Sex-assault suit against ex-Modesto cop dismissed

12/19/2013 5:25 PM

12/19/2013 8:40 PM

A judge has dismissed a woman’s lawsuit against a former Modesto police officer, who she alleged sexually assaulted her in a North Ninth Street motel room in January 2012.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said he dismissed the case Nov. 26 because Sheri Newton repeatedly failed to follow court orders, including those requiring her to appear in court after her attorney left the case this year and Newton began representing herself.

Newton filed the lawsuit in August 2012 in federal court in Fresno against former police officer Lee Freddie Gaines II, Modesto and the Modesto Police Department. O’Neill removed the city and Police Department from the case a few months ago.

Newton – who told a criminal grand jury that she had been working as a prostitute from a room at the Travelers Motel – could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In May, Gaines pleaded no contest in Stanislaus County Superior Court to the misdemeanors of soliciting prostitution and petty theft because he had sex with Newton while on duty. Gaines had been charged with felony sexual assault, but prosecutors said the woman had provided inconsistent accounts of what happened in the motel room with Gaines.

Gaines’ attorney has insisted the sex was consensual. As part of his no-contest plea, Gaines was sentenced to time served in the Stanislaus County jail.

Newton was identified as Jane Doe in her federal lawsuit. But after Gaines pleaded no contest, Newton identified herself in interviews with the news media.

The Police Department terminated Gaines in February 2012 about a week before he was arrested on sexual-assault charges and after authorities had been investigating the incident for about a month. Gaines had been a Modesto officer for five years.

In July, O’Neill granted Senior Deputy City Attorney James Wilson’s motion to remove Modesto and the Police Department from the case. Wilson wrote in court papers that Newton and her attorney had failed to provide any factual allegations to support their claims that the city and police were at fault because they had failed to properly train and supervise the department’s officers, including Gaines.

Modesto paid for Gaines’ legal defense. Wilson said that’s because state law requires cities and other public entities to provide their employees with a defense when the employees are sued for incidents that occurred while they were on the job. The public entities still are on the hook even if the employee no longer works for them.

The city did not reveal the cost of Gaines’ defense.

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