Pt. 1: Municipality Faces Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuits Since Rollins' Serial Rape Convictions
It is the case that changed the face of the Anchorage Police Department--former officer Anthony Rollins accused and convicted of serial sexual assaults against women he arrested.
Rollins is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 21 for his criminal acts, but the cases against him are not over.
Nine women have filed nine civil lawsuits against Anthony Rollins, the Municipality of Anchorage and APD for Rollins' actions as an officer. If a jury finds the city should have done more to stop or prevent Rollins from hurting them, it could cost Anchorage millions.
"It was a very tough case to prosecute because of the victims, because it was a police officer,” Chief Asst. District Attorney Sharon Marshall said after Rollins was convicted on Feb.22. “So, it affects our community as well as the lives of these women."
The jury found Rollins guilty of 18 crimes including sexual assault and official misconduct involving five women. They did not convict him on the allegations of a sixth woman.
Now, nine women are holding the city responsible for what happened.
“In order to get solutions, and to get information about how this can be prevented, and why this happened, we have to sue the department that is responsible for training and supervising officer Rollins,” explains Christine Schleuss, the attorney for five of the women.
Two of Schleuss’ clients claim Rollins raped them in their homes. The other three say they were victimized in police substations in downtown Anchorage, Spenard and Mountain View.
Schleuss says they have been permanently damaged by what Rollins did to them. “When they see a police officer, they relive the rape. Two of the women have left the area, some have quit their jobs because they can’t work and be comfortable in the public,” she says. “That kind of harm, permanently harm, needs to be resolved, to be settled, to be recognized.”
The common denominator in all of the civil suits is the municipality and the police department gave Rollins’ power over women, so the city should be held accountable for Rollins abusing that power.
“A million, $2 million, $10 million doesn’t make this ok,” says Schleuss. “I’m not saying that is what they are asking, because it is not. But, I am saying every one of them, if they had a choice between money and between not having been raped, every single one of them would have chose not to have been raped.”
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan will not comment on the specific civil lawsuits. “That is a legal question I am not going to get into who's responsible,” he says. “Those statements can actually be used in court one way or another, so best to wait and let the legal process work its self out.”
The mayor will say the municipality is preparing for possible legal and financial losses. “We are going to be having an executive session with the assembly during the budget process and the municipal attorney will brief them on all the existing liabilities in addition to the Rollins case,” he says.
All nine women are asking for damages. Five do not name specific amounts. The other four are asking for more than $1.2 million.
While the cases may cost the municipality and taxpayers millions, we may get more answers about what the city and APD knew about Rollins' crimes and when.
During Rollins' criminal case the municipality successfully blocked his APD personnel file from being released in open court. The state wanted it as evidence of investigations into Rollins' conduct as far back as eight years before he was arrested. The municipality convinced the judge that the personnel files, and any disciplinary action Rollins faced, were confidential.
Those files may come to light in the civil cases.
“We hope that in the civil case we will be able to find out a lot more about his history, and also to find out why he wasn’t fired in 2008,” says Schleuss. “You have sex on the job in uniform and you keep working as a patrol officer?”
In legal filings, municipal attorneys have filed answers to the lawsuits denying all the allegations. Anthony Rollins has submitted court records from jail demanding jury trials for the civil cases. Right now, those trials are set to happen in 2012.
Mayor Sullivan says any budget surpluses will likely be held as a safety net for financial liabilities, like the Rollins civil case.
Unlike the criminal case, Rollins will not get a state appointed public defender for the civil cases. So in defending its self, the municipality will also be defending Anthony Rollins.