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In a significant victory for three women who filed civil rights suits alleging sexual misconduct by Michael K. Evans, a former Pennsylvania state trooper who has since pleaded guilty to 11 sex crimes, a federal judge has refused to dismiss key claims against some of the top-ranking officials in the state police. In her 62-page opinion in Maslow v. Evans, U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvaniarejected the argument that 15 state police officials who supervised Evans, including former state police Commissioner Paul J. Evanko, were entitled to “qualified immunity.” “Given the nature, quality and quantity of scandalous and troubling information known to these defendants, the court cannot conclude that their legal obligations could have been unclear,” Rufe wrote. “Each of these defendants was aware that Evans had used his authority as a state trooper improperly and that the objects of his egregious misconduct were, on far too many occasions, women or young girls in the community.” Lawyers in the state attorney general’s office argued that Evans’ propensity for sexual misconduct wasn’t clear until after the incidents involving the three plaintiffs. Rufe disagreed, saying the plaintiffs had presented evidence of several incidents prior to December 1999 that should have put the top brass on notice. “The court is satisfied that the information known to these defendants in early 1999 would compel a reasonable officer to intervene and take appropriate steps to prevent Evans from abusing his position of power for his own perverted sexual gratification. In these circumstances, no reasonable officer could believe that the Constitution demanded less,” Rufe wrote. Court records show that Evans pleaded guilty in October 2000 to 11 counts of criminal conduct, including solicitation to promote prostitution, corruption of morals of a minor, indecent assault, indecent exposure and official oppression, as the result of his on-duty sexual misconduct with six female victims. In the federal civil rights suit, lawyers for three women argued that the warning signs of Evans’ sexual propensities were clear even before he was hired. When Evans first applied to become a state trooper in 1995, a background investigation revealed allegations that he had sexually harassed a female at the Police Training Institute of the University of Illinois in 1989, and that an Allentown, Pa., police officer who worked with Evans was concerned about his attitudes toward sex. Although the investigating trooper recommended that Evans not be hired, his warnings were never considered in the hiring process because only substantiated allegations were presented to the hiring committee. Plaintiffs lawyers argued that the faulty hiring process was directly responsible for Evans gaining access to the police power he later abused. But Rufe found that the plaintiffs fell short of the proof they needed to pursue a civil rights claim under the theory that the failure to adequately screen Evans’ application for employment led to the incidents with the three plaintiffs. “While the background investigation revealed unsubstantiated negative allegations about Evans’ sexual history, plaintiffs have failed to show that Evans’ subsequent sexual misconduct perpetrated … was ‘a plainly obvious consequence,’” Rufe wrote. But Rufe agreed with the plaintiff that incidents during Evans’ first two years on the job should have put officials on notice of his likelihood to abuse female citizens. According to court records, in July 1997, just nine months after he graduated from the state police academy and while still on probationary status, Evans was accused of sexual misconduct by the parents of a 16-year-old girl. Evans allegedly became sexually suggestive during a private interview with the girl, asking her about her sexual history and requesting that she pose in a leopard skin bra and panties so that she could be a “Polaroid locker girl.” The girl also alleged that Evans stuck his hands down his pants and rubbed his crotch as he asked her to unzip her shirt. But state police officials later concluded that the charges against Evans were unfounded because results of a lie detector test taken by the girl were inconclusive when experts disagreed about whether it showed evidence of deception. (Evans later pleaded guilty to a charge of corrupting the girl’s morals, and, in his guilty plea colloquy, specifically admitted that he committed the acts she originally alleged.) The second incident occurred in September 1998 when two Polaroid photographs of a nude female posing in front of a marked Pennsylvania State Police vehicle were seized from Evans’ locker. Fellow troopers reported that Evans claimed that the female was a stripper or prostitute whom he had met during a traffic stop. An investigating trooper found that Evans had displayed the nude photographs to numerous troopers, and that he admitted having improper contact with her while on duty. The incident led to Evans’ being suspended for three days. But Rufe found that the investigation also revealed hints of “a pattern of sexual misconduct and improper behavior by Evans.” Fellow troopers, Rufe noted, told investigators of rumors that Evans masturbated in front of a woman in a tavern parking lot after offering to drive her to her car. Evans’ supervisors also learned of an improper sexual relationship Evans began in 1998 with a woman after he responded to a domestic abuse call at her home. Court records show that Evans returned to the woman’s home later the same evening, had sex with her, and began an ongoing sexual relationship that lasted for a month. Rufe noted that a sergeant who supervised Evans was aware of the incident but failed to report it as misconduct. In April 1998, Evans was accused of misconduct while transporting a 14-year-old runaway girl to a Montgomery County shelter. The girl’s mother later complained that Evans had asked the girl questions about intimate parts of her body, rubbed her genital area, and grabbed her breasts. (Evans later pleaded guilty to charges relating to the incident.) In another 1998 incident, Rufe found that Evans’ supervisors were told of an incident in which, during an arrest, Evans allegedly made a series of sexually suggestive remarks to a woman. The three plaintiffs who filed the federal suits each alleged that they, too, were victims of Evans’ sexual misconduct. Plaintiff Linda Weller claims that when she and a male companion left a bar, they were stopped by Evans, and that, after her companion fled, Evans grabbed her breasts while frisking her. Weller also claimed that while driving her home after her arrest, Evans pulled his patrol car off the road and parked, exposed his genitals, grabbed Weller, and placed her hand on his bare penis. At her home, Weller claims that Evans forced his way in, pushed her onto a table, forcibly removed her pants, and despite repeated requests to stop, engaged in oral sex with the woman. Evans later pleaded guilty to official oppression as a result of this conduct with Weller. Plaintiff Denise Maslow claims that after Evans responded to a call reporting her attempt to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs, he visited her in the hospital and demanded that she remove her shirt. He then masturbated while touching the victim’s breasts. As a result of his conduct with Maslow, Evans pleaded guilty to indecent assault and official oppression. A third plaintiff identified in court papers only as “Nancy Doe” claims that Evans asked to photograph her injuries after a domestic dispute, and that he later began calling her at home and making sexual comments. After a court hearing, Doe claims that Evans instructed her to follow him in her car to a secluded area, where he grabbed her sweater and chest, held on, exposed his penis, and began to masturbate. Doe claims Evans then forced her into the back seat of her car and began kissing her lips and neck, but that she successfully struggled to get away, and drove off with the rear car door still ajar. As a result of his contact with Doe, Evans pleaded guilty to official oppression.

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