64ºF

County attorney asks judge to dismiss rape victim lawsuit

HOUSTON – Lawyers for Ron Hickman of Harris County filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by a rape victim whom prosecutors got a judge to put in jail after the victim had a mental breakdown while testifying against her accused rapist.

Channel 2 exposed the situation of "Jenny" and another rape victim who were held in jail so prosecutors could make sure they testified against the men accused of raping them.

In a court document filed Friday, county attorney Vince Ryan said the lawsuit that Jenny's lawyers filed against Hickman failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and asked for a more definitive statement that "expressly articulates her claims against Harris County."

In the court filing, Hickman's attorney makes the following arguments:

• All official capacity claims asserted against Hickman should be dismissed because Harris County is the real party in interest and the plaintiff's claims against the sheriff are duplicates of the claims asserted against Harris County.

• All claims asserted against Harris County relating to the alleged acts and omissions of prosecutors and other personnel in the Harris County District Attorney's Office should be dismissed since Harris County cannot be held liable for the prosecutorial actions taken on behalf of the state during the course of judicial proceedings.

• All claims asserted against Harris County relating to the plaintiff's so-called "illegal imprisonment" in the Harris County Jail should be dismissed because the plaintiff was incarcerated under a valid warrant.

• All claims asserted against Harris County relating to the plaintiff's alleged deprivation of counsel, as well as the alleged deprivation of notice and right to be heard before the court that issued the attachment order, should be dismissed because the alleged acts or omissions by prosecutors or a court in this regard may not be imputed to Harris County.

• The plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims should be dismissed for failure to
state a cognizable claim for relief.

• The alleged violations of federal and state criminal laws asserted by the plaintiff should be dismissed for lack of standing and for failure to state a cognizable claim upon which relief can be granted.

• The plaintiff's defamation claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.

• The plaintiff's custom, policy and practice claims are conclusory and should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

• The plaintiff's failure to train, supervise and discipline claims are conclusory and should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

• In the event any of the plaintiff's claims survive Harris County's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff should be ordered to file a more definite statement expressly articulating her claims against Harris County.

"Motions like this are filed by defendants in every federal civil rights case, and this motion is no different," Attorney Sean Buckley of Sean Buckley & Associates said. "I fully expect to prevail, and I expect that the lawsuit will proceed forward."

Sheriff's lawyers ask judge to dismiss rape victim lawsuit

The lawsuit filed by Jenny's attorneys named as defendants Harris County, Hickman, the prosecutor who asked that a judge be put in jail and a jail guard whom Jenny punched. The guard punched Jenny back, according to jail records.

Hickman has previously said that Jenny should not have been jailed in the general population and that when he learned of her situation, he worked to get a judge to release her.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson has defended her office's decision, but has pledged to work with community groups in the future to find other alternatives.

State Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and John Whitmire, D-Houston, have promised to offer bills that will require an attorney to be appointed any time a crime witness is held in jail solely so the witness will testify.

If you have a tip about this story or another story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at jlarson@kprc.com or 832-493-3951.

State Senators Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and John Whitmire, D-Houston, have separately pledged to offer bills that will require an attorney be appointed anytime a crime witness is held in jail solely so the witness will testify.

If you have a tip about this story or another story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at jlarson@kprc.com or 832-493-3951.