervisors "ratified Peterson's behavior by delaying investigation, conducting an eventual investigation that was so inadequate as to constitute a ratification of Peterson's and their own misconduct, and spoliating evidence. At the very least, defendants were deliberately indifferent to such constitutional violations."

And, he adds: "Does' 'investigation' was intended not to identify and stop Peterson's misconduct, but to avoid embarrassment and conflict, at the expense of female probationers such as Angie."

Schade is represented by Maren Lynn Chaloupka, with Chaloupka, Holyoke, Snyder, Chaloupka & Longoria, of Scottsbluff, who filed the complaint on Nov. 2.

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