A Wymore man falsely accused of rape will appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit against Gage County and several of its deputies, his lawyer said Friday.
_____, 50, sued the county and law enforcement officials over his 2011 arrest, accusing officials of negligence and saying they violated his due process rights by conducting a reckless investigation and intentionally ignoring leads that would have exonerated him. The lawsuit sought an unspecified amount for lost earnings capacity, damage to his reputation and emotional distress, among other things.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart granted the county's motion for summary judgment, saying the defendants have immunity from liability.
_____ arrest came after Jennifer Valenta, 28, of Wilber told authorities she was raped by four men, including _____. Investigators later determined her injuries from the alleged attack were self-inflicted, and she admitted to fabricating the rape. She pleaded no contest to evidence tampering, false reporting and attempted prostitution and was sentenced earlier this year to 32 to 60 months in prison.
But _____ spent 23 days in jail while law enforcement investigated the rape allegation.
_____ said in his lawsuit that investigators ignored his pleas to interview witnesses at a local bar, where he and Valenta went after having consensual sex, who could have told them that Valenta appeared calm, visited the bathroom and ate while there.
The judge rejected this argument, saying investigators knew _____ frequented the bar, that the clientele were his friends and that Valenta had told them _____ threatened to hurt her if she reported the alleged rape. Also, Zwart said, officers believed three other assailants were still at large and, therefore, avoided contacting bar patrons to protect Valenta's safety.
"(T)he conduct of officers is not judged from the perspective of hindsight, they are not liable for bad guesses in gray areas, and they are not required to conduct perfect investigations to avoid suit for false arrest," Zwart wrote in her order. "They can be held liable under (the law) only for transgressing bright lines."
_____' attorney, Joy Shiffermiller of Lincoln, said Friday she plans to appeal the dismissal before the deadline next month. She believes there is a genuine dispute that a jury should hear.
"The law is clear. You have to do an even-handed investigation," Shiffermiller said.
Vincent Valentino, an attorney for the county and the law enforcement officials, said the judge "did an excellent job in analyzing _____' claims against the Gage County deputies under the law."