By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Former Philadelphia Police Officer Tyrone Wiggins, imprisoned for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in his karate class, has been sued by his victim, now 32 and a police officer herself.
The woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against Wiggins, the City of Philadelphia, and three former police commissioners, contending they ignored signs that the decorated officer was "an abusive and out-of-control cop."
The suit was filed July 1 in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. On Tuesday, the City Solicitor's Office had the case moved to federal court, calling it a civil rights case.
Assistant City Solicitor Christopher H. Rider, who filed the removal, could not be reached for comment. City officials generally decline to comment on pending litigation.
Lawyer Nancy J. Winkler, who filed the suit with partners Stewart J. Eisenberg and Dino Privitera, said she would try to get the case moved back to Common Pleas Court.
Wiggins, now 54, was sentenced in March 2011 after a jury found him guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, and corrupting a minor.
Wiggins, who said he was innocent and the victim and police had lied, had a large group of supporters who described him as a "cop's cop" shot in the line of duty, a loving husband and father, and a skilled and admired teacher at his own karate school.
Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd, however, called Wiggins a sexual predator responsible for "a case of child abuse carried out against a victim by an assailant she trusted."
Wiggins has appealed his conviction to state Superior Court. He is held in the state prison at Mahanoy City in Schuylkill County.
The victim testified at Wiggins' trial that he targeted her when she was 10 and her parents enrolled her and her brother in his karate class at Olney Recreation Center. The Inquirer is withholding the woman's name in keeping with its policy of not identifying victims of sexual assault without their permission. She described a two-year grooming process during which Wiggins insinuated himself into her family and became her self-described godfather. By the time she was 13, she said, they had begun having intercourse.
The relationship began breaking apart after the victim turned 18. She said Wiggins became increasingly threatening and violent, trying to maintain control. After she became a police officer, the victim said, she went to Internal Affairs investigators and told them what had happened.
Wiggins retired in 2009 after 23 years of service - a day before he was arrested.
In addition to the city and former Police Commissioners Richard Neal, John Timoney, and Sylvester Johnson, the suit names the Department of Parks and Recreation, whose predecessor operated the Olney center.