GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A single mother whose testimony helped send a police officer to prison for sexually assaulting her in the back of his patrol car wants $5 million in damages from the offending cop, the sheriff who allegedly turned a blind eye and Hamblen County, Tenn.
Former sheriff’s Officer Dexter Morris Jr. was found guilty of violating the constitutional rights of female detainees, including the plaintiff, on June 8, 2009 and is “in federal custody,” according to the federal complaint.
The woman, 34, says her rape and sexual assault was just one of a string of offenses Morris committed that Hamblen County’s former Sheriff Otto Purkey knew about but chose to ignore.
“In fact, despite complaints of sexual misconduct made against Officer Morris by female inmates, Defendant Hamblen County and Sheriff Purkey promoted Officer Morris from prison guard to patrolman,” according to the complaint.
The woman says that Morris followed her and a friend on Old Kentucky Road for 3 miles before pulling her over. He interrogated them both and told her male friend to walk home, she says.
The woman says she admitted to Morris, a patrolman, that she had a small amount of marijuana. Morris told her she was facing prison time and would lose her job, and told her to meet him at a nearby church, she says, where he led her to a cemetery.
“[The plaintiff] was then ordered to get into the back of Officer Morris’ police cruiser. Feeling threatened and intimidated by Officer Morris’ unlawful conduct, [she] entered into the back of the cruiser where Officer Morris raped and sexually assaulted her. During the rape and sexual assault, Officer Morris received a radio call from a dispatcher who informed the Officer that [the plaintiff’s] sister had called, worried about her. After speaking with the dispatcher, Officer Morris continued to rape and sexually assault [her],” according to the complaint.
After he raped her, she says, Morris gave her back her driver’s license, recited her address and told her that he would “come get her and her daughter” if she told anyone.
The plaintiff says she lived in fear until Morris was put behind bars and still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma syndrome.
She testified in court: “It’s like I used to have a life and just be vibrant. … Nothing’s the same. I don’t trust anybody. I had many thoughts of cutting my wrists.”
She is represented by Thomas Jessee with Jessee & Jessee in Johnson City, Tenn.