Local family outraged with officials decision
Madison police accused of misconduct

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

A lawsuit filed September 17 in the Jefferson Circuit Court against the City of Madison, elected officials, police officers and the Clifty Fire Department No. 6, claims three female Madison High School seniors were assaulted sexually and illegally confined. The allegations stem from a traffic stop made January 19, 2007. The three females were seniors at the time of the incident. A fourth student with Ripley County ties, not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, has come forward saying she too was sexually assaulted by one of the same officers involved in the lawsuit more than two years ago.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney Joseph A. Colussi, says the three girls were all riding in a car when they were followed by three Madison Police officers. Police lights were eventually activated with the girls pulling into a church parking lot where they say three patrol cars were positioned to block in their vehicle.

They were told they had been pulled over because of a malfunction with a light on the license plate. What happened next is the basis for the lawsuit.

According to information in the lawsuit, each girl was asked to get out of the vehicle, they were searched, the vehicle was searched, along with their purses.

Initially, officers said they found "two small green leafy pieces consistent with marijuana on the front passenger floor board." Another officer's report said they found, "some small stems..." However, the lawsuit says that no field test was reported by the officers to confirm the materials as being marijuana.

Then the girls were transported by Sgt. Donald James "Jamie" Royce - (who had also made the decision to have them strip searched) - to the fire station. There each girl was taken into a restroom and searched by an off duty female officer. Two small baggies of marijuana were said to be found on one of the girls.

According to the lawsuit, Sgt. Royce then took the three girls back to the parking lot where their car was and told two of them to get out and leave the parking lot. The third girl was then transported, alone, to the jail. On this transport, the officer is alleged to have told the girl, "there are ways this can be handled. It doesn't have to happen like this." When she didn't respond, he took her to jail and booked her on a misdemeanor marijuana charge.

Both Sgt. Royce and Patrolman Jonathon Simpson were required to give sworn testimony on April 10, at a hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress. The lawsuit notes that two hours before the hearing, charges against the teenager were dismissed and the officers did not have to testify.

Before the April 10 scheduled hearing, the police chief would learn of another teenaged female from the Madison Consolidated High School with Ripley County ties, who alleged sexual battery by Sgt. Royce after a volleyball practice two years earlier. She is not a plaintiff in the present lawsuit filed in September.

The volleyball player was just 16 at the time of the alleged sexual assault and says she didn't tell anyone, except her boyfriend. She said she kept the shocking secret of what had happened for two years during which time due to her family's connection with the officer, she had other encounters with him. "I was always looking over my shoulder," she noted, adding she was afraid. "I was also embarrassed," she said. Now she says she knows she did nothing wrong, but it's still hard.

After two years, the alleged victim finally went to her father, Joe Hammond of Holton, who immediately contacted the Madison Police Department. According to Hammond he met with Madison Police Chief Bob Wolf and was assured the situation would be investigated.

"I thought he (Madison Police Chief) would take care of the situation," Hammond told The Versailles Republican. Hammond said nothing was done and when a request for the police report concerning the allegations against Sgt. Royce was made, this reply was sent from the Office of Mayor Hungington, "...no report ever existed and no report has been destroyed. The only official report that would have been made would have been the informal reprimand."

Hammond said his family is outraged. He couldn't believe such a serious claim could be made against an officer and nothing done. A letter was sent to Hammond's daughter from Chad Lewis, Jefferson County prosecuting attorney that notes he had reviewed an investigative file about the matter involving the conduct of Sgt. Royce. It reads in part, "I believe your statements and I am convinced that what you said did occur." It then goes on to say this conduct would be considered Battery and would only be a B misdemeanor and that the statute of limitations had run out to file charges. "I am sorry that the statute does not allow us to bring an action for what occurred." The letter, which is included in documents in the three girls' lawsuit, goes on to say, "Despite our inability to prosecute such a case, I find this type of behavior very alarming. Any punishment or remedy will have to be internal and handled on an administrative basis by the Police Department."

Furious that justice was not being served for his daughter, Hammond contacted Chief Detective Mike Black of the Indiana State Police at Versailles. The detective reviewed the Indiana law with Hammond who now feels felony charges could be filed.

Believing the situation has been conveniently covered up by Madison police and city officials, Hammond said his goal is to see that Royce is prosecuted, has to register as a sex offender, and can't carry a weapon in the future. The victim told The Versailles Republican, "I just don't want any other girl to go through this." She said the experience has been horrifying, one she wished had never happened. She noted that her family and Royce's family were friends and couldn't even believe it happened in the first place. "I was so shocked," she said.

Sgt. Royce left the Madison Police Department over the summer, but it doesn't take the fear away from the teenager, who is still in Madison.

Attorney Colussi contends that there are several things wrong with the initial scenario that began the lawsuit he filed last month. The prolonged traffic stop, intimidation of female teenagers, inappropriate touching of female teenagers, the transport of teenagers, gathering and cataloging of evidence, issues with Miranda rights forms, searches, using non-hygenic public facilities for the strip searches, and propositioning for sexual favors are a few he names in the lawsuit.

The three females are requesting compensatory damages, punitive damages to deter illegal conduct and practices, an award of reasonable attorney's fees and court costs, and that officers and the fire company member involved in the incident not have any contact with them. They have requested a jury trial.

In a statement published in the Madison Courier, Mayor Al Huntington said "The City of Madison looks forward to a full and complete airing of all of the facts relevant to this case." He also said many of the allegations in the complaint are false and will be denied. He said he would not comment any further on the matter that has been turned over to the city's insurance carrier.

Sgt. Royce could not be reached for comment.

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