By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — The city has settled a federal lawsuit with a rape victim who police detectives once accused of lying about being sexually assaulted.
Lynnwood’s insurance company agreed to pay the woman $150,000 to put an end to the case.
“More important than the money was to hold police accountable for this horrible wrong and hopefully change how the police department approaches these cases,” the woman’s attorney, Rich Fisher, said Wednesday.
His client “was determined that this should be brought to light so no other kid would have to go through this,” the Seattle lawyer said.
The woman, identified only as “D.M.” in court papers, also settled with the Everett-based nonprofit youth advocacy agency, Cocoon House. The woman, then 18, was receiving case management services from Cocoon House and enrolled in a program that provided social services to young people no longer eligible for the state’s foster care system.
The terms of the settlement with Cocoon House are confidential, Fisher said.
The woman claimed that the police bullied her into recanting her report that she had been tied up, threatened with a knife and attacked inside her Lynnwood apartment on Aug. 11, 2008.
The officers also told her that if she failed a lie detector test that she would lose her housing, according to the lawsuit.
The woman also alleged that Cocoon House employees failed to help her after she told them she wanted to return to the police department and take back her statement that she hadn’t been raped.
The lawsuit alleged that the employees told the teen that if she lied to police she would be removed from the program. She was forced to tell other program participants that she made up the story about being raped.
Lynnwood city prosecutors charged the woman with false reporting. She pleaded guilty and was ordered to undergo mental health counseling and pay a $500 fine.
Lynwood police, however, reopened the rape investigation in 2011 after photographs of the woman and her identification card were found among evidence seized by Colorado police after the arrest of serial rapist Marc O’Leary.
O’Leary later admitted to raping the Lynnwood teenager and a Kirkland woman within two months of each other. The former Mountlake Terrace man sneaked into their homes, bound their hands and gagged them. He repeatedly sexually assaulted the terrified women, snapped photographs of them and threatened to post those on the Internet if they reported the assaults to police.
O’Leary was sentenced in 2012 to more than 28 years for raping the Lynnwood woman and another 40 years for the Kirkland attack. He already was serving a 327-year sentence for the Colorado rapes.
“We were wrong. Everybody feels terrible about it,” Lynnwood Police Chief Steve Jensen told The Herald in 2011. “We take sexual assaults very seriously. Our investigators always get charged up to get the bad guys in these cases.”
At the time, Jensen explained that doubts were raised because the woman’s story had changed and details she provided were inconsistent. Her foster mother and friend were also skeptical about the woman’s story, court papers said.
Jensen was named in the lawsuit along with the two detectives, Jeff Mason and Jerry Ritgarn.
“The city’s insurance company made the decision to settle,” said Lynnwood’s attorney, Robert Christie of Seattle. “There was a recognition by the insurance company that some of the claims would survive. A risk management decision was made.”
The settlement was reached last month. The money will be paid by the city’s insurance company, Christie said.
“Everybody is happy to have the matter behind us,” he said.
The woman’s record was expunged and the fine refunded after O’Leary was arrested. Lynnwood police have since received additional training about sexual assault investigations.
Fisher said his client, who no longer lives in Washington, is “pleased that the matter has been settled so she can move forward.”
She is doing well, which “is an incredible testimony to the strength of her character,” he said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, firstname.lastname@example.org