BENTON – Sheriff Rick Watson and St. Clair County must defend claims that their failures caused deputy Robert Sneed to sexually assault a woman in her home twice, U.S. District Judge Staci Yandle ruled on Aug. 10.
Yandle denied a motion to dismiss a Jane Doe complaint alleging constitutional and other violations against Sneed, Watson, and the county.
She wrote that Doe alleged that widespread informal policies on the part of the county caused her injuries.
Watson must now answer a count alleging failure to intervene.
Sheriff Rick Watson
Yandle wrote that in certain circumstances, a state actor’s failure to intervene in order to prevent another actor’s constitutional violation renders him culpable.
She wrote that for a supervisor to be held personally responsible, “the supervisor must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see.”
“Accepting plaintiff’s allegations as true and reading all reasonable inferences in her favor, as it must at this stage, the court finds that plaintiff sufficiently alleges that the claimed actions of Watson make him personally responsible for the constitutional deprivations,” she wrote.
The county must now answer counts of equal protection and due process, along with Fourth and 14th Amendment claims.
It must also answer a count of violating the state gender violence act and a count of assault and battery.
Yandle rejected the county’s position that Sneed acted outside the scope of his job.
“Sneed stopped plaintiff while he was on duty, driving his police vehicle, wearing his uniform and badge, and carrying his department issued weapon,” Yandle wrote.
“Each time he came to plaintiff’s home, he was dressed in his uniform and driving his police vehicle.”
Accepting the truth of the complaint for the moment, she wrote that Sneed stopped Doe’s vehicle on Feb. 16, 2017.
Doe alleges she said she recently purchased it and had no license or insurance.
Doe alleges she said she had the title at home, and he followed her there.
Yandle wrote that he asked to use the bathroom and Doe agreed.
She wrote that when he was done, he told Doe he would cut her a break and wouldn’t tow her car or take her to jail.
“Sneed then sexually assaulted plaintiff,” Yandle wrote.
She wrote that after he left, Doe called a sister.
“She did not report the incident for fear that Sneed would return,” Yandle wrote.
Yandle wrote that Sneed returned last Aug. 24, and asked if anyone was home.
She wrote that he left when Doe said her sister was on the way.
She wrote that he returned on Aug. 28, at 2 a.m., and sexually assaulted her.
She wrote that Sneed experienced emotional problems since the death of a son.
“Sheriff Watson and the sheriff’s department were aware of Sneed’s emotional issues,” Yandle wrote.
Sneed must answer the same counts as the county, but not immediately.
Yandle stayed proceedings against him in July so he can defend himself against felony charges of official misconduct in St. Clair County circuit court.
Grand jurors indicted him on two counts last September, one alleging he solicited sex as a reward and one alleging he accepted it.
Circuit Judge Robert Haida has set trial Oct. 8.