A former Toledo police officer who is hoping to withdraw his pleas to criminal misdemeanor charges stemming from inappropriately touching women during traffic stops is facing a civil lawsuit filed by two of his victims.
Christopher McQueen, who resigned from the department May 20, was sued in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Sharonda Simpson of Toledo and Jamie Dusseau-Schultz of Luna Pier alleged injuries and emotional distress in the complaint as a result of Mr. McQueen "verbally and physically" assaulting them.
The lawsuit was filed two weeks after Mr. McQueen postponed his sentencing in the criminal case by asking the court to allow him to withdraw his pleas. Toledo Municipal Court Judge Amy Berling set a Sept. 4 hearing to review the issue.
"They were very upset and disappointed at the turn of events in the criminal case. However, that had nothing to do with the decision to file a lawsuit or the timing of the lawsuit," said attorney Jack Fynes, who filed the case on the women's behalf.
"No question about it, one of our clients' primary goals is to raise public attention and awareness of this problem," he added. "These two women are incredibly brave to come forward like they did and speak up about what happened to them."
Mr. McQueen, 43, was criminally charged in January with five counts of sexual imposition. Authorities said that four women told investigators that they were fondled by Mr. McQueen before being arrested or cited.
Specifically, the women accused him of touching their genitals and breasts while searching them. The charges involved incidents in June and August of 2008.
Although police officers have the right to search suspects, department policy requires that female officers search female suspects. If a female officer is not available, then female suspects must be searched with a witness present, according to TPD policy.
In May, Mr. McQueen pleaded no contest and was found guilty of four counts of unlawful restraint, a lower-level misdemeanor, and faced up to eight months in jail.
On July 17, Mr. McQueen's scheduled sentencing date, attorney Jay Feldstein requested that he be allowed to withdraw his plea. Yesterday, in a motion filed in municipal court, Mr. Feldstein asked the court to consider two factors.
Namely, the memorandum supporting the motion stated that during presentence interviews with the probation department, Mr. McQueen maintained his innocence as it related to the original charges of sexual imposition. "He also referred to the fact that the no contest pleas to the amended charges resulted in part to a financial hardship that would be imposed had he elected to proceed to trial on the five original charges of sexual imposition," the memorandum said.
Mr. Feldstein said yesterday that he has no additional comment on the case.
Chief Prosecutor David Toska reiterated yesterday that the city prosecutor's office intends to file a response opposing the motion for a plea withdrawal. He said the response would be filed within 17 days.
Yesterday, Mr. Fynes said that the filing of the civil case just a day prior to the filing of the motion to withdraw pleas was coincidental. As of yesterday, Mr. McQueen had not yet seen the civil lawsuit filed against him, Mr. Feldstein said.
The case, which was assigned to Common Pleas Court Judge Ruth Ann Franks, requests punitive damages in excess of $25,000.
Mr. Fynes said that Ms. Simpson and Ms. Dusseau-Schultz hope that the other victims involved in the case will step forward with civil litigation as a way to hold the former officer and the city - which is also named as a defendant in the complaint - responsible for his behavior. He added that they also hope other women will come forward when they are victims.
"They want other women to know that you can step forward and wrongs can be right," he said. " We suspect there are other women out there as well who have not had the courage to step forward and we hope that they will do so as well."
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