SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — A lawsuit filed against the Shaker Heights Police Department on Tuesday accuses one of its officers of coercing a woman into having sex with him in exchange for making a traffic ticket he issued to her “go away.”
According to the lawsuit filed against Shaker Heights police and the officer involved, the woman was riding in the passenger seat of her car while her friend drove in September of last year. The car was pulled over at about 2:15 a.m. by the officer.
The woman, who had a suspended license, was issued a traffic ticket for wrongful entrustment of the vehicle to the driver, the lawsuit states. The officer then asked the woman to write her phone number on the back of the citation.
"The city of Shaker Heights has informed us that for them, that is standard procedure to have them place a phone number on the ticket," said Jared Klebanow, co-council representing the woman in the lawsuit.
At about 5 a.m., the woman arrived back home and received multiple calls from a number she did not recognize, the lawsuit states. She eventually answered the phone; the same officer who had pulled her over earlier that night was calling.
The officer asked the woman if he could come over to her house; he told her he was near her home, the lawsuit claims. The woman told him not to come over, and he asked if he could meet her at a nearby restaurant.
“She’s scared," Klebenow said. "She doesn’t understand why this police officer, who she had just been in contact with in a professional setting a few hours prior, is asking to meet with her, come over to her house, meet her for breakfast. She’s unsure. Does he need additional information? Is she in additional trouble?"
She agreed to meet the officer, the suit states. Before finishing the meal, the officer told the woman that he would be able to make the ticket “go away” if she had sex with him in her car.
“In fear of retaliation if she were to refuse,” the woman complied with the officer’s “sexual demand,” the lawsuit states.
The officer then gave her $100, saying it was to help pay for the ticket in case he was unable to take care of it.
The woman “felt frightened, humiliated and violated," according to the lawsuit.
In the following weeks, the woman and the officer exchanged texts, with the officer telling her he was unable to make the ticket go away. In October of last year, they met at a coffee shop, and the officer gave her an additional $150 to pay for the ticket, according to the suit.
“Since being coerced into having sex with the police officer, [the woman] has suffered severe emotional distress, pain and suffering,” the suit states.
Soon after these events, the City of Shaker Heights became aware of the woman’s allegations. The officer was not placed on administrative leave, suspended or fired.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer violated the woman’s right to privacy and due process, and inflicted emotional distress, pain and suffering on her.
The lawsuit further claims that the Shaker Heights Police Department is responsible for failing to adequately train the officer.
The lawsuit seeks appropriate compensatory damages and attorney fees and requests a trial by jury.
Commander John Cole with Shaker Heights police said they aware of the allegations, which have not been served yet. They have opened up an internal investigation that is ongoing. They do not have further comment at this time.