Friday, February 11, 2005

Ex-Cop Sex Case May Go to Jury

By Scott Sandlin, Journal Staff Writer

Jurors should begin deliberating today in a civil lawsuit filed by a woman who claims she was raped by Christopher Chase in 2002 while he was an Albuquerque Police Department officer.
After dismissing the jury for the day, Senior U.S. District Judge John Edwards Conway said he would consider a motion by Paul Kennedy, attorney for plaintiff Cynthia Seeley, to grant judgment as a matter of law in the case.
Judgment as a matter of law is rarely granted, because it means that even giving the defense every benefit, the plaintiff has proved its case so thoroughly it need not go to the jury. But Conway hinted broadly he was considering it.
"I don't think it's a close call, I'll tell you that," he said.
Because the city indemnifies its officers, judgments against the city ultimately will come out of taxpayers' pockets. Chase was fired from APD in June 2003.
Both plaintiffs and the defense concluded the second day of testimony late Thursday. The day started with two more alleged victims, both high school students at the time, describing their encounter with a man in an APD uniform and police car the night of Jan. 17, 2003.
Michelle Gallegos and Kelly Ham, both of whom have filed separate civil lawsuits against Chase, described being stopped near La Cueva High School while in Ham's car, which was being driven by one of four boys with them.
The officer told them he was stopping the car on suspicion of drunken driving, but he summoned the girls separately to his car.
He molested Gallegos and forced Ham to lower her pants, they testified.
Although the girls didn't identify Chase as the offender in subsequent photo arrays, the boys identified Chase and aspects of his squad car, Detective Monte Curtis testified.
Defense attorney Gregory Biehler called witnesses including Chase's wife, Darla, to suggest that APD's investigation had been slipshod. He said APD settled upon Chase with insufficient identifying descriptors and without considering other officers or impersonators with similar physical characteristics.
Biehler also called the APD officer who responded to a second callout to the apartment Seeley was sharing with a girlfriend. The officer said Seeley, crying as she sat on a stairwell, initially said she'd been raped by an officer, but later changed her story to say she'd met a man in a bar and had sex with him in his car.
But the officer acknowledged that for the second version of the story to work, Seeley would have had to walk to the bar, meet the man, have sex and return to the apartment within 30 minutes.

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