Woman sues ex-officer, Modesto in sexual assault case

kcarlson@modbee.comSeptember 10, 2012 

Gaines Lee

Booking photo of Lee Freddie Gaines II. Lee Freddie Gaines II, a former 5-year veteran police officer with the Modesto Police Department is facing several felony charges, which are alleged to have occurred during his time as a police officer.

MPD — MPD

— The woman who is accusing former Modesto police officer Lee Freddie Gaines II of sexual assault is seeking civil damages in federal court.

The woman's lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Fresno, is expected to seek $4 million in damages for severe emotional distress, pain and suffering, and economic losses. Gaines, the Modesto Police Department and the city are named as defendants.

Gaines is charged with going to a Modesto motel where the woman reportedly worked as a massage therapist. The officer, who was on duty during the Jan. 5 incident, is accused of handcuffing the woman and demanding that she perform oral sex on him.

Gaines is being prosecuted in Stanislaus County Superior Court on charges of oral copulation by force, committing a sexual offense while armed with a firearm, sexual battery and assault under color of authority. A judge is scheduled on Sept. 20 to set a start date for his trial.

The lawsuit in federal court says the assault was an extreme violation of the woman's civil rights. Her attorney is seeking general, special, compensatory and punitive damages.

Modesto's legal staff has filed a motion to dismiss the action against the Police Department and the city on grounds the charges against the two entities are not supported by facts in the complaint. A hearing on the city's motion was set for Oct. 1 before Judge Lawrence O'Neill.

Fresno Attorney Jacob Rivas claims that, in addition to Gaines' assault on his client, the woman was injured as a result of city and Police Department policy, indifference and inadequate training.

"Mr. Gaines worked for the city and the Police Department, and to the extent he has done anything that violated my client's civil rights, the city is going to be responsible for that under the doctrine of 'vicarious liability,' " Rivas said.

City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood countered that the Police Department "did take all appropriate action when it discovered what officer Gaines had done. The officer does not work for the city anymore."

The plaintiff, who has not been identified, told a criminal grand jury that she was working as a prostitute at a motel where the sexual assault occurred.

An internal investigation into the incident began Jan. 8 and Gaines resigned Feb. 10.

Gaines, who worked for the department for five years, was arrested at his Modesto home March 15 after a criminal grand jury heard the evidence.

Rivas said he intends to take the civil case to trial. "The case is going to end up in front of a jury, and we will let the jury decide what the judgment should be," he said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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