Saturday, February 7, 2004

Suits Say Ex-APD Officer A Rapist

By Scott Sandlin, Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque police officer Christopher Chase was fired in 2003 after allegations of rapes and beatings while on duty led to his indictment on criminal charges.
As of this week, three civil lawsuits also have been filed against Chase or the Albuquerque Police Department. One lawsuit claims APD hired Chase even though he failed a psychological exam.
Mitsey Ramone, who accused Chase of sexually assaulting her, contends in a lawsuit that APD was negligent in hiring and keeping Chase, who "appears to be a serial rapist." The suit compares Chase to "an unchained vicious animal" who preyed upon women.
In answers filed by the contract attorney defending two of the civil cases, Chase and APD deny the claims.
A state District Court grand jury indicted Chase, 29, in June on 32 counts of criminal sexual penetration, battery and tampering with evidence. The criminal case involves allegations by 11 individuals of both sexes, some claiming they were beat up and others that they were sexually assaulted between September 2001 and January 2003.
The criminal case against Chase is awaiting trial in state District Court, where it is assigned to Judge Denise Barela Shepherd.
Ramone's civil lawsuit was filed in September by the Blake Law Firm and attorney Raul Lopez. It claims Chase failed a psychological test administered in conjunction with the APD selection process.
Ramone's claims stem from the Sept. 9, 2001, stop of a car in which she was the passenger. She says she was forced to perform sexual acts on Chase, after which he told Ramone to use sanitizing hand wash he had in his police unit.
The latest civil lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court by Mary Han and Paul Kennedy on behalf of Cynthia Seeley, who also claims she was sexually assaulted by Chase.
Seeley and another woman were in a fight at an apartment in February 2002 when one of the women called police and Chase and other officers responded, the suit says.
Chase told them one needed to leave and "cool off," and Seeley did, the suit says. It says he then detoured Seeley into the back seat of his patrol car, drove down a deserted alley after midnight near the Marriott on Louisiana and took off his equipment belt, forced her to bend over the back seat and raped her.
Chase allegedly then drove away leaving her "alone and crying in the dark, deserted alley."
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for excessive force and violations of Seeley's rights to due process and against unreasonable search and seizure.
In a lawsuit filed in state court by attorney Brad Hall, La Cueva High School student Matthew M. Bauer, 17, alleges that he was "inexplicably detained ... searched (and) terrorized" by Chase, who Bauer also says threatened to kill him.
Hall takes aim in the suit at Mayor Martin Chávez's policy of refusing to settle any lawsuits against police in the allegations.
"APD agency investigative machinery eventually identified defendant and relieved (him) from duty," the suit says. "Although plaintiff would rather settle this case, and although this case is one that could and should settle, the city currently maintains an official policy of bringing all police cases to trial. Hence this lawsuit and the need for the taxpayers to pay private attorney's fees to litigate a case normally handled by professional risk managers."
Because Bauer is related to a high-ranking APD official— he's the nephew of Public Safety Director Nick Bakas— he didn't run away when a police officer approached him and other teens near the Sportsplex in September 2002, according to the suit.
Bauer was standing by his car with about 10 La Cueva High School students who were talking and listening to music at about 10 p.m. when the police car approached on a dirt trail with its spotlight on and emergency lights flashing, Bauer's suit says.
"All other teens scattered on foot or in their cars," the suit says. "(Bauer's) passenger, the son of a city councilor, ran into an open field and hid."
Bauer responded to an order to get on his knees with his hands on his head and answered questions, then watched Chase search his wallet and car without a warrant and tell him to "get the (expletive) home," the suit says.
Bauer's friend, Brock Winter, called Bauer on his cell phone to pick him up and Chase was doing so, still in the Sportsplex area, when Chase again stopped him, shone a flashlight in his face and, when Bauer attempted to explain he was getting his friend, struck him in the center of his forehead with the flashlight, according to the suit.
After talking with his mother and uncle, Bauer was seen by a paramedic, reported the incident to police and gave a statement to Internal Affairs in an effort to identify the officer, the suit says.

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