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Trial Over Teen’s Sexual Abuse by New Orleans Police Officer Delayed

Hours after the Washington Post published an investigation into a New Orleans police officer who sexually abused a teen he met responding to a rape report, a judge delayed the trial for her civil case against the city., the Post reports. The victim’s lawyers accused the city on Thursday of withholding “highly relevant text messages.” The texts show the head of the New Orleans Police Department was notified of “potential sexual abuse of a minor by an officer” days before that officer sexually assaulted her in 2020 when she was 15. The existence of the text messages, which the newspaper first reported Thursday, contradicts the city’s previous claims in federal court that there is no evidence that any police policymaker had notice of any inappropriate behavior by Officer Rodney Vicknair, according to the victim’s motion. Now the jury trial, which was set to begin Monday, will be rescheduled while the two sides debate the relevance of the text messages, and what they mean for the city’s liability in the case. The victim, whom the Post is identifying by her middle name, Nicole, said she feels she is being betrayed by the police department for a second time.

In court filings Thursday, attorneys for New Orleans described the text message in September 2020 from then-independent police monitor Susan Hutson to then-superintendent Shaun Ferguson as “irrelevant” and denied improperly withholding materials or making any misrepresentations to the court. In May 2020, Vicknair was dispatched to the house of Nicole, then 14, when she needed to be transported to the hospital for a rape kit. Over the next four months, Vicknair repeatedly called, texted, and visited Nicole. After Nicole’s mother reported concerns about Vicknair to the girl’s therapist, the therapist’s supervisor contacted Hutson on Sept. 18, 2020. Hutson quickly reached out to the New Orleans Police Department to alert officials to the potential crime. Hutson first called and texted Arlinda Westbrook, then the leader of the department’s internal affairs unit. When failing to reach Westbrook, she texted Ferguson, about the “potential sexual abuse of a minor by an officer.” Records show a criminal investigator with the internal affairs unit did not begin his investigation into Vicknair until three days later, on Monday, Sept. 21 and according to prosecutors, Nicole was assaulted by Vicknair on Wednesday, Sept. 23.


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