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Damages Sought In Alleged Sexual Assault By Deputy Woman Seeks $1.5 Million From County; Officer Has Been Fired

Tue., Nov. 25, 1997

A Coeur d’Alene woman is seeking $1.5 million from Kootenai County, claiming she was sexually assaulted by a sheriff’s deputy during a routine arrest.

Pamela C. Luton alleges that after deputy Jeff Cormier arrested her on July 9, he took off her handcuffs and forced her to perform oral sex.

State investigators who reviewed the incident decided the charges could not be proved.

But Cormier was fired following an internal investigation because there were inconsistencies in his version of that night’s events, according to county records.

Cormier appealed his termination, and records of that appeal indicate he also failed a lie detector test when asked if he had “sexually touched” his prisoner.

Sheriff’s officials would not comment on the case.

Cormier has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached but has maintained his innocence in county documents.

Luton’s claim, filed late last week, stems from her 2 a.m. arrest on an outstanding warrant on charges of driving with a suspended license.

Luton’s version of events is as follows:

While being transported to jail, Luton told Cormier she had to urinate. Cormier stopped the car, unlocked one handcuff, allowed her to relieve herself, then, through “coercion, threat and intimidation,” forced her to perform oral sex.

At the jail, she reported the incident and requested she be taken to a hospital for testing, but the request was denied.

“She tried to seek medical attention immediately, but they wouldn’t let her,” said Craig Odegaard, her attorney.

Records of Cormier’s termination appeal offer a different story.

Cormier claimed he never stopped to allow Luton to use the bathroom but did adjust her handcuffs. He said Luton told him she fantasized about men in uniform but said he ignored her comment.

But the appeal transcript also revealed Cormier’s version of events didn’t always mesh with details uncovered by internal investigators.

When Cormier retraced his route for investigators, it was two miles shorter than the odometer reading on the deputy’s car the night of the incident. Investigators also drove the route as Cormier said he had, but arrived at the jail 17 minutes faster.

His route took him past a dead-end road that could have accounted for the time delay and the missing two miles, records show.

During Cormier’s Oct. 29 termination appeal hearing, county officials said his firing was not the result of the sexual charges, which they said were unproven.

“The truthfulness, integrity and conduct unbecoming became an issue because of the changes in stories,” Capt. Ben Wolfinger said during the Oct. 29 termination appeal.

Cormier didn’t respond to the charges in that hearing, but pointed out that Luton, too, had failed a lie detector test.

Transcripts of the appeal also indicate the county’s insurance agent might not cover Luton’s claim if she wins. That would mean the money would come directly from county coffers.

Luton has 60 days to decide whether to file a lawsuit.

, DataTimes

Tags: ethics

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