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VOL. 129 | NO. 60 | Thursday, March 27, 2014

Second Lawsuit Filed Over Rape Kit Backlog

By Bill Dries

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Three women allegedly raped by Anthony Alliano during a string of rapes in the Cordova area covering a decade have filed suit in Memphis Federal Court over the delay in testing their rape kits.

It is the second federal lawsuit filed against the city of Memphis since December over the backlog of more than 12,000 untested rape kits police acknowledged in November after initially putting the backlog of rape kits at 2,000 in August.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for Meaghan Ybos, Madison Graves and Rachel Johnson Wednesday, March 26, names as defendants the city of Memphis and Shelby County government as well as the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center, Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, former District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, current District Attorney General Amy Weirich, former Memphis police director Larry Godwin and current police director Toney Armstrong as well as Alliano.

All three plaintiffs are identified by name in the court filing which is a public record.

Alliano pleaded guilty to eight rapes and is currently trying to take back his guilty plea.

The lawsuit contends not testing the rape kits was an “institutional practice” of the city and county institutions including the Memphis Police Department and the District Attorney General’s office.

“The actions of malfeasance alleged herein to be made by the city, county and its agents were by or at the direction and ratification of persons with final policy making authority,” reads the lawsuit filed by attorneys Paul Forrest Craig and Daniel O. Lofton. “The actions of malfeasance and nonfeasance broadly alleged herein were taken so routinely as to create a custom which has the force of law.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for all three women arguing the failure not only to test the rape kits but to investigate the complaints is negligence, a violation of due process guarantees as well as the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The overall claim does not set a specific dollar amount.

Each of the women alleges ten separate counts of violations by the defendants.

Among the counts is a claim of breach of contract and detrimental reliance. The claim alleges that when the women agreed to let investigators take body fluids from them for the rape kits there was “the express promise that the materials attained would be properly tested.”

The same claim and others in the Wednesday filing are included in the amended Memphis Federal Court lawsuit filed in December by a woman identified only as “Jane Doe” who, like Ybos, Graves and Johnson, was raped with investigators later using a sexual assault kit to gather body fluids for an investigation.

The amended version of the lawsuit filed earlier this month specifically alleges that Godwin knew rape kits were not being tested and publicly denied there was any backlog.

Attorneys for the city of Memphis have filed a motion to dismiss the Jane Doe lawsuit, arguing, in part, there is no right or requirement that police test every rape kit they take.

The position in the court filings comes as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has said outside court that the city’s goal is to clear the backlog with testing and to ensure that every rape kit taken going forward is tested.

The city’s position in the first lawsuit also questions Jane Doe’s version of the investigation into her rape and how it was conducted.

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