Woman says police officer assaulted her

Woman says police officer assaulted her

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SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) -- A woman who claims she was sexually assaulted after her arrest can sue a South Salt Lake police officer, a federal judge has ruled.

In court papers, the woman said she was assaulted when Gary Jason Burnham took her to his apartment after arresting her for underaged drinking in July 2005.

Court documents say Burnham at first denied the 19-year-old woman's account, then insisted they had consensual sex. He resigned the next month after six decorated years on the police force.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups said the lawsuit can proceed because of evidence the city acted with "deliberate indifference" to other alleged indiscretions by the same officer.

Burnham was the subject of six complaints alleging excessive force, sexual misconduct and other violations. The city says all six complaints were found to be unsubstantiated. Two of the cases consisted of allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence from ex-wives of the officer.

Waddoups ruled that South Salt Lake failed to properly investigate the complaints "other than asking Burnham if the allegations were true."

A jury could conclude the city demonstrated a "pattern of inaction" that led to the latest allegation, the judge said.

South Salt Lake contends it wasn't liable because the police department properly trained Burnham.

An internal investigation by the police department found insufficient evidence Burnham had sexually assaulted the drinking suspect, but concluded he had lied about the case and violated department policy.

The Salt Lake County district attorney's office declined to bring criminal charges.

Burnham, 37, has denied the woman's allegations of force and countersued for defamation.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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