Officer acquitted in an assault case named in civil suit Traffic-stop assault case now a civil matter.

July 19, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

A Baltimore County police officer who was acquitted in criminal court last year of charges of sexually assaulting a woman during a traffic stop, has been named with the county and its police chief in a $3 million civil suit by the woman.

The suit repeats the earlier charge that Officer Lesly W. Dimanche Sr., 30, of Abingdon, fondled and sexually assaulted the woman after a routine traffic stop in western Baltimore County last June 29.

Consequently, the suit contends, the Linthicum woman, 27, has suffered "severe and violent mental anguish, nervous shock and impairment to her nervous system."

The suit, filed July 5 by attorney Russell Jay Bennett on behalf of the woman, also charges that the county police knew of other, earlier incidents of sexual misconduct, but did nothing.

Chief Cornelius Behan is named as a defendant.

Dimanche, who was acquitted of the sexual assault charges in a criminal trial Nov. 9, 1990, no longer works for the county police force.

"He was terminated as a result of those allegations," said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman. The firing came on Nov. 6, three days before Dimanche's acquittal.

"I think that what the police did to my client was improper," Richard Duden, Dimanche's lawyer, said yesterday. "They didn't stand behind him. . . . They ended up dismissing my client before he ever had a day in court."

Bennett said he was obviously aware of the acquittal in the criminal case, but noted that civil cases carry a less strict burden of proof.

Duden said the criminal trial was revealing because it pitted Dimanche's version of what happened against the woman's story of what happened that night.

"He had a credible story," said Duden, who labeled the woman's story as "totally incredible."

The woman told police Dimanche pulled her over for a routine traffic stop in the 100 block of Hilltop Place, then ordered her into the back seat of his patrol car, fondled her breasts and molested her.

The woman also charged that Dimanche ordered her to perform oral sex on him and threatened to keep her driver's license until she complied.

All the while, the woman's boyfriend watched from the passenger seat of her car, according to the original charging documents.

County police arrested Dimanche shortly after the incident was reported and, according to a statement of charges, Dimanche confessed to police detectives.

But yesterday Duden said the confession was coerced, that three detectives told Dimanche that if he signed the written confession, he would be all right.

Dimanche maintains that what happened is that he pulled the woman over, suspecting she was driving drunk, because her vehicle was wavering on the road, his attorney said.

He ordered her out of the car to perform some field sobriety tests, Duden said. "She did the tests all right but the way she was acting, he thought there might be some drugs involved."

So Dimanche asked her if she would consent to a pat-down search and she agreed, Duden said. "Sometime after the pat-down search, she made those allegations."

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