Ex-officer Kirk B. Chapman and the city of Powell recently made those assertions in response to a civil suit from a woman who says Chapman subjected her to sexual contact while he was on duty.
The woman’s September lawsuit alleges Chapman negligently breached his duties as a citizen and as a peace officer. It also claims the city was negligent and “reckless in hiring Chapman due to the fact he was unfit for the position” and should have better trained and supervised him.
Attorneys representing the city and Chapman filed fairly standard responses last month that generally deny the allegations and ask for the suit to be dismissed.
Chapman is also facing a separate felony charge of third-degree sexual assault in connection with the alleged incident.
The gist of the allegation is that Chapman went to the then-Powell woman’s home one early morning in September 2011 and sexually touched and rubbed against her; he’s alleged to have used his position of authority to get her to submit to the contact while she suggested he go back to work.
Agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation found that Chapman’s communications with police dispatchers that night appeared to match the woman’s account.
When later questioned by DCI, Chapman denied being at the woman’s home at that time. He’s pleaded not guilty to the criminal charge and his attorney issued a blanket denial to the allegations in the civil suit in a Nov. 20 filing.
“Because of the pending criminal charges, the defendant has denied all factual allegations in order to protect his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” wrote Patricia L. Bach, an assistant Wyoming attorney general who’s representing Chapman in his personal capacity.
An attorney hired by the Wyoming Local Government Liability Pool, the city’s insurer, is representing Chapman in his official capacity as a Powell police officer. That attorney, Richard Rideout of Cheyenne, filed a separate response in Chapman’s defense.
Another attorney hired by the Local Government Liability Pool, Thomas Thompson of Rawlins, is representing the city of Powell and the police department.
In response to the woman’s allegations about the night in question, Thompson wrote that the city and police department are “without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the allegations contained therein and therefore deny the same.”
The Powell Police Department conducted its own investigation of the accusations made against Chapman, but its findings have not been made public. Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt has said that Chapman was suspended as soon as the department learned of the woman’s complaint and that the officer resigned without returning to duty.
The city and police department’s response asserts seven different defenses to the suit, including that it’s entitled to absolute immunity and that “their conduct was not the proximate cause of any alleged injuries or damages suffered by (the woman).”
Chapman’s lawyers, meanwhile, listed more than a dozen possible defenses, including that he’s entitled to immunity, that the suit was filed improperly and too late, that her claims are barred or diminished by her own comparative fault in the incident and that she or someone else is responsible for the injuries and damages she alleges.
The woman’s suit seeks $250,000 — the maximum allowed for claims against governmental agencies — for punitive damages, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of lifestyle, emotional distress, economic losses, non-economic losses and past and future medical expenses.
Meanwhile, the criminal case against Chapman in Park County is on hold because he’s been jailed in Appleton, Wisc., since May on a charge of repeated sexual abuse of a minor.
That charge — which Chapman has also denied — alleges he had sex with a 13-year-old girl in Appleton in 2003. She came forward after learning of the allegations against Chapman in Park County. Appleton police say they have Chapman on tape admitting to the crimes.
That case may soon reach a conclusion: Wisconsin court records show Chapman is scheduled for a “plea/sentencing hearing” on Dec. 18.