Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

June 21, 2013

Centerville police officer, city face federal lawsuit

By Kyle Ocker and Michael Schaffer
Daily Iowegian

DES MOINES — A Centerville police officer and the city of Centerville are named as defendants in a lawsuit that alleges an officer violated rights and maliciously charged a Centerville woman after she refused to allow an examination on her then-12-year-old daughter to collect evidence for a possible sexual abuse case.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff says she, her husband and a doctor deemed the test was medically unnecessary and that no sexual assault had occurred. The complaint then alleges that a police officer fabricated statements and charged the plaintiff with felony and aggravated misdemeanor charges in an attempt for retribution for the refusal of the procedure.

The felony and aggravated misdemeanor charges were dismissed April 2011 by court order.

Now, Centerville Police officer Kenneth Reistroffer and the city of Centerville will be defending themselves against a lawsuit filed in federal court by Heather Dawn Huebner, of Centerville, on Jan. 22 this year. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages in addition to legal fees in what the plaintiffs call “conscious shocking” actions on the part of the officer.

The plaintiff also says in the complaint that the city is also liable because of a failure to train, instruct, supervise, control and discipline police officers.

Centerville Police Chief Tom Demry responded to a telephone call from the Daily Iowegian Thursday afternoon.

"We appreciate your inquiry," Demry said. "We don't agree with the allegations and claims in the complaint and our attorneys are actively defending the city and it's officer in this lawsuit. I would like to say more but it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation, especially when it involves current department personnel."

The lawsuit is based on events that allegedly occurred in mid-February 2011.

According to the lawsuit filings, Reistroffer believed that the 12-year-old daughter of the plaintiff, Huebner, was the victim of a sexual assault.

The lawsuit continues to say that the daughter denied that she was the victim of any molestation, sexual assault or sexual abuse. Dr. Steven Goldman, according to the plaintiff’s filing, examined the daughter and following the examination found no indication of sexual abuse, trauma or disease.

Huebner, following a consultation with Dr. Goldman after the examination, "deemed that the collection of evidence for the sexual assault kit was not medically necessary," according to the lawsuit.

In court documents, Huebner claims that the decision on whether or not to proceed with the collection of evidence is the fundamental right of the parent. The lawsuit continues to read that Huebner and the doctor decided not to expose the daughter "to the risks associated with the traumatic, invasive and medically unnecessary procedures required to satisfy defendant Reistroffer's demand for evidence and the sexual assault evidence kit."

The complaint goes on to say that on Feb. 17, 2011, Reistroffer charged Huebner with neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, a class C felony, and child endangerment, an aggravated misdemeanor.

The affidavit Reistroffer used to support the criminal complaints of neglect or abandonment of a dependent person and child endangerment states Heather Huebner deprived her minor daughter necessary health care after the 12-year-old was the victim of "inappropriate sexual contact by a male juvenile.”

Reistroffer states his training and experience led him to believe the girl should have a "necessary and appropriate evaluation and physical exam as standard follow-up procedure for an alleged victim of sexual abuse." Reistroffer had requested the girl complete a "sexual abuse kit."

Reistroffer believed the exam was necessary.

"Not just as a collection process for potential evidence in the aforementioned sexual abuse investigation, but also as a precautionary medical procedure designed to detect dangerous, (both life changing and/or life threatening), S.T.D.'s transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse."

The affidavit states Huebner went against Mercy-Centerville emergency department staff and the girl's father's wishes and refused to allow "any of the medical professionals working in the ED to physically examine her daughter."

Reistroffer's affidavit states Huebner suggested the emergency department doctor, Steve Goldman, "lie to her husband, (and possibly to myself), by stating that the exam had been completed on her daughter as requested."

Reistroffer's affidavit's final sentence states Huebner "voluntarily left the ED with her husband and daughter without having provided her daughter the necessary medical examination."

The two charges Huebner was arraigned for on March 29, 2011 were dismissed without prejudice April 5, 2011 by Judge Daniel Wilson.

The lawsuit claims that Reistroffer "intentionally and with deliberate indifference, falsely formulated a pretense of probable cause and fabricated and contrived facts to support the felony charge." The plaintiff of the case alleges that Reistroffer did so in retaliation of Huebner's decision not to allow the sexual abuse evidence examination procedures done on her daughter.

In the defendant's response to the complaint, filed on Feb. 15 of this year by the attorneys for Reistroffer and the city of Centerville, they admit that Huebner "has the constitutional rights afforded to her under the United States Constitution." However, they deny that Reistroffer interfered with those rights and deny that Reistroffer engaged in any illegal, unconstitutional or improper activity.

Both sides have filed motions demanding a jury trial. Currently, the jury trial for the case has been set for 9 a.m. on July 21, 2014 at the United States Courthouse in Des Moines before U.S. District Judge John A. Jarvey.

Representing the plaintiff are attorneys John W. Bruzek of Iowa City and Victoria Cole of Cedar Rapids. Barbara A. Hering and Michelle R. Rodenmeyer are listed as the attorneys representing the city in the lawsuit.