Woman who says officer raped her is awarded $1.05 million

September 22, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

A U.S. District Court jury awarded $1.05 million to a Laurel woman who accused a former Anne Arundel County police officer of raping her four years ago in his patrol car.

The jury of five men and three women deliberated about three hours yesterday before awarding her $650,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 punitive damages, said her attorney, John R. Greiber.

"She just gave me a big hug and a kiss," said Mr. Greiber. "She feels vindicated and relieved. She was happy to get her day in court."

Michael Ziegler, an 18-year veteran of the force, was charged with rape in the Nov. 15, 1990, incident. He agreed to resign from the department in March 1991 in a plea bargain with prosecutors. The rape charge was dropped and he was convicted of a lesser charge of police misconduct.

The woman then filed a civil suit claiming that her constitutional rights were violated during the incident.

Mr. Ziegler's attorney, Robert Verderaime, could not be reached for comment yesterday. During the two-day trial, Mr. Ziegler denied raping her and testified that she initiated sex with him.

A Glen Burnie man whom Mr. Ziegler had once arrested testified that the woman told him that she was not raped but thought she could collect $100,000 if she made that claim.

Mr. Greiber, a candidate for county state's attorney, said he did not present the case because he said he was trying to avoid publicity. He handed it over to William Gately, a Towson lawyer.

He said he will file an new complaint in federal court accusing the county Police Department and the state's attorney's office of failing to prosecute a similar case against Mr. Ziegler in 1979. The complaint is designed to determine if county administrators condoned sexual misconduct in the department, he said.

The woman in that case passed a polygraph test and claimed Mr. Ziegler raped her in her Glen Burnie apartment while her children were sleeping in the next room.

Mr. Greiber said the county could be forced to pay the money.

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