ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A federal lawsuit alleges a former South Whitehall Township police officer sexually assaulted a drunk woman he was supposed to be helping, then offered her a bribe to cover it up.
The suit filed Thursday names as defendants an officer, who the lawsuit says is no longer with the department, as well as the township and several unidentified officers.
An investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Lehigh County district attorney’s office determined that no charges were warranted, said the DA's office, so 69 News is withholding the officer’s name pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
South Whitehall Township police were called to the Comfort Suites hotel on Hamilton Boulevard on the night of Jan. 7, 2019 because the hotel wanted a drunk guest to leave, the suit alleges.
Several officers responded, and when the woman, who was clearly heavily intoxicated, agreed to leave the hotel, the officer offered her a ride to another hotel, the lawsuit says.
The officer drove the woman in his marked police car across town to another hotel, where she checked in, according to court paperwork.
The officer went up to the woman's room with her and once inside, raped her, the suit alleges. The woman, who was still visibly intoxicated, was going in and out of consciousness and was unable to consent or resist, the lawsuit says.
After the alleged incident, the woman tracked down the officer and called him to confront him. During the call, the officer admitted to the assault, apologized, and offered the woman a $2,500 bribe if she didn't tell anyone about the assault, the lawsuit says.
The woman did not accept the bribe but instead contacted the police department, which is believed to have confronted the officer. The officer was terminated at a public meeting on February 6, 2019, according to a news release from South Whitehall Township.
"...members of the South Whitehall Township Police Department have a history of being disrespectful, sexually harassing, and even assaultive to women...," the suit says, alleging that supervisors have known about the history and behavior but it has gone undisciplined.
The plaintiff is suing on 11 counts, and seeking more than $150,000 in damages.
"Those allegations do not reflect on the integrity, professionalism and dedication of the men and women currently employed by the South Whitehall Police Department, who work hard every day to protect our residents, businesses and visitors," the township said in a statement.
"The Township is greatly appreciative of their service. The allegations made against the former employee at issue were previously reported to and investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office, and the District Attorney’s Office determined that no criminal charges were warranted. Any claim that the Township does not exercise appropriate oversight with respect to its Police Department, or that the Department’s policies and procedures are deficient, is without merit."